Lessons From an Elite Skier
Reflections on my interview with endurance coach Eric Carter
My guest this week is Eric Carter. He is an elite ski mountaineering racer, endurance coach, and trail runner. I originally discovered Eric on Instagram, posting incredible images of his adventures. Images of mountains, snow, and the incredible trees always pull me in. After following his Instagram page for a bit, I knew I had to reach out.
I love skiing. Growing up, my mother and I didn’t have a lot of money. My first experience skiing was on a school trip, and I had no idea what to expect. Fun fact, you are supposed to bring your own winter gear. I didn’t know this and spent the day skiing in jeans and a hoodie. That unique experience aside, I find the ski hill to be a pretty miraculous place. For me, it was an amazing escape and a glimpse into the quality of life people have when money is less of an issue.
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When you grow up with very little, your goal is to never experience those financial tribulations again. I know past guests like Jacob, Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun, and others understand where I’m coming from. When you start at the bottom, you want to climb to the top. That is a huge reason why skiing is a big passion of mine. When I’m at the top of mountains in Sun Peaks, Whistler, or Big White - stress is the last thing on my mind. For that day, I get to fly down a mountain, see incredible views, and feel warm in a very cold place.
I was excited to sit down with Eric because skiing is one of his major passions, and of course he is much more skilled than I am. But more than that, he takes his passion seriously. He received a PhD for his research on high altitude and exercise physiology from the University of British Columbia. He was interested in understanding how altitude impacts athletes, and what parts of the body are at play. Eric is also a member of the U.S. National Ski Mountaineering Team and competed on the '14/'15 and '15/'16 World Cup Circuits as well as the 2015 World Championships. Often we think of athletes as only fine tuning their body but great athletes work to bring the science and athleticism together. At least, that was my perspective on Mr. Carter.
Eric is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is currently living in Squamish, BC. We were able to find a time to sit down to discuss how he became passionate about skiing, how he intertwined the science into his ski career, the role of sponsors, the places he has travelled, and what others can learn from his journey.
Eric has accomplished some incredible feats in his career. He has done things that many would never dream of doing, let alone attempt. I think it is really important we hear from individuals like that. I believe they humble us, but also remind us that we, as human beings, are capable of a lot - often more than we realize. We often get stuck in routines. Same 9-5 schedule every day, every week, every year and then we wake up and realize we didn’t do the things we dreamed of doing.
I believe individuals like Eric Carter are to be admired, to help us recommit ourselves to our goals. You don’t have to hike mountain in skis then ski down in order to see the insights that Eric has. You need to figure out what your mountain is, whether it is in your career, personal life or a hobby and start climbing. We often tell children that they have “potential”, but that doesn’t just disappear when you turn 20. You need to figure out what that potential is, and chase after it. Why? Because our world is a richer, more vibrant place when you do.
I know people who are great public speakers, who can’t be bothered to speak up. I know brilliant artists, who won’t commit the time to develop their craft. I know too many people who have not reached their full potential, and are letting life pass them by and it is rather tragic. The common complaints are that people just don’t have the time, the money, or the mental space to follow these ambitions.
This is where faith becomes important. If you start, if you commit, many of problems you face will begin to solve themselves. What do I mean by this? Well, I have a close friend Tim, who started a YouTube channel on leatherwork. Who cares about leatherwork? Turns out a lot of people do, and he has a thriving community of likeminded individuals. But beyond that, because he committed himself he has sponsors reaching out because they see his reach.
For Eric Carter, he too has a passion and sponsors willing to support his endeavours. Arc'teryx, SkiUphill and FATMAP all support his passion and we as viewers, or followers of Eric are lucky they do. Sponsors help make what Eric does possible. A pessimistic way to look at it is, they just pay money to have him wear their brand. But according to Eric, his work with some of his sponsors goes way beyond that. He tells them what innovations he think would help him on the mountain, and then they try to put something together to that effect and see if the idea can scale out to the general public. Not only does the sponsor help Eric pursue his passion, but Eric helps improve the quality of products we as consumers enjoy.
To me, Eric acts as a great reminder to us to chase our passion and share that passion with others! Make sure you follow Eric on Instagram to keep up with fantastic adventures. The full interview with Eric Carter is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and YouTube.