|ESPN.com: Freeskiing||[Print without images]|
|Jeff Schmuck, a guy with a job worth envying.|
[Editor's note: Jobs are hard to find these days. But that doesn't mean your dream job in the ski industry isn't still out there waiting for you. In this interview series, we talk to folks in the ski industry who have seemingly glamorous gigs, filled with exotic travel, powder skiing, and bottomless expense accounts. Read on for advice on how they got there and how you can find your way in, too.]
In five years as the managing editor of Newschoolers.com, Jeff Schmuck has covered every major freeskiing event worldwide as a journalist, photographer and on-air correspondent. Over some 10 years working in freeskiing, the Vancouver native has acquired unique familiarity with athletes and unparalleled insight into their sport. While he was between trips, we caught up with Jeff for his thoughts on travel, expense accounts, dream jobs and the 2014 Olympics.
How did you get to where you are now?
Before bagging my golden goose-style job at Newschoolers, I was deep in the trenches of ski retail for many moons. I began my career in the ski industry in 2001 by helping manage the top ski shop in Vancouver before becoming a sales rep. After about two years with Line, I got promoted to Canadian athlete manager, which was great, but I was starting to feel the itch to use my education (I have a journalism degree). I was about to peace out on the ski industry to go write for a newspaper in Kenya or a magazine in Nepal, but the stars aligned at the 11th hour and I very happily scored my dream job.
What is your favorite thing about your job and why?
Traveling. Getting to jet set all over the world to experience diverse cultures while skiing in exotic destinations with some of my best friends is beyond a dream come true. I still pinch myself every morning I wake up in a foreign country.
I remember for the first couple of years after Newschoolers was first sold, you pretty much had a blank check for "business" travel. Where did you go and how much did you spend on travel and incidentals?
Well, I wouldn't say it was a blank check, but it was definitely enough to see more of the world in a winter than most people get to see if their lifetime. My first year on the job, I went to X Games for my first time, followed by a three-week powder-filled stint in Japan, then Switzerland for European Open, France for the Candide Invitational, Sweden for JOSS and a handful of trips to California. Between December and May of that year I was only home for three weeks, and expenses-wise, I think it clocked in somewhere around $20,000.
During those years, you covered expenses for a lot of upcoming skiers. What current skiers have slept on your floor or eaten on your tab?
Matt Margetts and Joe Schuster are definitely at the top of that list. They've done their fair share of barging into my hotel room while I'm trying to work, looking for either a place to stay or a company credit card to mooch off of. And I may regret saying this later, but they're always welcome.
How was last winter's travel itinerary by comparison?
It was actually the mellowest, which was kind of nice for a change. I always tell people that the traveling aspect of my job is extremely tiring, but I never get tired of it. That said though, it was nice to have a less hectic year, especially since Whistler was getting the best snow out of anywhere in North America. Itinerary-wise, I went to X Games like always, got to hit up Jackson Hole for my first time ever for Powder Week, and then went to Sweden for JOI, Mammoth for Salomon Jib Academy Finals, and Mount Bachelor for the Sammy Carlson Invitational, along with some personal trips to Vegas and Mexico sandwiched in between.
In your years in skiing, what is the biggest change that you've seen take place in the sport?
This might sound like a bit of a nerdy answer, but ski technology. Skis have changed so much in the last three, five and 10 years, and I think it's often overlooked how important that is, because without the constantly changing landscape of ski technology most of what's being done on skis right now simply wouldn't be possible.
What is the best trip you've ever been on?
Going to Japan is always amazing, since the Land of the Rising Sun is the home of my favorite culture, people and food in the world, and every time I've been to Åre, Sweden, for one of Jon's events it's been too much fun to appropriately describe. But I'd have to say that the best trip I've ever been on was to Chile last year for the Swatch Skiers Cup. It was such a great and diverse mix of athletes, many of whom I've known for a long, long time, and the hospitality and good times the organizers bestowed on us was over the top.
Who do you consider the five best currently active skiers in the sport and why?
That's a tough question, because there are so many different avenues of the sport right now, which I personally think is the best part about freeskiing. So I suppose I'll break it down by category to play it somewhat safe. I think Sean Pettit is the best big mountain/backcountry skier, Tom Wallisch is the best park and urban skier, Justin Dorey is the best halfpipe skier, and Tanner Hall and Jon Olsson are the best all-around skiers.
Olympics. Do they mean the end of the glory days? Or just the beginning?
Look at snowboarding. Did the Olympics ruin snowboarding? Of course not. Is snowboarding still cool? Of course it is. It's obviously a lot more complicated than that. I think it's extremely important for us to remember that the Olympics need us more than we need them. We have to be conscious of that and take care not to just say "sir, yes sir" to whatever FIS and the IOC want to do with our sport. I'm incredibly thankful that we have an organization like the AFP working to ensure that doesn't happen. But at the end of the day, I think the Olympics are an opportunity because they will bring more mainstream media attention to our sport, which will mean more money, more opportunities for young skiers. We all know how badass freeskiing is, and with the exposure the Olympics will give our sport, the rest of the world will too.