The ski community lost two legends today. Actually, scratch that, the world lost two amazing humans. JP Auclair and Andres Fransson were reportedly killed by an avalanche while climbing a couloir in Chile. JP – largely responsible for freestyle skiing’s existence in its current form – was always a step ahead of the curve, whether it was pioneering urban, taking park tricks to the backcountry, or in more recent years, honing his mountaineering skills.
The first time I ever saw JP was on an episode of Pontiac World of Skiing circa 1998-ish. The show was complete crap, but as a young die-hard skier during the pre-internet era, I would sit through hours of Steve Podborski’s tips on how to arc the perfect turn on a groomer in hopes of a few seconds of powder or hucking cliffs. On this particular episode I hit the jackpot – they were doing a feature on the New Canadian Air Force. During the segment they showed JP, sporting his signature pom-pom toque, doing a backflip mute grab in Whistler’s (snowboard) park. I promptly ran up to my parent’s closet and dug out my mom’s old-school pom-pom toque, that up until that moment I thought was super lame. The following summer, I spent hundreds of hours at my friend’s pool perfecting backflip mute grabs off the diving board. After many back slaps, and swallowing a lot of chlorinated water, I took the trick to snow and landed it. While wearing my old-school pom-pom toque, of course.
Rest in peace, JP. Even though I never met you, your skiing and creativity had a huge influence on me. I’ll be sure to huck a backflip or two for you this winter.