"Can we go up, please?"
Greg Hill has had enough of the sidehilling through dense trees. He yells at his buddy Joey Vosburgh, who is setting the skintrack on Rogers Pass in interior British Columbia, not far from Hill's home in Revelstoke. "Vosburgh! Let's go up, man!"
It's mid-January in the Selkirks, and Parks Canada has just reopened all the giant ski lines on the pass after a two-day storm. I've joined Hill and Vosburgh, as well as photographer Fred Marmsater and videographer Kelsey Thompson, for a rare bluebird day of shooting and powder skiing.
I'm also here to find out what's become of Hill since he finished climbing and skiing 2 million vertical feet on Dec. 30, 2010. Once the most prolific athlete blogger and home moviemaker in the ski industry, Hill's website has been dormant for nearly a year. Most curiously, despite the "2 Mil Hill" momentum, Hill hasn't made a peep about his next adventure -- even though, as I'll find out shortly, it's fast approaching.
Part of that is because of injury. Not long after his quest concluded, the 36-year-old Hill went under the knife to have his chronically dislocating shoulder reconstructed -- something he'd put off for a decade. He also traveled around the world to give speeches about his 2010 feat, during which he skied 266 days, summited 71 peaks and averaged a remarkable 7,570 feet of ascent and descent every day he skied.
Ironically, the travel required to reach some of his 2011 presentation sites -- which ranged from Banff, Alberta, to Sweden to Hong Kong -- inspired Hill's next big endeavor. "I definitely used a lot of flights last year, and I started to feel guilty after about 30 flights around the world," Hill says halfway up our initial ascent. "It's like, well, my footprint's pretty big. Considering I'm a lover of nature, I should minimize it."
Acting on that epiphany, Hill made a bold decision. Starting in early March, he will no longer drive to access his adventures. Instead, he'll ride his bike. As far as 150 miles. And sometimes while towing a canoe to transport himself and his gear across rivers. The goal is fundamentally similar to Hill's "2 Mil" project: He wants to show people that it can be done. And in turn, he hopes others will change something in their own lives that reduces their footprint.
If all goes well, Hill says he could forgo the use of a car until this fall, when he departs for the biggest ski objective of his life: 26,906-foot Cho Oyu in Nepal, the world's sixth tallest mountain. Hill is planning to ski Cho Oyu with a German team led by renowned speed mountaineer Benedikt Böhm.
"I think we can all do more environmentally for the world," Hill says on the skin track. "I'm not going to change my whole life, I'm just going to try and live without a car for a while; minimize my carbon footprint as much as I can. I'll still go on tons of adventures, but there are so many adventures in your back yard -- ours especially; we're quite lucky. Just to be able to bike out and canoe across and summit these things that possibly have never been skied or summited before, it's exciting stuff."
Consistent with the "ski locally, blog globally" mantra that has steered his pro career, Hill rarely has left the Selkirks this winter. "There's just so much that needs to be done and hasn't been done here. There's no reason to go anywhere else. It's been all time," he says.
The day I ski with him we do four runs, all in untouched powder. We finish with a 3,500-foot shot under a pink sunset, slicing through snow-caked trees before T-boning the highway. Back at the parking lot, we crack open cans of beer and I marvel at the fact that this is an average day for Hill. He'll go home, hug his wife and two kids and do it all again tomorrow. No exaggeration.
In that sense, not much has changed since Dec. 30, 2010. Perhaps the biggest difference is he's more important now, but instead of shying away from that, he's leveraging it in his own unique way.
"It's kind of funny," he says at the car. "For some reason, all of a sudden people think I have something to say because I went out and hiked up mountains for a year. But all of a sudden you do: You've got a bit more of a voice, and if you can use that voice in a positive way, it's a great way to use it."