Total Rippie

The Right Way Forward with Mark Abma

Mark Abma is in his happy place. Retro skis and ski photos adorn the walls, alongside a 24-person shot-ski. Near the bar is the cab of a real snow cat, complete with controls, that doubles as a DJ booth. The TVs alternate between hockey and golf, and outside one of the chairlift engines burps a black cloud of diesel smoke as mechanics struggle to get it running before the hill closes.

They won’t, but Abma doesn’t mind. We’re at Hemlock Valley Resort, the small ski hill just north of Chilliwack, BC where he grew up and where his parents bought a cabin in 1994. Abma tells me, in his distinct Canadian accent, that it’s been quite a while since he’s been to Hemlock—his parents’ cabin burned down a few years ago—and he’s content to enjoy the memories. Plus we’ve already filled up on pow, as it’s been snowing nonstop for the previous three days.

Hemlock may seem like an odd place of origin for someone of such superstardom. The fun-but-modest chutes and pillows we skied yesterday are a far cry from the Alaskan spines or monster jumps for which Abma is famous. But the quirky, blue-collar hill makes perfect sense for someone who is as comfortable at a week-long yoga retreat as he is covered in grease under his truck. As photographer Blake Jorgenson explained to me later, “Mark’s definitely part redneck and part hippie. A ‘rippie,’ I guess.”…

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