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|JP Auclair in Retallack, BC, last winter.|
You can trace the origins of freeskiing back to the pre-twin-tip days and you'll find JP Auclair dropping into halfpipes two decades ago, when the pipe was the domain of snowboarders. Auclair was at the center of our sport's modern shift. Salomon's Teneighty -- one of the skis that set the precedent for every twin-tip ski in the lift line today -- was the brainchild of Auclair. He spent nights in the garage with Mike Douglas designing twin tip skis with a hacksaw and vice grip. In the late 90s, the New Canadian Air Force, a group that consisted of Auclair, Douglas, JF Cusson and a few others, became disgruntled with the rules being enforced in freestyle mogul competitions so they left the bump scene and started throwing tricks on their own, paving the way for today's freeskiers.
But the best part is that Auclair isn't just history; he is continuing to create it.
This fall, Auclair, who's 33, appeared in the latest release from Poor Boyz Productions, "Revolver." His film segments are bookended by Tim Durtschi's and Dane Tudor's, guys nearly a decade younger than him. "We were really trying to show a well-rounded segment with urban stuff, AK-style big-mountain parts and jibbing stuff," Auclair said recently. "Most of the work I've done in the last few years was for PBP, but I spent a lot of time skiing on my own, without photographers and freeriding. I felt really strong after those months by myself, and then I just put my head down and charged in B.C., Alaska and France with my buddy Julien [Regnier]."
He also filmed with Rocky Mountain Sherpas in British Columbia for a segment in their new film, "All.I.Can." That Auclair and the artsy-oriented Sherpas found each other is no surprise: Auclair's a cerebral and imaginative person, and the Sherpas capture those attributes on film. "I'll ski no matter what, but if there's an extra motivation, an extra incentive aside from skiing then I'm more prone to jump onto a project," he says. "I was really drawn to the way [the Sherpas] work. They're really artistic and their work ethic is inspirational."
|"It's just skiing," Auclair says. "There are bigger things."|
Beyond his on-snow exploits, you'll find a depth to Auclair that is far deeper than any snow he skis. In 2008, while attending guide school in Alaska, he and his friend Mike Hovey got the idea for an organization that would get involved in the global community and encourage people in their circles to act on different social issues. A year later, at the SIA tradeshow in Las Vegas, Alpine Initiatives was formed. They started by building an orphanage in Kenya for children affected by HIV/AIDS, which was finished this fall. In two weeks, AI is launching a brand new website to help with future projects.
"We had connections in Africa, so we took off and started digging and swinging a hammer. We wanted to help change the concept of what an orphanage is. We didn't want it to be an institutional-style building that was cold and grey, so we built pretty gardens and buildings, a school that the children would be excited about," Auclair says. "Since then there has been a really strong and overwhelming response from our skier friends. Alpine Initiatives is now becoming a symbol for people in the snowsports community to get involved globally."
He's still working on ski design, too. His Armada pro-model, the JJ, has developed a cult following since it hit the market in 2007. "We've been super happy with the JJ," Auclair says. "We didn't want to tweak it out too much this year. The only thing I wanted to do was beef it up a bit to make it geared toward the aggressive, faster, big-mountain stuff I'm focused on right now. We nailed it, the ski's stable and playful."
Over the last decade, Auclair has ushered freeskiing through our sport's most progressive and innovative times. "I've had a lot of fun experiencing new things on skis. I'm open to change as my interests change," Auclair says. More importantly, though, he's kept it all in perspective. "It's just skiing. There are bigger things."