Last season every time the snow got deep in Little Cottonwood Canyon I would inevitably see the Smith Optics team manager, Gabe Schroder, out skiing. After the lenghty storm cycles, I would find Schroder’s web edits, documenting those perfect days via helmet cam, supplemented with his own lyrics. Schroder has found one of the golden nuggets of the ski industry; a job that allows him 100-plus days of skiing and biking each year. I chased Gabe down at S.I.A, X Games, and back at his office in Idaho, before we could talk about the perks of his job, sponsorship emails, and his freestyle rapping career.
How did you become the Smith team manager?
Persistence, hard work, and luck. I kept bugging the guy that had the job before me. Meanwhile, I was doing other jobs in the ski industry relevant for this type of work.
Best part about the job?
The best part is being able to ski/mountain bike everyday in Ketchum. Every work trip I take involves skiing/riding. The athletes and other people at Smith are so talented it is truly a pleasure.
What exciting things are going on with the team right now?
I feel like Smith has always sponsored the best big mountain skiers, but I have to say that watching our team dominate the X Games last week with gold medals in Slopestyle, Pipe, and Big Air, was very exciting.
How many days to you get to ski each year?
I have been lucky to get in at least 100 days every winter since I graduated college in 1996. This year I am on track to keep the streak alive.
You are based out of Sun Valley, but I see you skiing in Little Cottonwood a lot. Where is your favorite place to shred and why?
I really love Utah and Jackson Hole as they are within a 5 hour drive from my house so it is easy to strike when the snow is good. Squaw Valley has so much fun terrain, but I am usually the most stoked when I am skiing in British Columbia because of the snow, the vibe, and the people. Well, then there is AK….
How many “sponsor me” emails do you get each week?
So many; I manage the ski, bike, and the outdoor athletes and promotions, and each program is pretty developed. There are a lot of very talented people in those sports that want to be sponsored by Smith Optics.
What makes particular “sponsor me” emails stand out to you?
It is great to see everyone’s best footage, but I really like to see an interview of the athlete, so you can get a better idea as to what they are like and how they carry themselves. Yeah, you have to be an amazing athlete to get sponsored, but that is only part of it. I want to sponsor stoked, articulate, and approachable rippers that can properly promote the brand.
How long have you been making helmet cam videos?
Ever since “The Blizzard of Aahhh’s” I have been fascinated by the helmet cam. I tried to get sponsored by an early helmet cam company in the mid 90’s (to no avail), but once I met the owner of VIO in 2002, I got hooked up and then started posting clips on the internet that next winter. It’s great to see how many people are posting videos these days, but I think I was one of the first people to post their helmet cam clips online.
You make your own music for the videos, right? How long have you been freestyling?
I have always liked to run my mouth, but during the summer of ’98 I had a job driving a water truck that did not have a radio. I was always driving around thinking about skiing all summer and finally just started putting lyrics to my thoughts and it just kind of took off from there.