Words :: Todd Lawson.
Spin a globe and stop it with your finger… chances are that Whistler skier Chad Sayers has been there. Possessing a sense of wanderlust born from a desire to immerse himself in the world’s cultural blender, Sayers packed his bags for his first overseas adventure—a four-month trekking jaunt to Nepal and Southeast Asia—in October 1998. That trip became the catalyst for a lifelong journey of creativity.
Armed with an SLR camera and a brick of Velvia slide film, Sayers adjusted to the ripples of culture shock by shooting images of the near-endless beauty spread in front of his lens. Everywhere he looked, there was something to photograph—the weathered, expressive faces of locals, the tiny villages and tea houses, and porters carrying huge loads up steep mountain passes. Sayers was hooked.
“It was a huge eye-opener for me,” says the 42-year-old ski icon. “The culture, the people, just travelling itself. I remember trekking into the Gokyo Valley, and sitting on a rock above our little hut. The sky suddenly cleared, and I could see Makalu, Lhotse, Everest—huge mountains all around me blanketed in white from the first storm of the Himalayan winter. It was a powerful moment, and it opened up my soul. From then on, I knew I wanted to be in the mountains, to travel, and to shoot photos.”
To help dive deeper into his new passion, Sayers sought out Vernon, B.C., photographer Don Weixl to mentor him on technical aspects of photography. He then taught himself by simply doing: tinkering with creative nuances that would lend soul and spirit to his images. At the same time, Sayers grew more comfortable in front of the camera, skiing big mountain terrain with an aggressive style that helped him nab the covers of hundreds of ski magazines.
But turning passion into profession can bring unintended consequences. As injuries and emotional traumas piled up, Sayers began to feel adrift. Juggling the roles of athlete, artist, traveller, seeker, son, brother, and lover left his identity fractured. As he dove deeper into the dangers of big mountain skiing, Sayers found himself hanging riskily from the side of a steep face in France, and realized his avoidance had turned into apathy.
“It was a moment of surrender,” he recalls. “I was mentally, physically, and emotionally out of gas—and I was also heartbroken at the time. I stopped skiing halfway through a season to disappear into travel, the waves, and the water. I needed to re-learn how to care about my life.”
The search for a reconnection to reality (and his battered body) fueled a change in lifestyle and consciousness, and led Sayers into a new challenge: writing and publishing. His first book, Overexposure: A Story About a Skier is released this winter and we’ve collected some of his favourite images and thoughts to help build the stoke for the upcoming winter storms.