By Laura Stovel
If Greg Hill has a guiding light, it’s passion. While many look for safety and financial security in life, the famous ski
mountaineer is driven to challenge himself physically, mentally and emotionally, to ski more vertical feet in less time and in new ways.
For him, the physical, mental and emotional are intertwined. “It’s the mind that drives the body,” he said.
Hill, who will speak at C3 Church during the Axis Mundi Festival on Sunday September 20 at 1 pm, is best known for the two million vertical feet that he climbed and skied in 2010, averaging 5,500 feet uphill each day. He will share stories of his adventures, of setting goals and pushing his personal limits – something that many in the audience can relate to, regardless of their passions.
In the Axis Mundi talk, “I’ll tap into motivation, working hard, living for your dreams,” he said. “Everyone has dreams in life. I think for happiness and just to feel fulfilled you should not give up on them. A lot of us get talked out of them.”
“I’ve got my two million feet. That’s worked really well for me,” he said. But whatever the goal is, “you have to push whatever boundary you’re at. You have to go into the uncomfortable zones. Because you only have one chance here.”
In his talk, Hill will share some of his secrets to pushing boundaries, even when it’s frightening. “I have ways of dealing with it, little tricks that can help,” he said.
After completing the two-million-vertical-foot challenge on New Year’s Eve, 2010, many people might sit back and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Not Hill. Inspired by a local climate change event, he took on a climate challenge for the month April 2011 where he cycled to all his skiing locations before doing long days of vertical.
“For me it was personally satisfying. It was really neat to go up Begbie and bike there and watch it as I got closer to it, then to climb it, ski it, and then bike home.” It was also “a tough goal because my friends would drive to the base of the mountain and there would have been a space in the car.”
As an extreme ski mountaineer and a full ski guide for Eagle Pass Heliskiing, Hill knows avalanche terrain well. In two trips overseas in the past few years, he experienced the devastating impact of avalanches first-hand. In September 2012, an avalanche hit a climbing camp at Mount Manaslu, Nepal. Hill and his companions, who were staying at a nearby camp, helped rescue survivors.
In May 2014, while making a film about Canadian ski mountaineer Ptor Spricenieks in Pakistan, Hill was caught in an avalanche and suffered a broken leg. Since then he has been rehabilitating his leg while continuing to climb and ski. “I used to recover in a day or two,” he said. “It feels like recovery is longer but you have the same amount of drive and fitness. You’ll just be sore after.”
What is his next goal? On his 40th birthday on December 19th, Hill aims to ski 40,000 vertical feet – 1,000 for each year. “I’ve always been a very fit person and I base my happiness on being able to push myself physically so I’ve always wanted to do 40,000 feet on my 40th birthday. I’ve climbed and skied that before in a day but I think it would be a nice test of my rehab and my fitness to enter my 40s nice and fit.”
The location of this ski marathon is still elusive. It will be “some powder-filled place where I can have my friends around to share it with. I’ll do my lunatic 20 hours hiking and skiing and they’ll be around to do some runs with me,” he said.
Hill was born in Cowansville, Québec and moved to Western Canada when he was 25. After moving around a bit, he found his home in Revelstoke, where he and his wife Tracey are raising two children.
“Revelstoke is an incredible place,” he said. “We have these solid mountain personalities and we’ve kind of grown together. I’m not from here but I appreciate it more because I’m not from here.” As with so many of the great skiers who have found a home in Revelstoke, living here was a choice for Hill and this has immeasurably enriched our town.
“That’s what I like about this festival. It’s going to bring other people in and share this place we have,” he said.
By Laura Stovel