Weekend Warm-Up: Downhill on Dirt

James Pavelick, creator of the popular Rise & Alpine YouTube channel, is on a mission. Lately, the British Columbia-based athlete has been obsessed with skiing everything except snow. Grass, dirt, rocks — you name it. If you’re not supposed to touch it with skis, Pavelick probably wants to.

“It feels foreign, it feels strange, it feels good!” Pavelick exclaims in his latest video, an 18-minute roller coaster ride in which he attempts to ski the slopes at Whistler from top to bottom on as much non-snow as possible.

a man looks at skis

James Pavelick inspects his skis pre-run. Photo: Screenshot


While Pavelick titles his video, Skier Attempts A Whistler Top to Bottom with Zero Snow, that isn’t precisely accurate. The dirt fiend encounters plenty of early summer ice near the top of the mountain and makes liberal use of it.

But those scanty patches run out pretty quickly, and before long, Pavelick’s POV camera has nothing but good old terra firma in the frame.

a POV of skiing dirt

Here we go. Photo: Screenshot


Turning isn’t on the agenda

At times, the run is high-octane and almost unbelievable. As Pavelick noted at the start of the video, “turning isn’t on the agenda,” which proves accurate on more than one occasion.

“I’m out of control, I’m fully out of control. Oh my god,” he nearly whimpers as he barrels toward the base on brown, dry grass.

At other times, Pavelick stops to scope his lines and keep up his signature running commentary. Sometimes, the sheer friction grinds him to a halt, and he has to shuffle forward to get going again.

“You almost have to go into tour mode, but on a downhill,” he notes.

And then, as you might expect, there’s the bushwhacking — the result of Pavelick’s stubborn but admirable dedication to not clipping out of his skis.

a POV of navigating a dense underbrush

Bushwhacking on skis. Photo: Screenshot


And it isn’t just gravity, friction, and trees causing issues. Pavelick cracks a GoPro lens and dodges plenty of bear poop, rightly observing that running into a bear while skiing grass might be the silliest bear encounter on record.

It’s no spoiler to tell you that Pavelick makes it, then rides the lift back up to the top to do it all over again. It’s the journey, not the destination, that counts with this one!

dirt skiers

Early footage of dirt skiing. Photo: Screenshot


As Pavelick points out, dirt skiing isn’t new. Ski film legend Warren Miller was chronicling the nutty pastime way back in the day, and in certain circles, it’s never gone away.

Pavelick is one of the madmen keeping it alive. Don’t miss it!

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).