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Three Things I’ve Learned, with Eddie Hunter

February 23, 2016

THREE THINGS I’VE LEARNED
WITH EDDIE HUNTER

By Kevin Hjertaas

At 90 years old, Eddie Hunter is still skiing harder than most people half his age. People can’t seem to get enough of this “Wise Man,” so prominently featured in the Sherpas Cinema Sculpted in Time series back in 2015. The spotlight keeps shining and Eddie can’t seem to figure out why. Kevin Hjertaas sat down with Eddie to find out what he thinks of his own ‘celebrity’ status, and what a lifetime in the mountains has taught him. Here’s what he found out. 

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Eddie Hunter. Photo courtesy Malcolm Sangster.

Eddie Hunter. Photo courtesy Malcolm Sangster.

Eddie Hunter has seen his fair share of the media spotlight these days and something about it doesn’t seem to be sitting right with him. The attention isn’t really new. He has skied in big races, made ski movies and even skied in Academy Award nominated films in the past. Heck, he used to host a TV show. So, it isn’t shyness. 

For the past year, Eddie has been giving interviews to newspapers, magazines, television stations and national radio programs. It all started with his starring role in “The Wise Man”, a webisode from the Sculpted in Time series created by Sherpas Cinema (see below). The five-minute edit has hundreds of thousands of views online and has travelled the world with the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

On the screen, Eddie is equal parts sage mountain man and diehard skier. The audience naturally wants more of him. They want to know what makes him tick and how he skis harder than people half his age. They want to know the secret to being a 90-year-old who skis hard, has years of intimate knowledge of the mountains, and is perpetually stoked.

Naturally, that’s who the media wants him to be, too. But the man I sat down to interview over coffee was not exactly that. Or, not only that.

Eddie Hunter understands his duty (his words) as a senior figure in the Banff ski community. He has passed the stage in life where he hunts the spotlight. He dismisses the recent media interest with a sigh and an off-handed, “It won’t last long.” He might be wrong about that, though.

Going into his 90th year, he believes people just “see an old person” when they look at him. “People listen less to older people,” he said. Eddie doesn’t see his age as interesting; it’s nothing to be proud of or worthy of attention. He seems to think it unremarkable that he is still skiing all winter and rollerblading or cycling through summer. With years of accomplishments behind him, perhaps Eddie wonders why the world is so interested in what he is doing now.

Eddie was born in Edmonton in 1926, but was living in Banff by 1934. He raised his family in Banff and has mostly lived there ever since. These days, Eddie is often associated with Mt. Norquay, the mountain and ski hill perched above the townsite. He was born the same year as the resort opened and he literally wrote the book on the mountain, The Spirit of Norquay, in 2000. Norquay has even named a ski run after him (hEaD HUNTER).

His resume goes way beyond that, though. Educated in photography, Eddie worked as a freelance photographer and cinematographer in the Rockies and abroad for years before running a Banff photography company. He has created documentaries and promotional films. He has worked both behind and in front of the television camera, hosting a children’s TV show, a ski show and a late-night TV show. Additionally, Eddie has skied in international races in Europe and on big and small screens.

The good news is that Eddie is all those things. He’s passionate when he talks about skiing. He skis for all the same reasons most of us do. “It’s invigorating,” he said. “And I always look forward to fresh snow and the social side of skiing with friends and family.” He skis more than enough to pay off a regular season’s pass, but at his age, Lake Louise and Norquay give him (and anyone over 80) a pass for $20 per year. Recognizing Eddie’s influence, Sunshine Village has granted him a free pass for this season, as well.

Perhaps it’s this transition – from being recognized for his accomplishments to being recognized as a “Wise Man” in the community – that has him dismissing the recent attention. For many, Eddie represents that person we hope to become, making it all the more admirable that he doesn’t realize it.

There is likely no limit to what we could learn from this man. It certainly won’t happen over one cup of coffee. A few hundred chairlift rides would be a good start, but here are three things he’s learned while living here in the Bow Valley.

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1/ Turn the camera around.

If you put down the selfie stick and shoot the scenery, photography can be a great way to explore the mountains. There’s a bit of a shell to break through, but you have to listen to the mountains. They’re constantly changing: friendly one moment, angry the next. Like a killer tiger or a little puppy.

2/ Get new skis.

With the right equipment, I can do a turn and my skis tell me when it’s ending. Skis never talked to you before. They just argued. I was almost ready to quit before the technology changed. (Watch the Wiseman again and you’ll see a man railing turns on a ski perfectly suited to his technique.)

3/ There’s a duty that comes with living in the national park.

Tourists here have sometimes been misused. They come here for a mountain experience, just like we all once did. Some staff are just here for the partying. They don’t realize the importance of their job here. They don’t know the history or their obligation. I listen to tourists.

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An ex-stone mason turned avalanche technician, Kevin Hjertaas balances his time in the Bow Valley between parenting and squeezing in any ski adventure he can.