Everyone has that band or artist who, to them, will always be 'the one' no matter how their tastes change. Sure, new songs, new albums and even new genres will come along and be the flavor of the minute. Others might even become 'your favorite' for a while. But deep down you know there's that one band, whose music is printed on your very soul. For me and countless others, the skiing equivalent of that band is Eric Pollard. It was his skiing, along with the rest of the Idea crew, that drew me deep into the 'freeski' scene and has led me to this point in life. This is probably the hardest intro I've ever had to write, so suffice to say it was a privilege to ask him some questions about his career, and I'm stoked to share his answers with you now. Enjoy.
The man himself at THAT spot
Parts of ‘freeskiing’ have changed beyond the point of recognition to someone skiing back in 2000, yet you’ve been in the game all that time. What do you think of the path skiing has taken and is on now?
It’s difficult to talk about the path skiing has taken, and skiings' current state, because my view of skiing is mostly through my own lens. I grew up ski racing, and I loved it. However, as I grew up, I guess when I hit around 13 years old, my interest in turning around gates began to fade. I looked at the mountain much like my friends who were snowboarding, everything I saw was potential for an air, or a slash, etc. More than anything, I wanted to ski backwards without catching my tails. But even though I wanted them, twin tips didn't exist. For a long time, the ski industry was incredibly resistant to change, and I know individuals who tried to get ski companies to make twin tip skis 4-5 years before they finally were made. It was an industry entirely controlled by individuals from other genres of skiing. I do believe that has changed. Today, kids have their choice of many different kinds of twin and powder skis. I’ve been asked many times if I knew I wanted to be a professional skier growing up. The crazy thing is that for the kind of skiing I did and do today, there was nothing to be professional at when I was a kid. Skiing has changed A LOT. I know it is easy to pick apart everything that is wrong with skiing, competitions, etc, but I’m very happy that at least there has been a lot of progress and evolution.
What does skiing mean to you and what inspires you to ski your way?
To me skiing is fun. It’s easy to have more of an experience than just fun, it can be totally transformative, spiritual etc, but for me it’s mostly just fun. I have tried my hand at many mediums of art; painting, drawing, photography, cinematography, film-making, yet, for me, skiing is still the best way I have found to express myself. In terms of inspirations: terrain, surfing, snowboarding, travel, friends, creativity, a bit of everything I guess. Growing up, snowboarding and surfing were at the heart of what inspired me to ski a different way. A couple of skiers named Griffin and Josh were massive inspirations.
https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/796469/4-Day-Season----Eric-PollardPossibly my favorite edit ever
Can you put into words how you approach skiing and filming tricks?
I love to ski but filming can sometimes mean that I don’t get to ski as much as I would like. I know that sounds crazy, but filming often means waiting for light, setting up cameras, looking for fresh tracks, etc. You have to be patient, and motivated to want to try to film skiing. A normal day riding you might get something like eight laps, while filming you would only get two. For me, balancing filming and skiing is something I put a lot of energy into, mostly because I want the process of capturing skiing to be as natural as possible. I find that I only get motivated to ski by terrain and conditions, I’m not the kind of skier who can just fake it. If I’m into a feature, then I hit it until the light's gone, but I can’t force it if I’m not into it. I’m super into communicating with our filmer Jeff to work toward how we might frame the shot, select frame rates and shutter speeds, make moves, etc, mostly because I have been editing for so long, that I know what I want to see. I love shooting behind the lens as well as skiing in front of the lens, so I always have some kind of input. Then I wait for light, and I hit it.
To be a professional skier, you have to be on the move near constantly. You’re also constantly taking risks. How hard is it to keep up that lifestyle when you have a wife and a child back home?
VERY VERY DIFFICULT! I love my wife and daughter terribly, and I want to spend as much time with them as possible. We travel together as a family a lot, and when I do travel away from them, I try to come back sooner than I once would have. I do not want to injure myself to the point where I cannot be there for my family, which has almost happened to me. I think of my wife and daughter constantly, and I know I need to come home, and be there for them. I gauge risk differently to how I once did.
Family first. Daughter Isabella's first ski run
On the subject of injury, things went pretty badly in Russia a few years back, and it was made significantly worse by poor care. How hard was the road back from that injury? Are you 100% recovered?
I won’t go into too much detail, but the road has been long, winding, and bumpy as shit. I was left with a partially paralyzed foot and paralyzed toes, so for sure I will never be 100%, unless science sorts out a way to replace all the nerves, tendons and muscle that were cut out of my leg. I had to create a super tall custom ski boot to give me leverage from my upper leg to be able to control my left ski. I compensate a lot with my knee and hip, and yet still, it will never be the same. I use a brace to walk, or do anything for that matter. That injury was life changing.
When I began the movie project "After The Sky Falls", I gave myself two years to film and “come back” at a slow pace. However, during the the first year of production, I missed out on the majority of the season after I re-broke my leg after only a few weeks filming! That was so difficult, to go straight back to the sidelines, and stay mentally strong as I waited for my body to heal. I had so many medical tests done, so many visits to specialists, it’s been terrible. I don’t wish it on anyone, and yet, it’s a part of skiing. Truly, I don’t know if I can continue to ski, it is just so painful, and because of the paralysis it is incredibly difficult. There were days where I would have to take my boot off 3 times a day just to try to keep going. And putting your foot back into a boot with paralyzed toes is very difficult.
Sometimes I wonder if I am forcing it, but I truly love skiing, and I want to continue.
That’s insane, nobody would guess you’re going through that from watching After The Sky Falls. It’s clear that you put just as much focus on creativity outside your skiing as you do in it. Have you always been into art, or did that come around as a result of designing ski graphics?
I’ve always had an interest in art. I grew up surrounded by it, and my family always exposed me to different kinds. But for me, most everything I have created was out of some kind of necessity. I loved skiing, actually I was totally obsessed with skiing, not art, but skiing. So customizing skis, poles, clothing, movies, etc came as a result of my desire to make skiing better for me. I never considered myself particularly gifted when it came to drawing. I just wanted to make skis look better, so I began doing it myself. When I started doing ski graphics a long time ago, all skis had the same graphic on left and right skis. When I was in high school, I made the first ski graphic that spanned from ski to ski. When the Line team was visiting me, they saw the graphic, and asked me if I wanted to do an actual graphic. I’ve been diving into more and more graphic projects ever since. I love it, it’s super rewarding. So to answer your question, yes I’ve always been into art, and I got really into art when I began to design top sheets.
Since that first airbrush ski that I created in high school I have tried my hand at every medium I could. Watercolor, pen and ink, pencil, photograph collage, oil paint, acrylic paint, mixed medium etc. Then graphic design took my interest, and I began combining typography into pieces, and then film took my interest and I have been working in motion for a decade. I love trying different mediums. I recently finished creating an entire 200 page book for our movie, After The Sky Falls. I plan to work with ceramics next.
How much time do you spend in the studio painting?
Not a lot. I’ve just never had much time to dedicate to painting, and painting really requires time. Film-making is incredibly time consuming, and it has been my focus, but I try to carve out as much time as I can to dedicate to painting. I think I average 2 to 3 weeks a year to put together a series.
Eric Pollard creating the 15-16 Line Sir Francis Bacon Graphic
On a similar subject, you’ve designed upwards of 10 ski models released to the public, along with countless other prototypes. How did you get into that and what do you think is next?
I wanted skis that did not exist, and I so I approached Line Skis to build them for me, and they did. Jason Levinthal is a visionary, he’s absolutely incredible. I was building skis that never made it to market on the regular, but he was down to innovate. I was too young to understand how radical he was to give me so much freedom, but in retrospect I can see how incredible he truly was and is. When I was riding park BACK IN THE DAY, park skis were narrow and stiff, with terrible flex patterns. I wanted my skis to be different, so I asked Line to make changes to the waist width, flex pattern, tip shape, etc. I worked closely with the engineer so that I could make sure that I would be able to butter, nose press, carve into spins, etc. Those kinds of moves just were not possible once upon a time. The skis were very limiting. That was my jump off into ski design. The very next year, I took the park ski that I had designed, and asked the engineer to make it 130mm wide. It was very different, and took a lot of convincing, but it worked. He glued two park cores together and pressed the very first 130 waist. It was like night and day. Skiing powder on a ski wider than your boot changed what was possible. I got a lot of shit from other skiers like Seth Morrison and other established skiers of the day. They thought it was ridiculous, and talked a lot of shit. I knew it worked, and I was inspired to explore more, I have been into designing skis ever since.
What is next depends on who you ask, and who it is for. Personally I want to continue to create skis that allow skiers to do whatever they dream up. At one point it was easy to have a goal to achieve, like; “I want to create skis that allow people to ski and land backwards in powder”. But today, that is possible, so I suppose I’m more interested in exploring different aspects of powder skiing.
Clearly you are constantly prototyping. How often do you actually get to ride the stock models of your skis?
A lot actually. Stock Magnum Opus, Mordecai and Sir Francis Bacons all year this year. For some time, I was doing so many prototypes that I was rarely skiing stock skis because the stock skis were skis I had designed 4 years ago. Today, it’s different.
https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/794846/-COORDINATES-II--by-Nimbus-IndependentCOORDINATES II, the accompanying short to After The Sky Falls
You mentioned earlier that filmmaking takes up so much of the time you could use for artwork. Nimbus has always been known for making visually beautiful films, and After The Sky Falls may be the most stunning to date. How long does a feature-length piece like that take to put together?
Quite a long time. I haven’t kept track of the hours or days or weeks or even months. It was something in the ballpark of 10 months post production for me. Crazy I know, but with the movie, book, and all the commercials and other edits we created during the 2 year project, it all added up to a LOT of time at a desk.
Wow, ok, let’s rewind a bit and talk about Idea, because I’m certain if it wasn’t for that film, I wouldn’t be the Editor of Newschoolers today. What made you, Pep and Andy make the leap from filming with the big companies to doing your own thing with Iberg?
That’s incredible to hear you say. Thank you.
Before Idea, I filmed for movies that I didn’t identify with, movies that showcased skiing in a way that didn’t feel right to me. I wanted to create something focused on a different “brand” of skiing, with individuals that had a similar concept of what they wanted to create. I had worked with Iberg before, and he approached Andy Mahre about making a film. Somehow, Andy got Pep and I involved, and as the plan unfolded, I worked with Iberg to direct and edit the film. Iberg was the best person I could have worked with at that time. We opened up the creative process to everyone involved, and Iberg and I took the lead in terms of directing the vision, shooting styles, etc. It was also incredible because Iberg not only co-directed the project, but also produced the film, and allowed me to focus on the creative side of things, while he handled everything else. The creative side of films is super fun, but the business side is a huge amount of work, Iberg was crucial. I like to think of Idea as Pep, Andy, Chris and my first “album”. I had put so many years of notes and concepts into that film. While I was editing Idea that summer, I approached Pep, Chris and Andy about doing more, and starting Nimbus Independent.
You're going to want to follow this instagram if you don't already...
I’d say the skiing in that film was probably the single biggest leap in terms of opening new doors since the very beginning of freeskiing. What happened to allow you to explore almost an entirely new perspective?
Each of us had just grown up as different skiers. We had a very contrasting style of skiing. Our influences were different from most skiers of the time, and as a result, we skied in a unique way. It was just a matter of working together to create an entire direction that showcased our approach to skiing.
Was the success of Idea the catalyst for your own film making, and the growth of Nimbus Independent?
Absolutely. I had purchased a 16mm when I was about 17, and had worked with my friend and cinematographer Justin Wiegand to capture skiing for the likes of MSP and PBP up until Idea. We had a super good thing going, just doing our own thing, contributing to other ski films. But we wanted more creative freedom. Idea was the first time I had the license to do anything I wanted with the footage, and I liked it a lot. I knew that I couldn’t go back to shooting for a different company, so I kept the momentum and started Nimbus.
Any ideas on what comes next for Nimbus? Will you be shooting a new feature length over the coming season/seasons?
I don’t know. I want to continue to make some films, but I’m not sure what will happen to "the band”. Like music, It’s difficult to keep a band together, people evolve and want to make different music.
Projects as large as After The Sky Falls are also super taxing, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t totally exhausted from all the editing, book designing, commercials and promotions, etc. I would like to take a step back from film making, and focus a bit more on just skiing and making smaller edits. For the last decade, if I were to quantify the amount of time I have dedicated to different aspects of my life, I would say the majority was spent editing, next skiing, then designing, then painting. It’s been a labor of love. I have not made a dime off Nimbus, in fact, I have poured much of the money that I have made skiing into Nimbus because it’s an art form that I enjoy.
Doing work. Eric talking about his skis
You’ve been with Line pretty much your whole career, what is it that makes the brand special to you?
They have given me the creative license to create skis that have allowed me to ski the way I want to. Line is family. True to the kind of skiing we do. They don’t make race skis, they are more authentic and genuine than any other brand in the sport. After something like 17 years skiing for them, I can honestly say I would not want to ski for any other company.
How, in general, do you approach the industry/sponsorship side of things?
I approach it as myself, I don’t have an agent, I’m not a big deal, and I know that. I just ask companies to support my vision, and I have great relationships with a few sponsors. It’s delicate, the kind of skiing I want to do is not for the masses, so I don’t ask for a massive salary. If I wanted to endorse Coca Cola and compete and whatever, I think they would love the motivation and passion I have to ski.
I’ve got to ask purely because I loved it. Your park laps clip from a couple of years back (above) was a massive hit. How often do you still take a few laps through the park? Will we ever see park shots of you again?
I haven’t skied park very often the last decade. I have devoted so much time to skiing snow as it falls from the sky, and designing skis that allow a skier to do it better. I became pretty much obsessed with natural terrain. Park skiing was so much fun when I was younger, I truly loved it, but I don’t get as excited to FILM park as I once did. I feel kind of like I’m turning around gates in some ways when I ride park. There is just a restricted feeling about a man-made take off that leads to a man-made landing, just A to B. All one can do to define their creativity is based on style and spins. I guess I just feel a little restricted in the park.
However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love SKIING park. It’s too much fun, and I encourage everyone to get in the park a bit. The last healthy park skiing I did was actually probably the laps you watched. The very next year I broke my leg the first day of the first trip of the year, and since then, skiing on hard snow really hurts my leg. My nerves just go crazy, and it doesn’t feel right. But because I love park skiing, I will do my best to find a work around, and do it again. Transitions are incredible, and the entire process of creating man made terrain in and of itself is a very creative thing. I loved that aspect of building features and hitting them. I get so stoked on creative skiers who are pulling from their influences and pouring it into their park skiing. There are a few individuals who are very unique, but there are a lot of very generic park skiers as well that I don’t get that stoked on too.
To answer your question, yes, I imagine you will see some clips of me lapping the park again. It’s too much fun to rally with your friends, I love it. I have spent great deal of my life doing exactly that, and I want to continue to do it to some degree.
In more general terms, what’s next for Eric Pollard?
I don’t know yet.