His ego doesn’t match his long list of mountain accomplishments. Matt Gunn’s contagious smile and infectious passion for the mountains makes him memorable and approachable. Part of the unofficial “rad dad club,” Matt’s sharing his knowledge with not only his own kiddos but with the entire Sea-to-Sky coordinator through his guidebooks, South Coast Touring Facebook page and community events.
BIO: MATT GUNN
Matt Gunn is mountain keener living in Squamish, BC with his wife Dora and two daughters. He’s passionate about getting into the alpine with his friends and family and spends more time than he should daydreaming about the next adventure. He’s the author of Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia and Hikes Around Invermere. Word on the street he’s got another book up his sleeve for us skiers.
MATT GUNN: INTERVIEW
SBC: How long have you been backcountry skiing and how did you get your start?
I started ski touring in 1993 at the age of 17 in my first year at the University of Calgary. Up to that point I had loved getting into the mountains but hadn’t figured out it was viable in the winter. Resort skiing had lost its appeal for me so I was ready to discover ski touring, I just hadn’t been exposed to it yet; in that time and place it was a fairly fringe activity and you wouldn’t hear much about it if you weren’t seeking it out. A buddy and I had spent the fall getting out on some great alpine adventures but with winter settling in we decided we needed some new tools to keep playing the in mountains. I had heard about telemarking so we scraped together enough gear to start touring and immediately got hooked on the activity.
SBC: Did you have a mentor in the sport?
I can’t say I’ve had one specific mentor but I have picked up a lot from more experienced people over the years. Early on I became buddies with someone my age that had done a bunch of touring with the Alpine Club of Canada as a teenager and he provided a lot of insight into trip planning and general mountain sense. I sought out avalanche and glacier travel courses in the early days because I recognized the significant hazards that existed. And when moving to the Coast I connected with someone who, to this day, is a key touring partner of mine. I don’t think our experience level was so different, but his approach to mountain adventures in terms of motivation, planning, and efficiency were next level for me and in a way, he was probably one of my most important mentors. Having said that, most of my trips have been with people who have had a similar level of experience as myself. I’ve taken a long, slow road through the activity, building skills on increasingly ambitious objectives. Because my partners generally have a similar experience level we are always making decisions together and maximizing the learning we get from the experiences, as opposed to following a more experienced leader.
SBC: Did your family grow up skiing?
My dad is a keen skier and was a volunteer ski patroller for much of his life. He got me out skiing as a kid and thorough a bunch of my childhood, so I owe him a big thanks for getting me into the activity.
SBC: You have a family of your own now, what does that look like when it comes to skiing in bounds and out of bounds?
It’s all about keeping it fun with my 9-year-old daughter which means getting out with her buddies, gummies on the chairlift and fries at lunch. We get out on lots of wilderness adventures but ski touring is a ways off. I’m hoping to do a nice spring camping trip not far out of the Whistler ski area this winter with some other families but my only ambition is that she’s having fun when we’re out there.
SBC: People in the sea-to-sky know you from your summer guidebook – can you tell us winter folk about it?
I wrote a book called Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia. Scrambling is the middle ground between hiking and climbing and the book provides info on how to get up a range of peaks in the area which don’t require a lot of technical equipment. It’s a great way to get into some beautiful locations and get the satisfaction of a summit without hauling a rope and rack around. It’s also a great way to get familiar with some of the excellent ski terrain in the area!
SBC: Any other work up your sleeve?
I’m working on a couple of winter book projects which I’m calling ski touring atlases. The intention is to create visual resources that can inspire adventure and support trip planning through a collection of annotated air photos of the ski terrain accompanied by an integrated set of maps and descriptions. I’m pretty excited about them and I think folks are going to stoked on using them!
SBC: What legacy are you creating for yourself?
Hopefully, I’ll have inspired and supported people to get on adventures that are meaningful. I’ve gotten so much from wilderness adventure and I’d like to help other people find the same experiences.
“I’d like to encourage folks to take a positive outlook on the activity and look for opportunities to maximize the available benefits and manage the negative implications.”
– Matt Gunn
SBC: What are your goals with community outreach?
A lot of things are changing in regards to wilderness recreation with growing numbers of participants and social media influences. I’d like to encourage folks to take a positive outlook on the activity and look for opportunities to maximize the available benefits and manage the negative implications. I think there are lots of opportunities for recreationalists to come together as a community and maximize our experiences, minimize our exposure to risk, and preserve the locations we love.
SBC: Where do you hope your kids will go with the foundation you’ve given them?
I hope they develop a love for wilderness experiences and incorporate them into their lives. Outdoor adventures with friends have enriched my life in so many ways and I hope my kids can benefit in the same way, regardless of the activity or level of participation they engage in.
SBC: Any last thoughts?
Huge thanks to my family for the company on our adventures and for letting me head out with my buddies. Also, thanks to Arcteryx Whistler for keeping me well equipped on all my adventures.