When Greg Hill showed up to his first randonnée rally at Whistler Blackcomb in January 2003, he had one question: Where are the big dogs? Someone pointed out Exum guide Brendan O'Neill, who would go on to win the five-race Life-Link series, and Andrew McLean, one of the foremost ski mountaineers on the continent. Hill sized up his competition and snickered. No problem, he figured, stroking his secret weapon.
Nobody else had a mullet.
"I thought it would be funny to startle them, says Hill, 28, who lives in Revelstoke, British Columbia. "So I cut the mullet right before the race: short bangs and a long, long back. It was really gross.
Hill won the race by 10 seconds over American Jeff Banks (O'Neill took third, McLean fourth), all but straight-lining down a steep, icy, tree-lined run to the finish. Then he puked.
This year, Hill is on the Canadian national team and plans to do a few Life-Link races, Alta's Wasatch PowderKeg, and the World Championships in Val d'Aran, Spain. His training is impressive, though not scientific: He logs 130 to 150 days a year, and he won't let anyone else break trail. "There's no question who's going to make it up first, says his stepbrother and ski partner, Ian Bissonnette. "Or down. One day last February, the six-foot-tall, 170-pound Hill cranked out 30,000 feet of vertical by doing laps up and down Little Sifton Peak at Rogers Pass.
But Hill has some wrinkles to iron out if he hopes to challenge the dominant Europeans. At Whistler he lost a skin and had to backtrack to get around the last gate. And, in a sport where an ounce shaved is time gained, Hill showed up on a pair of beefy Völkls. "I think I'll go for a lighter ski this year, he says. But evidently his get-up is just as important. Last year, it was a Camaro cut. This year, "I want to talk to Arc'Teryx and go Canadian Mounty style. Anything to frighten the competition.
Born: December 19, 1975; Cowansville, Quebec, Canada
Ups and Downs: Hill averages 6,000 vert a day in winter.
Work Horse: In the summer, he works as a tree-planting foreman to finance his skiing. Last year he and his 14-person crew planted over a million saplings in B.C.
Hare Apparent: One of Hill's skiing partners, Scott Newsome, ran into him during his 30,000-foot day. "We're about halfway up Little Sifton when Greg pops out of the blue. He's like, 'Hey, man, I've already skied 15,000 vert.' He caught up with us again right when we got to the summit. He lapped us, eh.