Chatting with the Pros: Skier Stan Rey on Backflips, Blackcomb, and Life as a Co-Founder of Blank Collective

Published on 04/03/2023 · 34 min readSalomon skier Stan Rey sits down with Curated Exert Rob G. to talk about overcoming adversity, remembering our heroes, and looking toward the future.
Rob G., Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Rob G.

Photo courtesy of Stan Rey

This is Rob G., Ski Expert here on Curated. I'm thrilled to sit down with Stan Rey, a former X Games contestant, Canadian National Team Skier cross athlete, Salomon Ski Team member, and co-founder and co-owner of Blank Collective Films. We chatted about overcoming adversity, remembering our heroes, and looking toward the future.

Stan, I feel like some people think skiing is a very serious, dangerous sport, and I guess it is, but I think it also has a lot of whimsy. Do you have a favorite whimsical ski tradition? Something that makes no sense but that you do anyway?

Sometimes I'm a little superstitious. For example, when I have an event where I did well, I would try to wear those same socks every time I had a bigger event, but other than that, nothing too crazy.

I'm a bit older, and my freestyle game is lacking. I'm known at my home mountain in the Catskills for a not-steezy 180, but I think you've got a slightly more ambitious signature move in the air—a double backflip. Would that be your calling card?

Yeah, that's about right, double backflip for sure. It's funny because it used to be a backflip, and then I started doing doubles more and more, and now I'm almost more comfortable doing a double than a single.

I've heard the phrase “Backy Sunday.” Can you tell me where that came about?

I have loved backflips ever since I watched “High Society”—an old MSP [Matchstick Productions] movie—and Seth Morrison threw huge backflips. Since then, I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to start learning backflips," so I did. I was on social media and like, "Oh, I should start ‘Backy Sunday’ and post a backflip every Sunday." I did, and I realized that people liked it and caught onto it. Nowadays, people are like, "Oh, I love ‘Backy Sunday.’" However, I'm getting a little older and don't want to do a “backy” every week. I'm 34, but my body feels a little bit older from some of the impacts I take. Sometimes it even hurts more when you land them. That's how it got started.

You call Whistler, BC home. Tell me what makes Whistler a great place to live and a great place to visit. Those might be two different things, or are they the same?

Yeah, they're the same and different simultaneously. I moved here in '96 with my parents when I was eight, and I just fell in love with the place because I love mountain biking and skiing. If you like those things, it's hard to find a better place in the world to do both, and that's why I fell in love with it—just everything you have right out your doorstep. I can bike out of my house, I can walk to the ski hill, and there are so many activities beyond just skiing and biking. There are great golf courses, amazing hikes, rivers, and five or six lakes you can swim, canoe, and kayak.

There's a bit of everything, so as an outdoor enthusiast, it's really easy to fall in love with this place. The ski hill is amazing. It's the biggest skiable terrain in North America. The mountains are beautiful here, too. The village is a super well-organized town and super easy to walk through. It takes maybe 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and there are many shops and places to eat.

Not only [is] the hill amazing, I think people come here to mountain bike and to ski on vacation, too. Then the town is amazing. The people here are great, and most people here are like-minded. They love the outdoors, and it's a really tight-knit community, which is cool.

I live in New York City, where it can be a challenge to have a car, but Whistler's an even bigger challenge to have a car. So that's cool to be in a place where cars are pushed to the side, and it's all about walking around. You meet people as you walk down the street.

Exactly. We have really good pedestrian trails that go all around town from the far north end of town to Function Junction, which is about 15 kilometers. There are pedestrian trails for bikes and walking people, and it's such an easy way to get around. In the winter, it becomes a little harder for sure. A car is nice to have, especially because it gets a little colder. It doesn't get crazy cold, but in the summer, I find myself hardly ever using my car. I just bike everywhere. It's pretty easy.

You talk about the hill, but there are two massive hills—Whistler and Blackcomb. Do you have one that’s your favorite?

I tell everyone to ski on Whistler so they can stay off Blackcomb. I'm a Blackcomb guy. I grew up ski racing in Whistler and was part of the Blackcomb Ski Club for three years. They merged and became the Whistler Ski Club. There's a group of six or seven of us still in town, and we're Blackcomb diehards. Both mountains are amazing, but I like Blackcomb better, and I know it better, too. Whistler's usually a little bit busier, too, so that's why Blackcomb's also better.

You said you moved from Switzerland, and we have something in common: we've got Old World roots. My mother moved from the former Yugoslavia and used to ski in Slovenia growing up. Your parents skied, right?

My parents met because my dad was my mom's instructor in Switzerland. My mom's from France, just outside of Paris, and then my dad grew up in Switzerland, and I was born there as well. My dad ski raced as well, and he got onto the Swiss Development Team before he retired. So then, my grandpa went to two Olympics.

My dream was to go to the Olympics like my grandpa. I gave up on that dream, but it's okay. I got to live it vicariously through my wife.

As a kid, would you go back and ski in the winter? Or was it summertime trips back to Switzerland?

I didn't go back a ton. The flights were expensive and time-consuming, especially because I have two sisters, so we didn't go back a lot.

As of late, I've been going back more. Being with Salomon, their headquarters is in Annecy, France, and I fly into Geneva. I'm going to go there in a week. Every time I go there, I try to visit my grandparents, aunts, and uncles a week early.

I usually go in December and ski a little bit. The skiing's great there. It's Europe, and it's amazing. The Swiss Alps are awesome.

You said that early on, your dream was to do alpine racing. Do you have any best memories from junior ski racing?

It's funny. I had this talk with my coach not too long ago. All the memories I have of ski racing aren't from results or how I did, but they're from awesome stories or things we did that made it memorable. One time we traveled to a to World Cup race a week before our race, with a friend who was going to forerun. [Before most ski races, two to three skiers get an opportunity to take preliminary runs down the race course to help prep the course for the competitors. It’s a big honor].

He had a training run, and then we went and watched all the guys. We decided we'd jump off this 20-foot cliff—just on our feet—and then go to get a better vantage point. So we jumped, and we both got stuck up to our waists.

He had about 40 minutes to make it to the top to get back to his run, and we got stuck for like a half hour. I felt so bad. We finally got unstuck. We ripped down to the lift, and we got up, and he was too late. He'd missed his forerunning, and I felt so bad for him. At the time, his dad was our head coach of the BC team. It didn't go over super smoothly, and he had to write an apology letter and everything, but it was pretty funny.

Forerunning is a big honor. For those who don’t know—someone who's usually younger or not quite qualified for the race runs the first few runs. A few people forerun to sort of smooth out the turns and everyone cheers them even though they're not competing in the event. My son got to forerun a couple of times for the older kids at his junior racing, which was really exciting. There's no pressure, either.

There is sometimes. I foreran the Lake Louise downhill a few times for the women and the men, and it's a little nerve-racking because you have all these national team coaches watching you. You don't want to fall and make a fool of yourself, so there's still a little pressure.

I haven't thought about that. Then, you switched from Alpine racing to skier cross. Did anything motivate the change in particular?

I had a really hard time getting to the next level in alpine. I wasn't a very good tech skier. I was more of a speed skier, and I was pretty small. I was 5'6", and 150 pounds soaking wet, which isn't the greatest for being a downhiller. So my coach was like, "You should try ski cross," so one spring, I skipped Spring Series and went to Red Mountain for nationals, and I did fairly well. Then, the coaches were like, "Well, you should get some FIS points so you can start World Cups next year." So I went down to Australia that summer by myself. I did two races there and went to New Zealand for another week. I did a couple of races there and did well enough that I got points to be eligible to start World Cups.

Then, the next year I was a ski tech. I was more of a wax slave. I was waxing all the skis for the National Team—the training skis—and, in return, I got free travel and got to race at these races. That was great, but it was really hard because I was waxing skis from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. or midnight. Then I’d get up at 6:00 a.m. and try to race. I didn't do so well the first year, and that was up until the Olympics—because that was the Olympic year I started racing ski cross.

I got to forerun the Olympics, which was amazing. It was a really cool experience. I should have mentioned that it was probably one of the cooler experiences I had in my ski racing career. I was hired to help build the course, so I was there a week before the Olympics building the course and ensuring everything ran well, which was really fun. That was the first year ski cross in the Olympics in 2010.

Then I raced North American Cups, and I did fairly well. I won the NorAm overall, earning a spot on the National Team. Then, I raced for two years on the National Team ski cross, and I got hurt both years. I never made it past January; at that time, I was on the fence if I wanted to try freeski.

I'm like, "I'm 24 now. It will be too late if I don't do it now." It was a tough decision because I still had dreams of going to the Olympics, but I found that the only thing I was holding onto was the Olympic dream, and I didn't really love the ski racing aspect of it anymore. Unfortunately, one of my friends at the World Cup Finals that year had a crash and passed away. That made me decide, "I don't need to be racing anymore, and I'll try my hand at freeskiing."

That's that. It's dangerous, right?

It's a dangerous sport. Same as freeskiing. Skiing is not the safest sport, and sometimes it's the organizers' fault, and I think in his accident, it was a little bit of both. It was the error of the athlete, but also just how the organizer set things up.

You have skier-cross courses setting up these jumps and these gaps, and you're not always in control of what choice you're going to make because three other racers are right there on the course with you.

Exactly.

You made the switch to big mountain skiing. Were there any lessons from racing that you had to forget? Or anything you'd learned from that you didn't think would be useful, but it is?

Many lessons I've learned through ski racing apply to freeskiing. Looking ahead is huge—having a plan and visualization. It's a little different, though. It took me a while to figure it out because, in ski racing, you're on a hill and inspect the course. You slide down and pick a line where you want to go. Whereas with freeskiing, you're just looking at it from the bottom. Then you’ve got to try and picture what that looks like when you're skiing it. You don't get the slide down the hill and see what you're looking at. Sometimes things look a lot steeper from the top than they do from the bottom, and you get into your second turn, and you're not even sure where you are. It was a steep learning curve, but by looking for little rocks or high points, you can figure out where you were on the slope.

Also, I came out of ski racing, and I wanted the longest, stiffest skis and the stiffest boots, and now I'm 10 years into it, and I still want performance out of my boots, but I'd prefer them to be a little comfier than being jam-packed like you are in ski racing. So then, skis completely changed. I don't want long, stiff skis. I want fun, maneuverable skis that are stable. Yeah, so that's changed a little bit.

Do you spend most of your days on the QST Blank Ski from Salomon?

I do. Either I ski the QST Blank ski or the QST 106. If I'm on the hill, I usually ski the 106. That's a little more playful, and I enjoy a smaller ski. It performs better on the groom runs, but the Blank Ski is more charge-y, and it's stiffer. So I enjoy that ski when we're skiing powder and pillows and stuff like that.

I'm 6'2", and I find that once I get beyond 108 underfoot, it's not so much fun to ski on firm terrain.

And it's harder, and it's harder on the knees.

For sure. And skiing those wider skis, but in deep powder, can be really amazing.

Oh, it's the best. It feels like you're surfing almost.

Yeah, and that surfy loose tail is the opposite of what you want in a stiff, heavy racing ski.

A hundred percent.

Now, I know a lot of folks when they transition into big mountain skiing, there's a tough period where they're moving to the mountains and picking up odd jobs, but you went pretty quickly from competing in X Games to doing big mountain stuff. Was it easier to find sponsors because you had that X Games background? Or was that still a struggle for you?

It wasn't a struggle. I had a friend that worked for Salomon, and he told the rep, "Hey, we should sponsor this kid," so I got free stuff for the first two years. I was working all summer, skiing all winter kind of deal. I'm a carpenter by trade. I went to school for it and finished my apprenticeship in 2013, right after I retired from ski cross. I'd work all summer and then ski all winter. I did that for two winters. Then, I got on the National Team, where I'd make a little money but not enough to pay rent and live off. I did that for another four years, and then I got put on the International Team, so it took me about four years to get into it and make a living out of it.

Carpentry's a great job in a mountain town, especially where people buy houses and remodel them.

Oh yeah. There's an endless amount of work in Whistler, that's for sure. It's never-ending growth and renos and whatnot. It's not easy on the body, though. I find it almost as hard as skiing these days.

Big mountain skiing is sort of connected to park and slopestyle, but you came at it from skier cross. Is that unusual? Or is that more common than that mix of a freestyle and racing background?

A lot more people are coming from the freestyle side of it nowadays, which is really cool because it's pushing the sport in a new direction that it hasn't done much before. Park guys would go out and build backcountry booters, and they'd do these tricks. They found it hard to land because they're used to landing on firmer snow than powder landings. They figured it out, but now the kids coming from freestyle are starting to throw those tricks off natural take-offs, and they're just skiing down and throwing a seven [two full rotations]. I'm super competitive and try to keep up with the younger kids and generation, and they're so good these days. It's mind-boggling.

There are advantages to both sides. Ski racing gives you a good building block for technique, which transfers into all your skiing. It's important to learn how to carve and slide a ski. Being in the park and the pipe gives you good air awareness. But a lot of those guys, you take them to some steeper stuff, and they can't ski because they're not that good of skiers, but in time, they learn it. There are also many guys from mogul backgrounds that are very good skiers.

It's fun to see the different athletes that come out because some guys come from ski racing, some from freestyle. Growing up, I always liked watching the ski racers because I liked watching a good turn and everything, but nowadays, the tricks they [park riders] are doing are so impressive that I'm a little jealous that I didn't spend more time in the park when I was younger. They have endless tricks, and I can count mine on one hand.

I love the fact that it's a meshing of these disciplines. When you made that move into big mountain skiing, were there any mentors who really helped bring you along?

There were a few local guys in town that I would go skiing with and follow around. Dana Flahr was renting from my parents at the time when I made the switch. I tried to ski with him a fair amount, and Ian McIntosh. I've been skiing with him for a while before, and he always said, "You should switch." This was like four years before I switched from racing to being a big mountain skier. He was like, "You should switch to a big mountain skier. You're too good to be wasting your time trying to race." I'm like, "I still love racing. I want to go to the Olympics." In hindsight, I should have taken his advice at 19 or 20, but those guys definitely shaped a little bit of the skier I am today.

In Whistler, it's so easy. So many of the pros were living here. You'd go up the chairlift, and you'd see so-and-so ski down, and then you'd go and try and chase them. Also, once I got on the Salomon team, all the guys were friendly. Chris Rubens was super. I went on my first trip to Japan, and he invited me in immediately and took me under his wing. My favorite part was watching them when they were in the backcountry and learning how to travel in the backcountry, how they make decisions to stay safe in avalanche terrain, and stuff like that.

And then Mike Douglas, too. He was my boss and now one of my good friends. I've been watching him since I was 13 years old, and now hanging out with him is surreal. All those guys I watched when I was a kid—they're four or five years older than me—I idolized them and now they’re my buddies and friends. So it's kind of surreal. I remember I came back from Japan. It was my first freeski trip with Salomon, and I was filming with Mark Abma, Cody, and Rubens, and I was on cloud nine. I was filming with three of my idols from growing up, getting stuck with my sled because I didn't know how to snowmobile yet, but it was a lot of fun.

You got brought in, and then you and Alexi Godbout founded The Blank Collective, your own film production company.

It is! One of our friends, KC Deane, a professional skier, didn't have a company to film with, and he asked Alexi if he wanted to help him produce a ski film. Alexi said yes (I wasn't part of it that year), and they created a movie, and the movie was called “Blank Collective.” It was just a one-off movie, and the next year, Casey got to film with TGR, so Alexi's like, "Well, maybe I should make this like a film company and make a movie every year." So Alexi asked if I wanted to help him start a ski movie company. I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a sweet idea." So the first The Blank Collective film with Casey was in 2014, and then our first year making a film was in 2015, I think.

When I've seen some edits from the movies, it's a bunch of friends getting together and skiing on a powder day. Is that the vibe you guys are going for?

That's exactly what it is! We have an inside joke going. It's like, "Oh, we're not friends. We're just colleagues." One time, we were bantering on the radio—I think it was Josh—and he was about to drop into the line, and he's like, "Oh, I'm so glad. I'm just out here hanging out with my friends." And then Rubens came on the radio. He was like, "I never said I was your friend. I'm your colleague." So now, we joke that we're just colleagues, not friends.

Growing up, one of my idols was Seth Morrison, and it was more because he was just a badass skier. Then, the other two were JP Auclair and Shane McConkey, and those two had energy. Not only were they good skiers, but they also showed how much fun they were having. It's like, "Man, I want to hang out with that guy." Especially Shane, his personality was infectious, and that's what we try to portray. Like, "Yeah, we're doing gnarly stuff and everything, but we're having fun. We're not super serious. We're not taking ourselves too seriously."

[Shane McConkey died in a ski BASE jumping accident in 2009, and an avalanche killed JP Auclair in Patagonia in 2014. Both losses were felt deeply in the freeride/big mountain skiing community.]

Shane was the master of that.

Shane was the best. I only got to meet him once, but he was a guy you wanted to hang around.

I saw “The Highway,” and I was inspired by your sister Olivia's courage when faced with her challenges. Do you want to talk a little bit about her journey?

In September 2015, my sister got in a car accident and broke her neck—I think it was a C5-C6, which is quite high—and became a complete quadriplegic. She was in intensive care—it seemed like a year for us—for two weeks and then in the hospital for another month. Then, she was at a rehab center for seven months.

It was unbelievable how much, like you said, courage. And I don't know if Olivia accepted it right away, but she didn't let it get her down all the time, and she kept trying to move forward. So even though she has a completely different life with her ability and movement, she's always striving to improve.

Olivia was a massage therapist before her accident and really enjoyed helping people. [After the accident] she went into psychiatry for a little bit to try and help people in similar situations that she was in, but she didn't love that side of it, so she's actually trying to be more of a life coach now for people. It's been really cool seeing how resilient she is.

She hasn't really regained much movement since the crash. She has movement in her shoulders, arms, and wrists, but she has no hand dexterity. However, she has regained a fair amount of strength, learned how to use her body super well, and become more independent.

Her attitude is cool, and it just really reminds me every time I spend time with her to cherish every moment you have with the people you're surrounded by. Also, cherish your ability to be able to walk, to be able to go to the grocery store, and brush your teeth without really struggling. I think it's made me appreciate life a lot more and also maybe think twice before doing crazier stuff.

I noticed that she's gotten back out on snow both in Nordic and through the Adaptive Program. How was that moment for you to see her ski again?

Just thinking about that, I got goosebumps. The first day she went skiing, it was so cool. There's someone on tethers behind that's kind of guiding her, but she's still leaning on the skis and stuff. I got so much joy from watching her return to the snow and be active again. It was such a cool experience; the whole family came out to ski, so it was super special. But, then, she's been cross-country skiing a bunch, which is awesome.

Actually, I talked to her yesterday. She bought her pass for this winter because it’s [cross-country skiing] way easier. It's less of a commitment. When you've got to go on the ski hill, she needs one person on the tethers, and then she needs two blocking, so three people have to come up. It's $350 every time you go, so it's not cheap. But, cross-country skiing, she can go whenever with a friend, and it's pretty easy. She probably gets a better workout doing that.

I wanted to mention this because people might be interested. She's been given some funding for this through the High Fives Foundation. Do they help para-athletes get back into winter sports and other sports?

Yeah, sports in general, and it's a really cool foundation. The Whistler Adaptive Program here is amazing as well. They do a lot for people in town with disabilities.

Some mountains do it better than others, but they commit to opening up the sport to folks who might not otherwise have that thrill of sliding on snow.

Yeah, absolutely. Even in biking now, she mainly bikes a little bit in the summer. Even in biking now, she mainly bikes a little during summer. So it's really cool because it gets her out doing activities and makes her feel more like the normal life she used to live.

That’s fantastic. We talked a little bit about you skiing the QST Blank when you're out of bounds and the QST 106. Is the Blank named after The Blank Collective?

Yeah. It was mainly Alexi, Chris Rubens, myself, the ski engineers, and the designers at Salomon. The first rendition was horrible, but you have to start somewhere. It felt like you were skiing a two-by-four, and we improved it. One of my favorite parts about being an athlete is trying to make products better, not better for us, but better for the general public.

So having designed the ski, what was your ideal ski in your head? Is that what it is now?

We had the 118, which we found really fun, but we thought we could have a ski that was a little bit smaller yet still playful and maneuverable. Did it come out exactly how we wanted? That's debatable. I think it could be a little more playful for sure, but you have three people designing a ski, and then we're not actually making the ski at the end of the day. There's the ski manufacturers and the designers. It came up close to what I wanted out of the ski. I would have loved it to be more playful. It's pretty charge-y. All three of us would have liked a little more tail rocker in the ski, but it's really close to what we envisioned.

So for in-bounds days, you're usually on a QST 106. Is that right?

It depends on how much it snows, but I’m usually on a QST 106.

Do you ever bust out a Stance if it's early season for just hard traffic?

I skied that ski. It's so fun on the hill. In the steeper stuff, it's definitely a little directional. It's pretty charge-y, but it's so fun on the groomers. I have the Stance 102, and I love it. It’s a really fun ski. Especially coming from a ski racing background, I feel like I'm on a GS board that I can ski the moguls and go ski off-piste with.

Do you have a BC setup that's a go-to for you if you're touring?

I mostly stick with the Blank. Unless I'm doing big missions, I always use the Shift binding. I film on it like 90% of the time. If I'm inbounds, I have a set of 106 with STH2 bindings—same thing with a Stance. If I had one ski I'd ski every day, I'd use the Blank with a Shift binding.

The Shift binding represents a big change. Do you want to talk some about the Shift binding?

We had the Guardian binding, which was a frame binding, meaning the toe piece was attached to the back, you could unlatch it, and then the whole binding moved together. It is quite heavy. You're lifting the whole binding every time you take a step. It was awesome but super heavy, so we were looking for something lighter. The CAST system's awesome, but you have to carry a pair of pins in your backpack, take off the toe piece, and put on the other toe piece. It's a hassle.

I wasn't part of the making of that binding, but I'm pretty sure it was Cody, Rubens, Tony Lamiche, and Greg Hill—all Salomon athletes. They came up with a transformer binding where you click in like a normal alpine binding when you're skiing, downhill binding, and then there's a latch on the front that opens these wings. The latch drops down, opens these wings, and now you're in a pin for the way up, and then you just put the brake up, and the way you clip into the toe, you're far enough forward that you're now clearing the heel piece. So you're walking up in a pin binding and skiing in an alpine binding, so it's the best of both worlds.

Every year we do a bunch of product testing and stuff, and we did a test one year where we tested two different alpine bindings—the STH and the Warden and pin bindings and the Shift bindings. We were doing pin binding with an alpine heel piece and the shift binding, and we tested them all. The alpine bindings performed the best. We got the most out of the ski, but it was mind-boggling how much better performance we got out of the Shift binding than out of a pin binding. With the pin binding, we got no energy transferred to the ski. It was super minimal energy transferred where the Shift was close—the same amount of force you applied was getting transferred to the ski as an alpine binding would. So that was a really cool test.

Do you guys have a movie dropping, or that's just dropped?

Yes, “Feel Real.” It's actually dropping online on November 24th [2022].

Did you guys film around Whistler?

It was filmed a little everywhere, mainly around Whistler backcountry, especially with COVID over the last few years. We've been sticking around here, but it's a good mix of BC, and we filmed a little bit in the States, too. I didn't film a whole lot. I was recovering from a knee injury from two years ago. It didn't recover well, so I didn't film much, but the crew did an amazing job. It's another super fun, good, happy-go-lucky kind of ski movie.

All right, I'm going to switch gears again. Does anyone ever call you Mr. Kelsey Serwa?

Not many people have! It's kind of funny because I was doing a little tour right after Britt won the Olympic gold and silver medal. We were in Vancouver, and I was their fanboy, following them around. We're walking down the street and this guy waves at Kelsey and Britt. I'm walking behind them, and then they walk right by Kelsey and Britt, and they come to me and they're like, "You're Stan Rey," and I'm like, "Yeah, I'm Stan Rey." Kelsey and Britt were kind of laughing because [this guy] came to me while they had an Olympic gold medal and just walked by. It was kind of funny.

For those who don't know, Kelsey Serwa is Stan's wife and won an Olympic gold and silver medal.

She won a silver medal in Sochi and a gold medal in Pyeongchang.

You guys did a movie road-tripping from Whistler to Banff with your dog, right?

We made a road trip, which was a lot of fun. But we didn't film a movie. It was advertising for The Canadian Ski Council, and we made a teaser for a movie we had never filmed. So many people asked us when the movie was coming out. I was like, "There's no movie. It was just a bad campaign." But people wanted to watch the movie. It was Origin [A Whistler-based marketing agency] who did it. I told them, "We should make this movie," because I had maybe a couple of hundred people ask me when the movie was coming up.

Any sort of surprises along the way? Things that you loved that you weren't expecting to love?

I had never skied in Kicking Horse, and I don't know why because I've driven by it a ton, and that place is awesome.

How was watching Kelsey compete in the Olympics? Was that nerve-racking for you?

It was super nerve-racking because you're not in control. I'm more nervous watching Kelsey than I am about to drop into something gnarly because you have no control over the outcome. I went to Vancouver because I foreran in Vancouver, so I got to watch her there, and we were already dating then. And then, I didn't go to Sochi, and she came second. I felt bad for not going. Then, I surprised her in Pyeongchang two days before her event at the men's race. One of my friends won that race, so we didn't party that night, but we partied the next night, the night before her race. It was a pretty mellow night, and it was about 12:30 when we were back at the hotel.

It was the classic like, "Oh, should we go for one more beer and a snack? Or should we go to bed?" So I'm like, "Oh, let's go for one more beer and a snack," and that one more beer and a snack turned into a whole lot more than that.

My friend and I walked into this tiny little bar that fit like 20 people, and these three ladies were sitting and eating dinner. It's 12:30. They're probably getting wrapped up for the night, and they're like, "Oh, so sorry, sit down, sit down." So we sat down and ordered a couple of drinks, and then my friend pulled out his gold medal, and they freaked out. The bar turned on these like disco lights. Next thing you know, we were doing Jager Bombs, and my friend bought a bottle of scotch.

We ended the night at 5:00 a.m. and had to leave at 6:30 to go up to the hill. It was a two-hour drive to get up there, and I didn't wake up to my alarm. I didn't wake up to them phoning my hotel room, and finally, the team manager banged on my door. He's like, "Stan, we got to go. We're going to miss the race." So I scramble out of bed and get my stuff together. We head up to the hill and get there. But there's a huge lineup to get to the event. I'm like, "We're going to miss the first run of Kelsey's race. I came here, and I'm going to miss the first run."

My friend's like, "Take your jacket off.” "What do you mean, take my jacket off?" He's like, "Here." He stuffed our jackets up inside [our friend’s] jacket, to make it look like she was pregnant. The [group] went to VIP, like, "Oh, my wife and I are pregnant." It wasn't his wife; he was just a friend. "We're pregnant. Can we go through VIP with two of our friends?" They're like, "Oh yeah, go ahead," so we went to the front of the line. We ran up, and I didn't miss a thing. I watched the race with her grandparents and parents, probably reeking like booze. It was super emotional, and she ended up winning, and I jumped over [the barricade]. I was crying because I was so happy.

The first thing Kelsey said to me was, "Are you crying?" I'm like, "Yeah, I'm crying." I gave her a hug and a kiss. Then after I kissed her, she said, "Did you drink Scotch last night?"

It was amazing. It was the best day of my life. It was such a whirlwind of a day, and I lived my dream vicariously through her that day.

That's awesome. I'm going to ask one more question that's way more silly. Do you like to grow your beard for the winter? I'm starting mine.

Oh yeah. I love it. I also love it when it gets cold and all frosty and stuff.

I have to perfect my own personal face igloo, you know?

Yeah, a snow beard. I love it. Kelsey sometimes doesn't love it as much, especially when there's residue from partying the night before.

Stan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about skiing and skis. That was a real joy and a pleasure. Appreciate you taking the time.

Thank you for having me. It was a fun conversation. I hope you guys have a great winter.

Photo courtesy of Stan Rey

Ski movies give us a great taste of what life is like in the mountains. It’s thrilling, full of adrenaline, and other concerns seem to fade away as you scope out a line or get ready to drop into a run. For most of us, it’s the weekend pilgrimage or annual vacation. For some of us, it is a career. But, for all of us, life—both the wonderful and the challenging—continues outside and around the ski hill.

It was a privilege to talk with Stan and hear about how the shared bond of skiing connects us to our families, friends, and loved ones, and how we honor the past and look to the future. For both of us, skiing is a family affair, and we are both lucky to share moments on the hill with those close to us and remember those we’ve lost.

If you want to talk with me or any of my fellow Ski Experts about Salomon's skis or any other ski gear, chat with us here. We'd love to help you find the right gear for you. Stan, thanks so much.

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