Scot Schmidt: There’s been so many epic days, that they all kinda blend together. But the highlights of my career have obviously been the tipping points, ya know? Things that led to other things. Squaw Valley was pretty exciting, and when we first started going to Alaska…those were the days!
SS: Yeah I’ve been spending summers on the beach since I moved to Cali when I was 19. When the snow would melt, I would go to Santa Cruz with one of the guys I worked with at the ski shop up in Squaw. I miss all the winter swell, that’s when it pumps; all winter. In the summer, it gets all flat and crowded so I don’t get out there a lot.
SS: Yep, yep. I haven’t been on a big ride in quite a while, but I’ve done many years of adventure riding. Everything from the Mojave desert, to black rock, all the way up to Southeast Oregon and back. I started to do some loops in Montana too, there’s a lifetime of riding in Montana, boy!
SS: Skiing is a…ya know, I’ve never found a sport quite like it. The best thing about skiing is the good days. You go through a lot of emotions to get to those good days, but when you hit one of those good days, it makes it all worthwhile. Same with surfing, it’s kind-of that elusive thing but once you catch that one wave, you’re hooked for life.
SS: This was before Coombs went up there. The first year we went up was for the very first World Extreme Skiing contest. I think that was in ‘90-’91. The event promoter had been pinging us and hammering us to get up there for the whole winter, and we were like, “I don’t know. There’s no ski resorts, there’s no access”. We’d never heard of the Chugach mountains. So he finally convinced us to come up, and there was a helicopter waiting for us with Chet (Simmons) as the pilot.
The promoter said “Ya know, let’s get this contest done, and then you guys bring up a film crew. Chet will be here for another two weeks.” So right after the contest, I went home, got on the phone, and got everything and everyone I could together, and we went back up there with Tom Day, Chris Nobel, Dave Frazee, and Christian Schnieder. There was no rules, we just cherry picked our peaks. That was a memorable trip for sure.
SS: Yeah, it was in Groove, the part with Seal’s music. Ya see, but Greg (Stump) wasn’t on that trip, so he just used the footage. He didn’t tell the story, he just put music to it. I mean, we were the first film crew to ever shoot in the Chugach mountains for
SS: I got hired by a guy I used to film with who was working as a B-unit for Aspen Extreme. He hired me as a ski stunt coordinator and of course, I brought Coombs and some other guys in. We had been on that ice-fall before, working with Larry Procer, and I remembered where it was.
It had a horribly flat landing, but..um, we did the whole thing in sections. We’d repel down to different sections, and I actually did the top part with a wire on, it was pretty scary. I had a harness on, and I made that first leap onto the big mushroom, and landed right on the mushroom and of course, the wire stopped me. It would’ve been impossible to ski, you would die trying to ski it from the top. That was a fun trip. Coombs was so much fun to be around. We pretty much had control of the ship. It’s funny now, because working at the Yellowstone Club I see Peter Berg (Dexter Rutecki) and he always thanks me because everyone thinks he is some incredible skier now because of those stunts from the movie. And he doesn’t even ski, he’s actually a snowboarder!
SS: Well, Coombs was four years older than I was, so he was already in College when I was still in high school. I was on the Bridger Bowl Ski team, and was banging gates and going to races every weekend. I had heard of Coombs, and seen his tracks on the Ridge and stuff, but he was older than I was, ya know? Then I left Bridger when I was 19, so it wasn’t until I circled back with some projects, some stunt work opportunities, that I started contacting Coombs. He and I did about ten years of stuff together.
SS: It was ahhh…ya know! He’s mellowed a bit lately, but he was very loud (laughs) and opinionated, ya know. It wasn’t easy having him around, especially when you were on the marketing department’s dime.
The hardest thing for me was just the non-stop banter (more laughs). He would just go on and on about stuff, and I remember getting kicked out of restaurants because he was too loud. Plake’s quite the character, and I wouldn’t take any of it back.
SS: I would have to say humility, and being humbled by the mountains. Getting your ass kicked every now and then is good for ya. The humility is huge; I think it’s what keeps you alive. I probably shouldn’t be here today, I’ve gotten really lucky when I shouldn’t have. My respect for the mountains grows as we lose more and more people every year. They humble you, and force you to be respectful, and to pay attention, and to be aware, and to be present.
The biggest gripe I have with everybody skiing around is that they’re not present. They are blasting their Skullcandy crap, and they are not present. They’re not listening to the sounds and the wind. They’re not paying attention, ya know? You need to be tuned in if you’re gonna be out there. Especially in the bigger stuff.
SS: I’ve obviously thought about skiing and where it’s headed for many years, since I eat it for breakfast (laughs). There’s a phenomenal amount of human talent and desire and drive out there, so that component to me seems to be pretty steady. Although, that bar keeps being raised…and it’s being raised higher than expected.
You combine that with the technology in skis and I think the skis and equipment have really revolutionized the sport in the last ten years. I’ve never seen anything level the playing field like the ski designs have, for everybody. The other cool thing is the toys we have that are evolving. I mean, we’re gonna have tow-in drones pretty soon. Resorts are always gonna cater to a certain type of person but the exciting part is gonna be the individual freedom and access with all these new toys.
Ya know what else is gonna evolve, are these ascenders. You can hang 3,000 feet of rope somewhere and make some laps. Between the new snow bikes and sleds and the possibility of these tow-in units, I mean, a lot can happen in ten years.