The consolation for being really, really skilled at hockey and skiing, instead of being a pro at either, is that you never have to choose between the two. You can, like Kevin Quinn, 33, simply keep on enjoying both. A born badass, Quinn was traipsing through the Alaskan wilderness working as a packer for Big Game Guides even before he hit age 10. In his teens, he used to click in at 8 a.m. to train with his local Anchorage ski team-after a full two-hour hockey practice. By his mid 20s, he was pulling double duty as a pro skater and a freeskier with Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions. "I didn't tell my hockey coaches that I was sneaking down to South America for photo shoots," he says. "They would have killed me."
During Quinn's decade-long career in the International Hockey League and American Hockey League (both equivalents of triple-A baseball in the U.S.), he played the fan favorite-a nicer word for "bully"-and racked up a dozen NHL appearances. "I was the tough guy who provided the spark, who started fights," he says. "But it got old. Sure, I've always been an adrenaline junkie, but I was a hockey player, not a boxer." After riding a team bus through pretty much every city in the country and making countless 3 a.m. 7-Eleven soda runs, Quinn left the ice-and headed back to the snow.
"I'd been skiing in Alaska for 10 years, and I'd guided fishing and hunting trips, and I knew there was more to the Chugach mountains than just Valdez," says Quinn. In 1998, he stumbled upon Orca Cannery in Cordova-a town surrounded by Prince William Sound that sits at the mouth of the Rude River-and decided to start Points North Heli Adventures. "That first season, I cried the first day the heli landed," Quinn says, "and the last day, when it left." At age 28, he was the king of a 1,500-square-mile Chugach spread.
"Hockey taught me the mental discipline of life. It gave me focus," he says. "And skiing is all about the freedom of the hills. They're both my true loves." These days, he gets to do both: As owner and lead guide of Points North, he takes clients on first descents and classic lines like the Sphinx and Pontoon Peak; as a former pro puck shuffler, he heads up whatever rec team he joins. "Hockey is the greatest team sport on the planet," he says. "But skiing is a way of life."
Annals of Quinn
Born: October 18, 1969; Newport Beach, CA ("But I moved to Anchorage when I was two months old. I just tell people I was born in Alaska.")
15 Seconds of Fame: "My greatest moment ever on ice was when I was playing for the Squirt A team in Anchorage. I was 10 years old. It was the state championships, and with 30 seconds left, I scored the winning goal."
Give Him a Hand: "The two biggest highlights of my life were shaking Wayne Gretzky's hand and shaking Mike Wiegele's hand. They are the epitome of what I'm about."
Dedication: "I have Points North tattooed on my back."
Up Next: "I'm launching another business in South America called Points South, for sailing, scuba, and surfing."