If you pick apart the skiing of the top dogs these days, especially the ones who hail from Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, you can see traces of Andrew Sheppard’s style in every turn, air and stomp. Throughout the 90's, he was the man: a hard-charging, multilingual freerider twenty steps ahead of the guy skiing next to him. Of course he’s still all of those things. He just grew up a little. He’s a dad now, living his wife Helen and two little boys in Revelstoke, BC.
We had a chance to catch up with Andrew a little while ago and hassle him with some annoying questions.
Do you still have your golden locks of yesteryear stored away in a bag somewhere?
I don't, but I think my mom might, which is funny cause she always hated my long hair.
Are you still able to balance, in the gnar, without your ponytail swinging around?
No, not the same as I used to. It was kind of like the Samson thing, once they cut my hair, my strength was gone.
Would you say that two questions about your former hairdo are too many? Or not enough?
I could go on about my hair all day. (Sigh) I miss hair...
Revelstoke’s home for you now, no? What made you settle there in the end?
The fact it's one of the greatest places on the planet had a little to do with it. It's actually an unreal community, great for families, unreal access to the outdoors, very well located, and it was quite affordable when we bought.
And tell us a bit about your roots in the Stoke….when was the first time you got amongst it there?
The first time I actually Alpine skied Revelstoke was the fall of 1992. Lionel Birkenbach brought me out to show me Boulder Mountain. Lionel, Bobo and a few others had started exploring it for the easy access of awesome skiing.
Okay, so obviously the town’s a lot different from when you first went to Revelstoke…but give us a quick breakdown of the main changes you’ve noticed.
Back in the day when I first started coming to Revy, I knew it would change, and I used to say "the day you can get a good coffee on a Sunday morning in Revelstoke will be a sign things are coming around".
Better food/cafe selection, all around busier in the winter, you see more Arc Teryx than Ski Doo clothing, you hear lots more accents and foreign languages in town.
Tell me about your guest house.
The guest house is brand new. It has 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, washer/dryer, in floor heat, and sleeps up to 5. It's very "mountain contemporary". So far all the reviews give it five stars.
For those that don’t know, why’d you call it Snowdrifters?
It was the name of a ski movie I was in made by RAP films back in the day, and it seemed to be a good name for a guest house in Revelstoke as well.
Are there enough people coming through town to sustain the business?
This was our first winter, and it was much busier than I expected. It's definitely going to slow down after the ski hill closes, but that's usually when my work picks up anyways, so it should work out well.
You’ve got two little boys…..what do you think it’s gonna be like for them growing up in Revelstoke?
I feel super lucky to live where we do, the boys have a lot of great opportunities living in Revelstoke. I'm going to try to make it so they share the same love and appreciation of the outdoors that I do.
Are they skiing these days?
Yup, both of them are weekend warriors. They are both in the Nancy Greene program. It's great, I don't have visions of them being World Cup racers, or even crazy freeriders, I just want to try to keep it fun for them.
I’m gonna propose a scenario here. One of them wants to take up snowboarding. What do you do?
Buy a snowboard for him, and secretly go cry in the closet. Lol.
Back in the day, you made a name for yourself pioneering new lines in the Rockies. Do you have any objectives there that you’re still waiting to tick off?
I would love to ski a bunch of lines; east face proper of Mt. Victoria is probably on top of the list, but I'd love to hit all the big classics. Unfortunately with my line of work I'm usually working when they're in shape...
What about around Revelstoke?
There are so many lines I'd like to ski, I just need to win the lottery so I don't have to work anymore!
Hmmm. You’ve mentioned work in the last two answers. What is this job you speak of?
My job is pretty specialized, it is a lot like avalanche control, only for rock. I sometimes refer to it as vertical landscaping. Basically, we hang off cliffs and do whatever it takes to mitigate the problem: drop loose rocks, hang mesh, drill and blast, install rock bolts, or apply shot crete. Most of the work I do is for mines, but I used to do it a lot on highways and railways. The last eight years I've done a lot of work at Canada's northern diamond mines, Diavik and Ekati.
How has your skiing changed since you had kids?
I ski less, and as much as I hate to say it, I've been diagnosed with old! But I can still rip the shit out of a nice 35 degree powder field!
Your scariest moment in the mountains. Go.
I guess I have a few to choose from, but I'll keep it to skiing. I was buried to my chest by an early season avalanche at Whitewater. I was just out of school and had moved there for a ski patrol job. I was counting on the fact there wasn't enough snow to avalanche, and I was wrong. The fear was short lived, but really intense. Then once I realized I wasn't dead, the humility sunk in and I felt like crawling under a rock for a while. It's crazy how down you feel after being humbled by the mountains.
You’ve spent a lot of time judging freeski events. What do you say it takes to put together a winning run these days?
A lot of things: great skiing, solid bag of tricks, smart line choice, mental calmness, and a dash of luck!
And what’s the best way to absolutely blow it?
You still get free stuff?
4FRNT gave me a couple pairs of skis last year (thanks Matt Sterbenz!!), but other than that, just hand-me-downs from Hoji and Rubens.
Are you gonna vote for Harper again?
Of course!!! I've already volunteered to do the Robocalling too!
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you're coming to Revy, check out Snowdrifters!! If I'm around I might even show you around the hill!