by Izzy Lynch
When I received an e-mail from one of Mica’s lead guides that read: “Scot Schmidt is in my group this week and we have an extra spot in the heli. Would you like to come up tomorrow?” there was no thinking twice. Meeting, let alone skiing with one of freeskiing’s pioneers is not an opportunity that comes up every day.
I have always been inspired by the originators in the ski world. They pushed limits and rebelled against the boundaries of the sport, skied lines that have never been skied, and inspired a culture, a community and a lifestyle that we call freeskiing today. (And they did it all on long, skinny skis. That, my friends, is talent.)
Excited to ski with the legend that I have watched in old- school Warren Miller movies and the “Blizzard of Ahhhs” growing up, I leave Revelstoke before dawn to drive up the Columbia River to Mica’s staging area. The skies are clear and it is the last day of Scot’s trip. I will catch them for the morning before they fly out of the lodge and head home.
On the first run the group graciously lets me drop in first- which gives me a chance to watch the skiers come down from below. Like many big mountain skiers with a hard charging style, Scot’s roots as a ski racer are evident. “Yup, he’s still got it.” says our guide Rob as we watch him shred down the hill with his dynamic, smooth style.
I later find out that Scot moved Squaw Valley to pursue his racing career, but the allure of steep big mountain lines and powder snow drew him away from the gates. Quickly he earned himself a reputation for skiing big, steep lines that no one else would ski, and before long he received a letter from Warren Miller inviting him to travel the world and film with him. Despite being featured in Warren Millers films, it was a trying road to get support as a skier. He fought hard, and 1983 marks the year he started his professional career through an endorsement deal with “The North Face" that he has maintained to this day.
Thirty-three years as a professional skier is no easy feat. “It’s a world-record in the industry” says Scot that surely requires physical and mental stamina, and a true love for the sport. “It’s an incredible lifestyle. I have been pretty lucky, but I’ve had to learn when to say no. I’ve never hurt myself and I have had a long run. There is that fine line and you don’t want to cross it.” According to Scot; he has had to reinvent himself a few times over the years. “I never thought my career would last this long but if you can find a way to do it safely it is such a great lifestyle and community to be a part of.”
Scot spent ten years as a shareholder in Island Lake Lodge, Mica’s sister company. “Those were some great years” said Scot. He adds wistfully. “But we did too good of a job with the media there. We sold the place out, and I worked my way out of a job.”
“I actually came to Mica with founder Dan McDonald when he opened the tenure. We flew the whole thing and looked at it. We tried to convince our shareholders at Island Lake that we needed to grab this too, the terrain looked so great.”
It wasn’t in the cards at the time, and Scot’s path led him to the Yellowstone Club in Montana, where he has worked as an ambassador skiing with special guests, prospects or sales guests on a daily basis for thirteen years. “I live slopeslide, ski every day and get to ski with a lot of really good folks at a good pace” says Scot.
His years of ski experience are evident, and after morning of heliskiing with Scot and his group in perfect snow in the sunny alpine, everyone is more than satisfied. It has been one of the most challenging seasons on record for our guides. They have faced more than their fair share of weather, drought and challenging light for one season. Despite it all, they are able to guide us to the goods and we had a fantastic day with a strong group of skiers getting first tracks in creamy pow on some of Mica’s classics like Wild Cat High and IPA.
We are sitting down for lunch before their flight out of the lodge and I ask Scot for a quick recap on his trip: “It was awesome. We definitely found some of that Mica Magic today. It’s what you come here for.”
“The setting of the Mica Experience is just spectacular. The lodge is unbelievable, the skiing is world class. It is a very special place. Everyone I know who comes here is blown away. I know guys at the Yellowstone club, who are dedicated heliskiers and they’re like: “I’m not going anywhere else…” Mica has it all.”