Mountain Minded - Riley Mallard

Left to Right: Steve Saranchuck, Riley Mallard, Jackie Meyers, Alex Clarey.

Left to Right: Steve Saranchuck, Riley Mallard, Jackie Meyers, Alex Clarey.

“Mountain Minded is a series profiling the AI family and friends, exploring the wide array of characters who make the mosaic of Alpine Initiatives. In continuing to develop as an organization, we talk to the people who make it go round, and dedicate their time to the principles of giving back that AI was founded upon. This series dives into the lives and stories of people, and how JP influenced them to reciprocate the good will extended to them in life & skiing.”

Riley Mallard

Words by Nicholas Lampard

“I remember JP racing under aliases at NorAm events during the mid-90s. He was theoretically a pro at that time and wasn’t allowed to ski in amateur events; I think he just wanted to stay in shape though,” Riley reflected as we casually conversed about life, history, and how an Idaho boy ends up in California.

“He would drop jaws, and then purposely throttle down heading into finals. It was obvious that he was on a different level than the competition. JP was already a legend in the ski industry even in his infancy.”

In 2001, and Riley Mallard was working as a ski shop manager in Boise, Idaho. Freeskiing was just gaining popularity, and his life was beginning to revolve around the new sport. As a young salesman, it was readily apparent that he had a certain knack for combining his passion and an application of business skills; under his management at Greenwoods Ski House, they led the US in sales volume for Armada Skis through the early 2000s. His ski bum dream was still alive and well.

“I picked up skiing as a teenager in the midwest, at Perfect North Slopes (Indiana) and Seven Springs (Pennsylvania) as my family moved around to cater to my dad’s job. I started to get the bug for moguls there, but it wasn’t until we moved back to Idaho (Mallard’s birthplace) for the first year of high school that I realized, ‘Okay, this is it, I’m really starting to enjoy this,’” he explained of his childhood helping to form his passion for skiing.

“When I moved back to Boise in the late 90s, that’s when twin tips really started to hit the market and the freeski revolution was knocking on the door of the industry. The New Canadian Air Force basically saved skiing with the Salomon 1080, and JP subsequently became pretty much everybody’s idol. Those guys are literally the reason I never tried snowboarding.”

Armada flourished in the wave of popularity through the mid-2000s, and Mallard’s history with the brand made him a candidate for the expansion process. He quickly hopped on board when given the opportunity by Tyson Hall, and moved to southern California to begin working in a sales position at Armada’s headquarters.

It was through Armada that he began to rub shoulders with JP in design meetings and the day to day operations. Auclair transcended a surreal gap from idol to friend, only further inspiring Mallard in the process.

“I think as you grow older, you become more conscious of your surroundings, things like the footprint that you’re going to leave on this earth when you go. It’s something that many of us fortunate enough to have spent time in mountain communities share in the respect of a mentality. It’s the same reason that I’m excited to be working on a project to develop a stream and snowpack friendly wax with Wend Performance,” Mallard reflected of his own efforts.

“JP had been given a lot, and the idea of giving back as much as possible really resonated with him. He was one of those people who left a positive impression on everybody, there isn’t a single instance where I can remember him as self-centered or arrogant. It’s incredible to think of the humility that came along with that man’s influence.”

As Alpine Initiatives launched in 2008, Mallard was there as an Armada counterpart providing support. With an understanding of how receptive JP was to his good fortune, it was a no-brainer for him to stand by his mission to reach out and give back to any community in need.

“At first, people criticized his decision to help people in Africa because of the obvious disconnect to skiing. I don’t think people were approaching it with the right perspective; here was one of the top talents in freeskiing, spending months abroad, helping to build a kitchen on the other side of the world with his own blood, sweat, and tears. I can’t name another professional skier of his caliber who was, or still is, as invested in the idea of giving back, and that really speaks for itself.”

Alpine Initiatives will be celebrating the legacy of JP Auclair next month at the 2019 JP Memorial. The 5th annual JPM will take place in Whistler, BC on April 10th & 11th, and we encourage anybody and everybody to join us in remembering the man who touched so many people in life and skiing.