Kyle Smaine may be one of skiing’s most interesting follows on Instagram. The 27-year-old, Tahoe-based pro’s social feeds tell a story that would make The Most Interesting Man in the World blush: surfing in Costa Rica, slaying halfpipes across the globe, ripping the mountain bike trails around Lake Tahoe and gobbling up deep Sierra snow. While it might seem like a dream, Smaine is about to embark on a major change in his career path. We caught up with him to chat about his favorite riding spots in Tahoe, why he apparently doesn’t subscribe to the notion of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” and how he hopes to expand his skiing outside of the competition circuit this year.
So what’re you most looking forward to this season?
So this is kind of major, but I just decided like six weeks ago that I’m done competing [as a skier] professionally.
That’s a pretty huge decision.
It is huge, and it’s both scary and exciting for me. Anytime you’re trying to do something new, I think that fear of the unknown can really play with your mind.
But at the same time, I’m optimistic. Now I can dictate my own schedule, and the trips I want to go on, instead of just trips to a halfpipe somewhere. And right now, that’s allowing me to working on some good collaborative, creative projects with my friends.
There’s so much in skiing–so many great aspects of the sport–that the prospect of not spending 80 percent of my season travelling to icy halfpipes is exciting. And don’t get me wrong, I love skiing halfpipe–I had as much fun as anyone was having anytime I was on the competitive circuit, but it wears on you. There’s so much about the sport that has influenced my life and made me the person I am, that I’m excited just to get back to the discovery part of it.
So what are your big goals for this season then?
I would say there are probably two main goals.
One, for me growing up and still living in Lake Tahoe, there’s so much backcountry access–like, I can walk from my house and ski a handful of peaks. So, finally getting the time to get out with my friends that are way more experienced than I am in the backcountry, and exploring home and the areas around Tahoe and down in the Eastern Sierra by Mammoth [Mountain] is huge.
I’ve done Whitney. I’ve done Shasta. But there are so many classic ski descents and peaks down by Mammoth, and they’re only three hours away.
My other goals? I I’m planning another Japan trip–I feel like it’s the one place you can plan a trip in the middle of summer and be guaranteed to ski pow. And, I love going to Europe, so I have to get back there and ski in the Alps. Just the terrain and the access in Europe is unlike anywhere else. Nobody rides off-piste: You ride 4,000 feet up lifts and have the coolest, most picturesque mountains ever right at your fingertips, and you can just walk to the sickest untouched couloirs in the world–you don’t even need to skin to them. Just the combination of the villages built into the mountains out there and the ski culture–there’s such a long history of skiing and mountaineering in the Alps, that it makes it special.
Over there, everyone is just living the ski lifestyle. It’s not like some destination resort in the U.S. where half the people skiing see it as more of a status thing. People are just skiing because years ago, their great-grandfathers built a hut or something in the mountains and their family has been there ever since. It’s just a different culture.
What gear are you most excited to ride?
I’m most excited for the Ranger Free boot. It skis like an alpine race boot but walks like a serious touring boot, and I spent a ton of time in it this last season. I really think it’s the perfect boot to do anything. That, with the Ranger 102 ski, is my go-to. If you have a set with resort bindings, you can go to the park, crush groomers and ski pow on it. If you throw a touring binding on it, it’s the perfect backcountry ski. You can take it anywhere and not be bummed about weight restrictions and still never feel under-gunned or find yourself wishing you need a burlier ski for when you get into the bigger mountain objectives.