Rob Heule is one of the nicest guys in skiing. It's incredibly rare to find anyone with a bad word to say about him. I met him for the first time in Zermatt, where it was clear he'd been adopted as a local, I imagine that's the case everywhere he goes. He sometimes flies under the radar, perhaps because despite being one of the more interesting guys to follow on social media, he doesn't strike me as a natural self promoter. It's easy to forget that he's competed at a high level in halfpipe, released numerous street mini-movies, starred in Traveling Circus and is now filming backcountry with Level 1. Perhaps he's just too busy to shout about things he does. He certainly lives his life to the fullest. This summer alone he's filmed for the Zermatt Glacier Days series, coached at Camp Of Champions, designed and produced a new line of RadPacks and slotted in numerous surf and climbing tricks. And, after a little nagging, he also answered some awesome interview questions. Rob Heule, ladies and gentlemen!
Questions by Sam Turner
Last time I saw you, you were getting some climbs in while coaching at COC. You’ve been getting after it since then hey?
Yes indeed. Whistler and Squamish have some top notch climbs, it’s endless. Skiing in the Summer is pretty all-time, but it’s been great to find a fun summer sport as well. I’m still relatively new to climbing, so I’m learning lots, and trying to push it a little harder every time I go out. It’s fun for me to get just as excited about another sport as much as skiing.
It’s hard to ignore the Donald Trump foghorn from our neighbours to the south, and the whole election cycle they’re going through. Did you pay attention much to the Canadian election much last October?
Yeah, what a crazy situation. I don’t stay super in the loop with the American political system in general, but from what I gather America would turn into a pretty big joke if Trump somehow pulls off his campaign and wins. One more reason to be a grateful Canadian…
I paid attention, and cast my vote. People say the Green party is a throw away vote, but their platform seems to align most with my values. I’m not a total hippy, I swear.
You played in one of the best Slvsh games on record, with Max Hill, two summers ago. How was that? Any plans for future games?
Glad yah enjoyed. Yeah I’d love to play another! Walker and Joss and I were trying to line one up last Summer, but it didn’t work out. Sami (Ortlieb) and I need to play a game though.
Slvsh has been able to carve out a niche that I think a lot of skiers really enjoy; they mix a competitive aspect with the fun of skiing with your friends. Tall T Dan said they were “being the change,” to use that popular phrase. You are not a competition skier, but I guess it’s kind of hard to avoid the subject one way or the other. Do the more “alternative” comps interest you much, like the B&E Invitational, or the Bunch’s Creation Nation?
Totally. It’s a great concept, and they’ve been super persistent with the videos, always putting out a lot of quality, entertaining content (minus the shitty trap beat). Respect to Walker and Joss.
It’s awesome to see people’s spin offs of traditional competition. It’s a huge part of the sport, that deserves to be paid tribute. The traditional contest scene is pretty stale. It’s super impressive, don’t get me wrong, but getting boring and too serious none the less. If you can take that basic contest format, add a twist, an element of fun, and the right group of people, that’s what I like to see. My favourite anti-contest, contest always will be the Orage Masters.
You’ve also been getting out in the back country a fair bit. How’s that going for you?
#BackcountryBert was out in full force last winter! It’s been a nice change of pace coming from a few years of only handrails, and street skiing. Again, like climbing, it’s a total learning experience. Every day you go out, you learn something new, which keeps things fun, and not too repetitive. I don’t think I’m done skiing rails forever, but just needed a little change from the regular routine.
There’s a pretty classic group of Whistler skiers in the background of that Slvsh game. Carlo, Seanny Mac, Dom, Jarred. What do you think of Whistler as its own little universe?
I really enjoy the time I spend in Whistler. It’s a great place to visit, and vacation, but I’m not sure I’d be able to live there full time. I like to take advantage of all the outdoor activities I can in the Sea to Sky corridor when I’m visiting, and catch up with all my friends that live on the coast.
Sort of building off that question, looking at your edits from over the years, there is a strong connection to Calgary. Does that city still feel like home?
Gary Berta. Oh yah, I’m a proud Albertan, and Calgarian. I’ve got C.O.P. fifteen minutes from my house, which is my favourite place to ski in the world. There’s a couple river waves to surf. Tons of routes to climb in the Rockies. Some great roads and trails to motorcycle on. A sweet music scene and arts community, and my backpack workshop. I’m down with this place.
You shoot a lot of 35mm film and I find your photos evoke transience. Bikes, cars, landscapes, new locations etc. Is that just my perception; do you feel rooted to any one place? What’re you hoping to capture with your photography?
I do like shooting film a lot. I’d never owned a digital camera until last year, and now I find myself using it more than my collection of film cameras. But I’ve made a resolution to be selective and shoot more film again. It’s tricky when you start traveling with two cameras though. You get caught up with the immediacy of seeing the digital photo right away, editing it, and throwing it up online, versus the patience you need to shoot film, and wait for your roll to come back. But that’s the beauty of it. You never know exactly what you’re going to get. I mostly just take pictures of things or places that catch my eye. They’re more of a memory of what I was doing, where I was, and who I was doing it with more than anything else. So I guess i’m trying to capture past memories. I also have a thing for vans. I’m working on a 4 year project right now. It’s a collage of all the awesome vans I’ve seen around the world. It’s going to be titled “Free Candy”. Stay tuned for that.
I watched Meanwhile in Canada and Ski the North again. You and Mack are objectively different. What makes you guys such tight pals?
Mack is one of the best dudes I know. I don’t get to see him as much anymore, because we’re both busy doing our own things, and live in different cities. But his place is my first stop when I go to Vancouver. I think we’re both just good ol’ canadian boys, who like to hang out, and do fun activities together.
You do the animation, right? Where’d you pick that up?
I dabble a little. I’d like to do more in the future, but haven’t had much time for it lately. I just sorta taught myself by drawing frames, scanning them, and putting them together in photoshop. Sami is super into animation, and has taught me a lot as well.
Are you still making RAD Packs?
100%. I’m changing gears a little bit with RAD. Instead of making my packs from recycled denim, I’m starting to work more with new materials, specifically waxed canvas. I’m growing away from the initial idea of the project, which was re-using material that was otherwise not getting used. Using more durable new material increases quality, giving the packs a longer life span, so I feel pretty good about this. I just want to create things that are functional, and stand the test of time.
I heard you’re selling your motorbike. What gives?
Don’t worry, just upgrading! Definitely sad to see her go, but I’ll have some good times on the new cycle.
Where did you find yourself last winter? Where can we expect to see the results?
I wasn’t too sure what my plan was when it started to snow last Fall. I was trying to come up with an idea for another road trip movie project, but to be honest, after 2 Winters in a row of that, it becomes a little more daunting, and starts to loose it’s appeal. I knew I wanted to ski with friends and have some fun, so when Sami told me he was coming to Canada to do some skiing around B.C. I offered to drive him to where he needed to go. I wasn’t anticipating spending a month in the Kootenays when we left Calgary, but that’s what it turned into. We had such a hilarious time filming with Freedle, and all the footage will be in the Level 1 movie this Fall. The Spring was a riot too, it involved a trip to Japan to ski in the woods, a Travelling Circus trip around Washington, and some late season turns around Alberta.
Wildest moment of the year?
I went on a really awesome trip out to Vancouver Island to ski with some friends. I’ve skied out there at Mount Washington when I was a little kid, but never further North. We skied at a tiny hill called Mount Cain. They have have two T-bars and no cell service. The upstairs of the daylodge doubles as a hostel, and you sleep in these little closets. Before we went out snow-forecast was calling for over a meter of snow that week, so our hopes were pretty high. It didn’t end up snowing quite that much, but we skied some really fun fresh snow, and the sun even came out. To cap it all off, it would’ve been rude not to go surfing in Tofino to finish the trip up.
Can you sum up your plans for the year ahead in one sentence?
Create new things and experiences, while learning more, and having fun.
What was it like seeing a hate thread pop up on Newschoolers about you?
I’m still not sure if that was a joke or not? I don’t frequent newschoolers that often, so I didn’t really hear about it until it was a full-on argument. It was pretty hilarious to read it and see all the people having my back, even if it was a joke. Thanks NS!
Any advice for the kids out there who are setting out on their own personal journeys in skiing?
Don’t take skiing or yourself too seriously. Create your own style and way of doing things. There is no right way. We’re all just sliding down some frozen precipitation with pieces of wood strapped to our feet. It’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it... stay fit, and have fun!