Best Job In the Ski Industry: Cy Whitling, Ski Media
For the final article in this series I wanted to cover someone working in ski media, and I could think of no better person then Cy Whitling. Cy is a member most of you will know, be it his photography, artwork or writing Cy seems to be able to do it all, and it all began right here on Newschoolers. In little over three years Cy has gone from writing articles on puffy pants to being the associate editor and photographer for Blister Gear Review. If ever there was a Newschoolers success story Cy is it, so read on and find out how Cy has risen to the top in such a short amount of time.
Tom: Can you remember your first experience skiing? Was it your family who first took you and where did you go?
Cy: "Ha! That's a long painful story. My mom grew up skiing in Colorado and my dad had some background skiing as well, but once they started having babies (I'm the oldest of 7) neither of them really kept skiing. I do remember my mom buying the family size box of Nature Valley granola bars at Costco that came with a free Warren Miller DVD, that's the first ski movie I ever watched."
Cy is the one in the glasses, or as his brother refers to him "the retarded looking one".
"The first issue of Powder I ever read had the Shane McConkey tribute in it. I was hooked, and I went home and watched the MSP tribute to Shane about a million times in a row. Between that, and couple of Line Traveling Circus videos I got the impression that snowlerblading was actually pretty rad. So I got some snowlerblades at a thrift store for $2.50 and went up to Lookout Pass in Carhartts and a hoody and bladed about 3 days a year for two years in high school."
"When I was 18 I got my first pair of real skis and my first season pass, to Schweitzer, since then I've been skiing out of control and trying to keep up with real skiers."
Tom: How big a part of your life was skiing growing up?
Cy: "It really wasn't a big part of my life at all. Schweitzer was about three hours away from where I grew up, and I played basketball in high school, and didn't have a reliable car, so I think I skied about 15 days total before I graduated high school. Really I'm still a total gaper (as anyone I've skied with can attest) I think I skied my 100th day ever, total, in my life in New Zealand this summer. Before last winter I'd never skied more than two or three consecutive days in a row."
Even if it was not skiing, Cy was getting rad.
"I'm actually really thankful for that, because it made me almost painfully hungry to ski and shoot skiing. When you only get five days on the hill in a season you never complain about getting up early or skiing in bad conditions or whatever. It forces you to be very wise with your time and it made me learn how to be super productive as a photographer. When mountain time is so valuable you really don't waste it."
"I did the math once, we used to drive six hours on Saturdays to ski for 7 hours, and if it was a pow day the drive time would be even longer. To save on gas we've put 6 people, and 6 people's gear into a five seat Subaru way too many times. I still have some great memories of 6am drives in 4 inches of fresh snow where we all made our peace with God and just assumed we were going to get hit by a semi and die before we made it to the mountain."
"This year I'll be living about 15 minutes from a ski resort for the first time in my life, and I'm already a little frustrated by the fact that I'm starting to become just a tiny bit complacent about getting to go skiing. I still can't sleep and feel like I'm going to puke every night before a ski day though so I'm thankful for that."
Hopefully we will be seeing many more faces like this, now Cy is living in the mountains
Tom: What was your school life like? What were your favorite subjects in school?
Cy: "I really liked literature, reading and writing has always been fun for me."
Tom: In school, what did you think you wanted to do when you were older?
Cy: "I had no idea. I did two and a half years of Mechanical Engineering because I wanted to build skis or mountain bikes, then I worked in the film industry for a year and then worked with a tech startup for a year. Basically I realized that I didn't love math but I did love making things and telling stories."
Tom: What are you studying at University?
Cy: "I'm currently a senior at the University of Idaho, majoring in Digital Media and Broadcasting, with an area of emphasis in Mechanical Engineering."
Tom: Do/did you ski in any clubs in Uni or School?
Cy: "Nope, luckily had some good friends from high school, James and Ian Engerbretson, who I skied with a lot, and then I met Caleb Ehly on newschoolers. I skied with those guys and some other groups of friends from high school for my first three years of college. They have been incredibly kind in waiting for the gaper in the fanny pack for so long."
Cy, reinventing style since 1993.
Tom: How did you come to write for Newschoolers?
Cy: "I wrote a really terrible article that was supposed to be satire but really fell flat (read it here). Whenever I start to think I'm super cool I go back and read that. That's also a big part of why I'm so stoked about what Sklar is doing with the Radical Radish, it finally realizes all my dreams of ski satire."
"After that initial atrocity I was pretty quiet while I figured out NS, I posted another article about opening day that Doug commented something nice on. Later that season I got a few POTD's and got frustrated by a bunch of kids who used daddy's money to buy a DSLR and then made a "So and So photography" page on Facebook so I wrote a piece about what a photographer actually was to me (read that here) That went over well so I kept writing!"
One of Cy's many POTD's
Tom: Over the few years you wrote for NS, what help did you get and how did it help you develop?
Cy: "Initially it was just comments on my articles that really helped shape and motivate my writing. The first event I covered was the Beartooth Summer Session (huge shoutout to Sam Caylor for rescuing us from a blown engine on the way home) and then the season after that things really picked up, and I spent a lot of last winter traveling and writing for NS. The content team does a great job of critiquing work and giving pointers, and Doug is the ultimate motivational speaker."
"Really though, the freedom to do whatever you want is a big part of the beauty of NS. You can post whatever you want and don't need to listen to anyone, but if you are humble and ready to learn, the community has an incredible talent pool and I'm always shocked by how approachable and helpful people are."
Tom: What is your favorite type of media to produce and why?
Cy: "That's a hard one. Outside of skiing I used to focus on video, and I really love watching well made videos, I think it's one of the most compelling ways to tell a story. I haven't done much video work in the last few years though, and I wasn't as good as it as I'd like initially so I think I'm going to try to step back into video a lot more aggressively this year and try to make some worthwhile stuff."
"I love taking photos a lot, I realized the other day that I like shooting skiing way more than I like actually doing it. For me at least photos are a lot easier than video, and it can be a lot easier to get good photos in terrible conditions, I almost treat photos as a standby, no matter what happens you should be able to get a decent photo if there are skis involved. I can't ski with friends or on a good snow day for more than a few runs without wanting to pull out the camera."
Cy in his element.
"Writing is also fun, and sort of a backup in my mind, all you need is an angle, a sense of humor, and a love for your reader and you should be able to cook up a story worth telling, even if your trip or day was a total disaster. I like to hope that writing is a little more timeless too, that we can leave stories behind that continue to resonate for a good bit."
"Just this last year I started doodling, mainly because the PNW had no snow so I didn't shoot as much as I wanted to and I just felt like I was missing the shot too much, so I started drawing the photos I wished I was taking. I'm definitely just starting to play with the doodles though so I'm excited to keep cranking those out."
Tom: What content are you most proud of?
Cy: "I'm proud of any shot, drawing, or article that makes the viewer excited to go make the most of their day."
No camera, no problem!
Tom: What do you now do for Blister?
Cy: "I'm an associate editor and photographer for Blister Gear Review. I mess up people's nice reviews, push buttons on my camera and crash a lot."
Tom: How often do you get to ski?
Cy: "A lot!"
Tom: What is the best part about your job?
Cy: "Of course I love shooting on trips, and getting to ski and bike new places. Some of our reviewers write some pretty funny stuff so I love editing those, really any day that involves skiing or haikus."
Tom: And what is the worst?
Cy: "Any day that involves constant contact (an email building site) or the USPS website. Also comas. But I'm going to defeat the evil coma soon and move on to more worthy enemies."
Less Carhatts and fanny packs, more dynafits and gortex. Cy is clearly moving up in the world
Tom: What do you hope to achieve as you progress within the industry? What would be your dream job?
Cy: "Entering the industry I never would have dreamed as big as the job I have right now! That said, I don't have a dream job so much as I have bigger goals for my life and the lives of any people I can impact."
"We're all telling stories every day and I want mine to be pretty good, not just in some shiny heroic way (that would be cool but I crash too much for that) but in an everyday kind of way. I love skiers and the industry and I think there is a lot of potential here that is not being fully realized. It's great when I can become a better skier, a better photographer, a better writer, but really I'd much rather help people improve."
"I see so many young up-and comers with so much potential and it just gets me incredibly excited. I can't wait for a few years down the line when I can look at the top guys in the industry and say "Hey! I knew that guy!" and anything I can do to help those people succeed is really my goal."
Getting the shot in NZ.
Tom: If you did not work in ski media, what other job do you think you would go for?
Cy: "I used to think that was working on films or Mechanical Engineering, but now, no way! Too much math and too many people. I wouldn't mind teaching though. I owe a lot to teachers and they do get a lot of time off to do things in the mountains."
Tom: What advice do you have for people who may be considering starting to produce content of any kind?
Cy: "Realize it's going to suck and do your best to make it not suck. Listen to people who make better stuff and ask them how to make it not suck. Repeat. Watch and read and look at people way better than yourself. I always have a document open on my computer that's just a list of links. I add to it whenever I find something worthwhile. It doesn't matter what medium it comes in, but seek out inspiration, it's not going to just come to you if you sit in your parents basement long enough. You've got to get out and experience things that inspire you."
Tom: If you had to choose only one type of media (painting, writing, photography etc) to do forever, what would it be?
Cy: "That one is dang near impossible. If I could support myself doing just it I guess I could resign myself to just shooting photos forever. I think I have the most to learn and the furthest to go in drawing, and great writing can stand on its own, but sending me on a trip and telling me to write without letting me take any pictures at all might kill me. That said, sending me somewhere with my camera and not letting me write about it sounds pretty terrible too. There's just too many stories to tell to cut it down to just one medium."
Experiences don't come from sitting in your basement, you have to get out there and make them.
Hopefully this, and also the other articles in this series, have inspired some of you and if you take anything away from this, remember that if you want to do something, with enough work you will get there.
Cy is a perfect example of how this site can be your first step on the carer path. As Cy says the beauty of Newschoolers is its a totally open format and everyone can have their voice heard. Cy is certainly not the only person to have moved on to bigger things and he wont be the last. So to everyone out there I encourage you to start getting involved with the media side of the site. I myself was hesitant about getting involved with the writing side, I'm actually very dyslexic and writing is certainly not something which comes naturally or easily to me. I have certainly had to work to (hopefully) improve but writing for Newschoolers has opened up a lot of opportunity's, so if I can do it, any one can.
So who has the best job in the industry? Would you like to be making the products, running the resorts, creating the media or maybe being a pro skier is more your thing. Vote below for who you think has the best job.
Although this is the last article in this current series this may not be the last of these articles, so if there is anyone you would like to see featured in the future leave them in the comments below.
Thanks to Cy, and everyone else who took part in this series.