Cover Photo: Jamie Walter
Lupe Hagearty is widely known as one of the hardest working, nicest guys in the ski game. Eric Iberg once said of him "work ethic and being a good person can get you a long way in life" and in Lupe's case they certainly seem to be paying off. He just released a mini-movie with his close friend Evan Lai-Hipp and a stacked crew of riders, so we sat down to have a chat with him about the industry, his sponsors and more.
What’s up Luke? All the coverage I’ve read relating to you in preparing for this interview points to work and reinforces how hard you work in skiing. What does work in Skiing mean to you? And why do you think people single you out as a hard working skier?
Well it's flattering that people feel that way. I never really looked at Skiing as work. I fell in LOVE with it. Skiing was my outlet or my way out. I grew up with my dad as a single parent who had addiction problems. So from a very young age I was motivated to better myself. Motivated to break free of the lifestyle I was exposed to. During that time period skiing was the only thing that made me happy or forget about all the shit going on at home. It helped me not get caught up with the wrong people where I grew up. I knew I wanted to ski the rest of my life and have been doing everything I can to make that a reality. I can say with all my heart I would not be here today without skiing. Probably would have gotten arrested or caught up in drugs like a lot of people that I grew up with. Skiing saved my life. As far as people recognizing what I do, I greatly appreciate that.
It has earned you some pretty awesome sponsors over the years and Planks stand out to me as a brand who are trying to do good things in skiing. Tell me a bit about how you linked up with them and what you think they are doing right?
So a few years back at SIA in Denver I was introduced to Rick Randall by a good mutual friend Dan Dougherty. I didn't have a outerwear sponsor at the time and after discussing the plans for the brand and seeing all the gear I was really stoked. It seemed like a perfect fit for myself to team up with Planks Clothing. Those guys have been amazing so far!! Planks has put together a really unique team, and they really show their athletes support which is hard to find right now.
Nordica jumped head first into freeskiing a couple of years ago now and you were one of those early additions. But since that storming first year, they seem to have lost a bit of momentum. Do you think that’s a fair analysis?
It was a very exciting time for myself when Nordica was putting a lot more focus towards the Freeski team. It was unreal the whole team that was constructed was a really tight group of homies who all skied together. Since that time there have been some changes in the company with position changes and budget cuts (seems to be the industry standard across the board right now) . I don’t think that helped the situation. I am a firm believer that we need to revert to the trend of having lots of team events or content being produced. Skateboarding is a great example of this. Team movies and events in my opinion will be a positive route for our industry to go. Its one of the most simple ways to create brand and athlete recognition.
You ride for a mixture of core and more mainstream brands, what’s your take on the debate about how they treat riders differently? Does the ownership matter or is it a brand by brand thing?
I personally think one of the things our industry is really lacking is rider created/ rider owned brands. Speaking generally, there are too many people in our industry working in positions that they don't really belong in. How can someone try and be a team manager if they don’t understand the struggles of being a professional athlete in this crazyyy industry? The dudes that have gone through the struggle first hand are the only ones that can really relate to what’s going on currently for anyone trying to make it. Just because someone has a piece of paper saying they graduated college does not qualify them for an industry position. Having the first hand experience of learning the industry through being an athlete gives someone insight and knowledge that can’t be acquired from sitting in a classroom. We need more people working in are industry who are core skiers, who really know what’s good. That all being said yes ownership is very important. I think it’s very important for business owners to relate and connect on a personal level with their athletes.
More generally, it’s pretty difficult to speak out in the ski industry but you seem like a guy willing to give measured opinions. Recently a few brands have been experiencing difficulties. Do you have a take on the overall health of skiing?
Yea man, shits wack right now. And approaching an olympic season I only foresee it being worse for everyone who is not going to Korea this year. Big up to people who want to chase those medals. I just don’t get how companies can justify spending crazy money on one athlete to go to one competition. The rest of a team gets their budget cut and are supposed to just be ok with it? I mean what is the olympics to us anyway? X-games have always seemed to be the pinnacle of competition skiing for our sport and is a much more attainable goal for people then having to spend the money it takes to go on the Olympic path. I get things change but it’s always important to stick to your roots! There needs to be a change for our sport to get out of the funk it’s in right now. I do not think the olympics is the answer. Ironically Joss Christensen Olympic Gold medalist and all around awesome dude is at the forefront of pushing something new in our sport. In my opinion SLVSH has the potential to be an extremely positive influence in creating another competition option for our sport.
You aren’t basically a comp skier but you’ve been in a few Rails To Riches etc. Do you enjoy competing at all? Do you feel that side of the industry is over prioritized?
So i'm really not down with the labeling of “comp guy” “rail guy” "film guy” etc. I am a skier. I loved what competing was at one time. It’s such a great feeling to stomp a run or trick in competition. I competed a lot when I was younger. I was doing junior olympics and all that other shit. I stopped following that path because it cost so much money to travel from comp to comp, registration fees, hotels, etc. I lived with Ian Compton for a season and he opened my eyes completely. He showed me that I could be successful through filming and do it for like ⅓ the money I was spending to compete. I remember the first Mount Snow Open I went to, Parker White and Chris Logan stood at the top of the drop in and Parker gave this motivating speech kinda playing off of the movie 300 haha. He got like 40 kids to drop in on the course at once, it was a huge train and one of the coolest things i’ve been apart of. Other guys like Dale Talkington, Sean Jordan, Jake Doan, and Chris Laker were there. It didn’t feel like a comp, it was just the homies shredding and feeding off each other. Ive competed in R2R 6 times and loved every year because it brings together a group of homies just slaying a sick rail set up. People are throwing down and it’s gnarly but there's no bad vibes. It just sad to stand at the top of a comp course now and hear coaches being all intense and taking the fun away from what we do. Competing has a totally different vibe now. It lost the roots of where skiing came from, how it all started. And directing back to your last part of the question, I couldn't agree more that throughout our industry skiers who compete get priority.
Check Out BUFU by Lupe Hagearty, Evan Lai-Hipp, Keegan Killbridge and more
Ok, let's talk about the topic of the moment: The Movie. What made you decide to shoot B.U.F.U this year?
I have been trying to link up with a “professional production company” the past few seasons and it never really lined up. It always been a dream to film a segment for a movie every year so I just decided to do it myself.
What was the hardest part of actually getting it done?
Trying to get support financially from sponsors. On top of that this spring the four main people working on B.U.F.U were all in different states. Keegan was in Oregon, Lai-Hipp was in Utah, Kirk was in Connecticut, and I was in Colorado. Trying to send files and who had what footage was tough at times. Learning the organizational side of making a movie was a huge learning experience this year.
You headed back east to show the movie on the East Coast Movie Tour. Is it important to you to go back to your roots there?
I love the East Coast, it made me into the person I am today. That will never change. I am way stoked to be going back to where it all started and hopefully can pass this lifestyle along to a younger generation!
You’re showing it alongside the two Inspired Movies and you’ve always had a connection with Inspired. What is it about those guys that makes them so special? Tanner, Phil, and Henrik have so much passion and dedication for our sport. These dudes work so damn hard and have so much love for skiing. They truly want to help push the sport to new places and always stick to their roots. Those three have done so much for skiing. It’s a dream come true to have linked with Inspired. Obviously Eric Iberg has played a huge role in all this as well. One of the most accomplished filmmakers in our industry. From the movies he has created to the athlete lineups in his films over the years. Iberg is as OG as it gets, he has been around doing this since day one.
What made you a skier in the first place?
I was luckily born into skiing. My dad and mom put me between their legs and skied me down the mountain before I could walk. I don’t think my family ever thought it would take over my life like it did tho haha. Around 8th grade I was doing everything in my power to ski as much as possible. There was really nothing else to me, skiing was it and still is!
That seems a perfect note to end on, but just briefly, what's up this coming winter? Big plans?
I am going to make another movie, I am trying to plan all that right now. Trying to figure out the athlete line up and who is going to be on board filming it this year. Film all day every day is the plan!