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|Benji Ritchie is so burley he often scares his tricks into submission.|
"I'm from Mont Tremblant, Quebec." Benji Ritchie almost shouts, his elocution sounds like he's gagging or has a major sinus infection -- though, apparently this only happens when he says something in French.
"It's a ski resort town somewhere a bit north of Montreal," Ritchie continues, his accent mellowing, while becoming no less entertaining. "I learned to snowboard here, obviously, but my family has been hunting up here for generations. We are pretty lucky where I live with all of the wildlife. We do a lot of duck and geese hunting, but also deer and moose as well. I'm in the woods seven days a week starting in September."
Benji Ritchie -- who, rumor has it, steals the show in the highly anticipated "YES. It's a Movie" -- has been making a living off snowboarding, not hunting, for almost a decade now. Coming from the farmlands and forested hills of his native land, this is quite an achievement. But the 29-year-old French Canadian is as smart as he is focused.
Though his modest attitude would suggest otherwise, Ritchie has put his mark on the now famous Whistler backcountry. Years of commanding freestyle riding, powerful video parts and healthy media exposure in all the major mags are testament to this.
After the December holidays are over, "I'll pack up my truck and make the drive out to base camp in Squamish for five months," says Ritchie. There he lives with one of pro snowboarding's most fun-loving crews: 8Mile.
|While snow geese migrate south for the winter, Benji heads west to Whistler.|
"I've been living with Mikey Rencz for three or four winters now," says Ritchie. "It is so motivating to be surrounded by those guys because they just push it, really hard."
Despite the hard partying lifestyle sometimes attributed to the 8 Mile crew, that's not how it really works, explains Ritchie: "Not one of us is at home when it's sunny out. We work every single day that the weather is good. We're all in the same boat and this is how we all make a living. We take it seriously, believe it or not."
In a world of sometimes self-absorbed pros looking to be the first to do the next big trick, Ritchie's selfless attitude has shown through. He's been silently slaughtering it all season, but, "I've seen him go out to a spot with something in mind, and just shuttle guys all day until they get their tricks," says longtime friend and fellow Quebecian, David Carrier-Porcheron. "Sometimes he doesn't even strap in. Ritchie is just the nicest guy you could ever meet. He has a huge heart and would do anything for his friends."
|Must be the season opener. Benji gets into the white before the snow starts to fall.|
Recently, a couple of years of sponsor-less shredding left Ritchie riding more for fun. With no serious commitments to a filming project, this past season things took shape again when his dedication and talent was recognized by his old friend, DCP.
"It was in my mind for a while," Ritchie says enthusiastically, of getting on the YES program. "But the reality of YES being a really small company& it's kind of tricky. But like anything, when it was time, it was time, and I was ready."
"While the rest of us were traveling all over the world," explains DCP, "Ritchie just stayed at home during one of Whistler's best years and killed it!"
"I still feel like I am improving out there," Ritchie says. "If I felt that I was regressing or not keeping up or was scared, I might not be doing this still, but I don't feel that way at all. I feel more and more confident every year."
When asked whether it's true that he's bagged one of the stand-out segments in the new YES movie, the ever-humble Ritchie answers, "I have not seen the movie yet so I can't say."
When will he see the movie, so he can say?
"I am going to try and jump on the movie tour YES is doing with Absinthe on the East Coast. I don't think I can do that too long, though," he answers. "This is my time of year. The leaves will start to turn soon. We' re getting pretty excited because the duck-hunting opener is coming in late September. The first few days we get a lot of action." Ritchie cracks a grin. "The ducks all show up for a good time, and we are there waiting for them!"