Mike Hopkins grew up in Rossland, BC, where he learned to ride bikes and ski like we all wish we could. He started his career as a professional skier, then moved over to pro mountain biking. Working on the influential film Lifecycles was all the inspiration he needed to morph his career slowly but surely to a behind-the-lens kind of guy.
Now he can do it all: film, ride bikes, ski, scout locations, source props—the list goes on. He’s a filmmaker and creative concept creator who continues to make rad films, whether they’re straight-up commercials or inspiring insights into why people do what they do.
Podcast Highlights: Mike’s dreamy start as a pro skier
“I kind of made a deal with my mom where I was like, ‘Hey, I know you really want me to get a degree, but why don’t I have a go at pursuing my passion and give skiing a go? Gimme a year to try to make something of it. And if I’m not sponsored, if I’ve got zero momentum after the first year, then I’ll go back to school and finish up.’
And she gave me one piece of advice as we went into it and it’s the best piece of advice I think anyone can ever give anybody, which was, If you’re gonna do this, don’t half-ass it.
So I didn’t. I was super focused. Any chance I got I would try to get people to film me. I was like, ‘Hey, I got this move I wanna do. Can you come film?’ Or, ‘Hey, I got this I wanna ski. Can you come film?’ And my friends would help me out.
So I built this DVD promo. And then as the winter progressed, my plan was—super foolproof of course—anytime I was skiing, I skied under the chair. And Red Mountain has this pretty sweet pitch called Link’s Line, right underneath the chair.
And I was like, ‘I’m gonna ski under the chair every day and just lay it down. Just be shredding.’ And see if I can get the attention in hopes that someone’s going to be riding a chair who has some sort of influence—a rep or some marketing manager, someone who will see me skiing and say, We gotta have that kid!
And then sure enough, my brother and I were sitting there waiting for my mom to come pick us up. And this guy comes up and taps me on his shoulder and says, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ And he hands me this card with ROSSIGNOL across the top… “
The crazy years
“After that, things happened pretty fast. I signed with Rossignol, getting free skis and getting paid, then I was on the pro team the next year and got flown around Europe. I was like, Holy smokes…
So I did a bunch of competitions for a handful of years and did some film stuff. [In the ski industry] there were a lot of egos and larger-than-life characters. Being a small-town kid thrown into that environment, I don’t think I had the confidence or the tools to navigate it. So I kind of retreated into myself. It was a strange time for me. It just wasn’t really working.
“Being a small-town kid thrown into that environment, I don’t think I had the confidence or the tools to navigate it.“
The fun of skiing kind of evaporated and I got caught up trying to figure out, Who am I supposed to be? I started to feel like a lot of weight from skiing. And then I got burnt out pretty quickly on it. It was just no longer this beautiful thing that I loved to do. It was riddled with like obligation and anxiety…”
The transition to MTB
“Biking was always this thing I did in the summertime. And it became my outlet. It was this amazing escape from everything. I had this incredible community of friends and that’s something I didn’t have in skiing, where it seemed like everyone was in this really weird business environment all the time. But biking felt so community-driven. And I had this crew I always rode with and we were super tight. We were always pushing each other. And it just felt so fun and organic and beautiful.
And I was like, ‘OK, maybe I’m just gonna start transitioning out of skiing and try to put more time and effort into biking.’ Especially after I picked up a few sponsors in the bike scene. It felt like the right thing to do. My ski experience was a little bit tainted and I couldn’t quite break out of that—it all happened pretty fast and I didn’t have much of a plan or the people around me to help me navigate. But I used that as a learning experience for what not to do in the bike industry…”
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