Since his breathtaking debut segment in MSP’s 2014 film Yearbook, Eric Hjorleifson has counted among the most prolific and most admired protagonists of the international freeride scene. Electing to avoid the beaten track of month-long heli trips to Alaska, Eric prefers venturing into the backcountry on the strength of his own two legs.
Interview: Klaus Polzer
Klaus: You first appeared on the big screen in MSP’s Yearbook about a decade ago. What has changed since then?
Eric: Well, that is a great question. Things have changed so much it is hard to imagine going back to these good old days. Experience is everything but back then I had very little; despite this lack of experience I did manage to somehow survive my proving time. Looking back to that first season filming with MSP, I think about the lines I skied, my total fearlessness and go-for-broke-approach, and am happy that I made it. I cannot say I was totally reckless – in fact quite the opposite – but I wanted to ski hard, prove myself and grasp onto the dream of becoming a pro skier. I think it was my attention to detail and drive to learn from those around me with so much experience, especially Hugo (Harrisson) and Ingrid (Backstrom), that really helped me advance my skills and continue to improve and evolve.
Klaus: You are still present in the big movie productions despite the fact that you decided to base your big mountain skiing on hiking rather than on the use of sleds or helis in recent years.
Eric: To be fair, I am not really opposed to skiing and filming with helicopters or sleds, but I do greatly enjoy that ski touring is now actually considered a very effective way to film. Having the ability to go where you want, when you want, accessing the mountains under your own power, is quite satisfying, and generally gives you the best chance to analyze snow conditions and the terrain; this is very important when skiing lines. This decision to film skiing with ski touring rather than with helicopters or sleds was a natural evolution that really corresponded with the progression of ski touring equipment. Additionally, I do think that reducing the consumption of fossil fuels is a good thing, but truly I simply enjoy ski touring and filming via touring. There is definitely a connect made with the mountains when you climb them traveling through the snow. Climbing the terrain really allows for you to study your line and this is very beneficial for filming. I enjoy the pace of ski touring, I would rather ski one perfect line than ten average ones. I also think that the audience might connect with ski touring a bit more than with heliskiing, since not every skier can afford helicopters, but most of them can invest in touring gear and go for a walk.
Born: March 14th 1983 in Banff/Alberta, Canada
Current Home: Whistler/British Columbia, Canada
Home Mountain: Whistler-Blackcomb
Sponsors: 4FRNT, Arc’teryx, Dynafit, Smith, Pomoca, Gordini, Led Lenser
Ski Heroes: JP Auclair, Shane McConkey, Hugo Harrison, Jen Ashton, Andrew Sheppard, Kevin Hjertaas, Ingrid Backstrom, Candide Thovex
Influences: M.C. Escher, Fritz Barthel
Interests: Mountain biking, Climbing, Machining, Stone Masonry
Klaus: You have been working with 4FRNT, a rather small rider-owned ski brand, for many years, with whom you are now producing your own movies in a similar manner as you are make your own pro-model skis: a small team focusing on the essentials, with comparably small budget but great results. How is that filming experience compared to working with the big production companies?
Eric: 4FRNT is definitely a small ski brand compared to the big manufacturers, but one thing I can say for sure is that the founder Matt Sterbenz is truly a very motivated and resourceful individual. The amount he has accomplished on almost no budget is amazing. That being said, there is certainly a difference between filming with 4FRNT compared to a production company. When filming for our team movie it has typically just been Matt and myself, and sometimes another athlete. This creates a unique…
Read the full portrait in the magazine, find it here: http://freeski.downdays.eu/magazine/