Kye Petersen is at the forefront of skiing, a position he was born into but also earned. He’s part normal teenage resort-town punk, concerned with friends, phone calls and hanging out in his hometown of Whistler, B.C. But there’s a lot more to Kye than his Thursday-night plans. He has a genuine understanding of what few other 19-year-olds do—that big-mountain skiing is a discipline, a martial art that takes years of practise to master. He also knows that rising to the highest level of the sport will grant him access to the coolest and deepest experiences on Earth, a motivation that has driven skiers throughout history.
With a growing list of sponsors, comp wins and film segments as a regular part of life since age 11, Kye is now a legitimate big-name pro. Being the son of legendary skier Trevor Petersen (tragically killed in a 1996 avalanche in Chamonix, France) may have helped usher him into the industry at an early age, but Kye has earned every ounce of respect that his achievements elicit. Kye’s career has reached a transition point where he’s taking more control over his own program. He’s lucky enough to be able to turn his stature into a vehicle for what he really wants—exploring his own potential. This makes 2009 an exciting time to be a Kye fan, because his passion for adventure will no doubt take him to the limits. This summer we pinned down the rarely stationary Kye in a Whistler coff ee house for an interview. His answers were mature and forthcoming. It’s clear he is serious and dedicated to skiing, and aspires to the highest levels of the sport. He’s self-eff acing, honest about the state of the union, and knows what he wants from his career. He also has a wisdom that only someone who has survived both big-mountain objectives and the fractious business side of skiing can really grasp.
How’s the coming season shaping up?
Pretty good. I’m just planning right now. Well, not really planning, but trying to arrange some things. I’d like to have a cooler documentation approach to this season. Instead of planning trips where we shoot, I just want beshooting all the time. I’d like to get a lot more web movies out and possibly create my own film from the season. It’s all up in the air, though, so who knows.
Any plans for more comps?
Chances are I’ll do Cold Rush again and maybe Laurent Favre’s invitational comp in Europe. I’ll probably be in Europe anyways. I definitely don’t plan my schedule around comps; I like to focus onother things.
What do you look for in a zone you want to ski? Cliffs, lines?
It’s always a journey. It’s whatever’s there, really. If there’s some wind lips or kickers, we’ll maybe do that. Usually the objective is to always ski long
runs—y’know, rack the vertical. [I look to] ski steeps most often. I consider myself an apprentice steep skier. I’ll hit jumps if they’re in front of me, but the adventure is what I’m all about.
Which skiers do you admire?
Oh, man, there’s so many. Shane McConkey, for sure—the master. I mean, that guy completely revolutionized our sport. McConkey is one of the biggest
names that pop into my head when I think about being a skier and growing up here in Whistler. I only met him a couple times, but without him, where would we be? I’ve only been on rockered skis for a year now, and we’re just beginning to figure out what’s possible on them.
What about people closer to your own age? What about Tanner Hall?
Tanner’s been like a brother to me since I was, like, 10. He’s really been there for me and pushed my skiing as well. He’s been a huge influence to me my whole skiing career. Stian Hagen is another huge inspiration. Local buddies, too: Ollie Harren is a really good ski partner, and guys like Callum Pettit. Callum doesn’t follow anybody; he’s definitely on a right path. Sean [Pettit] too; he’s killing it. But Callum just looks at the mountain so different than anybody else, like a playground. He sees stuff, and nobody knows what he’s talking about until he does it.
Can you see yourself getting more involved in product design in the future?
For sure. I’m trying to be involved right now. In the last year or so I’ve been very conscious about what I’m riding on. I always think about designs, about what could be improved.
I had dinner with Eric Hjorleifson the other night and talked to him about product design.
Right now in the sport of skiing Hojee’s probably the most driven to perfect his product. He’s into every little thing. Man, the old people that run the ski industry. I mean, boots and bindings haven’t changed in so long, y’know? There’s still work to be done. He’s all about the boots right now. He’s so into it, it’s awesome. I wish I got to ski with him more. He’s so humble and a really good guy. An inspiration, for sure.
There was a huge response to McConkey’s death online. It also seemed to revive the debate about how much risk should be taken by fathers. That’s something you know about.
When somebody dies, people always say, “That guy shouldn’t have been out there doing what he was doing.” I think just some people can’t appreciate it as much as others. It’s too bad, and I don’t really know [why]. But I mean, look at what McConkey did to shape our sport; people are doing stuff on skis that they never even thought of before. Anyone who enjoys our sport has to give full thanks to Shane for that.
Have you been back to Chamonix since you filmed there with Bill Kerig and the The Edge of Never movie crew? [Set to premiere this fall, the feature-length film tells the story of Kye journeying to Chamonix to ski the line his father died on.]
Twice, actually. We had a killer time in Chamonix last year. We had lots of deep pow and got to ski a ton of tree runs that you don’t usually get to ski. I feel pretty privileged. Hopefully I’m able to keep going there for the rest of my life. It’s like a second home. I have friends there, and the mountains feel really good. It’s probably the all-time place to go for lift skiing.
You’re one of the main characters in the The Edge of Never. Have you thought about the fact that if this movie goes big, you could become one of the most well known names in skiing?
I honestly don’t have any expectations about the movie, and you don’t just become one of the most well-known names in skiing from one movie. It takes years of experience to get that big. It could be a really cool thing, though. I haven’t seen the final cut yet, so it’s hard to say.
Some people have said that at age 14 you were far too young to be skiing the Glacier Rond whenthey shot that movie.
I don’t really consider it that big a deal that I skied the Rond. I mean, people ski the Rond almost every day when it’s good. It’s definitely a big line, but I doubt I’m even the youngest to ever ski that thing. I bet 12-year-olds have skied it with their dads. I was bound to go to Chamonix and ski that line; it was just a matter of time. The Edge of Never experience just made it happen, and it changed my life. More from the perspective of the people I got to meet and hang out with—[photographer] Nate Wallace, [guide] Fan Fan and Glen Plake. That’s what makes Chamonix so wild. I mean, it’s not that that valley is the most dangerous in the world; it’s just that there’s so many out there doing what we do, and people get hurt and we hear about it.
Do you stay in touch with Plake?
I do. I end up always seeing him more than I stay in touch. Glen Plake just pops up in places; he’s everywhere. Plake’s an awesome guy, always a bright spirit. He loves skiing. His whole life revolves around it.
You went to Alaska this past year. How did it go?
It was a pretty short trip and late in the year, but we got a couple shots. We got to ski a bunch of cool things, but it was windy and warm. I didn’t know I was going to Alaska till the very last minute, but I made the decision to go because sometimes it’s just luck of the draw. It was worth it, though. We spent a bit of money and got out there and had a good time. I’ve been to AK before, but it was my first trip to Haines.
What’d you think of Haines?
The landscape is pretty beautiful. I love being close to the ocean like that. The mou ntains have a really quick rise out of the ocean, which makes for a pretty beautiful place.
What kind of skiing do you want to be known for?
I don’t really know because I’m kind of living it. I’ll be known for whatever I do, whatever happens to me on my natural path. [What other people say about you] isn’t something you can really control. Yeah, I definitely consider myself an all-round skier, but I don’t know how to really classify myself. An
adventure skier before anything. Even if I was calling myself an extreme skier, the trees can be extreme at times. Exploring new places and going places you’ve never been before—that’s what skiing is about, man. And skiing powder first and foremost.
You’ve grown up in a town where your dad was a legend. How does it make you feel when people who knew your dad talk to you about him?
It definitely stokes me more than it creeps me out. My dad made such an impact. I like hearing people’s stories about him. It makes the world seem like a small place even though it’s huge.
For more info, check out kyepetersen.com.