For The Love Of Practice

Words by Garry Schlag | Film by Sam Armanino

For telemark skier and Stio ambassador Garry Schlag, pushing limits on the skin track and trails strengthened their friendships and love for the mountains—and also revealed a deeper need.

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What fuels your love of winter? For The Love Of Practice.

I’ve skied my whole life. I grew up in Park City and lived for a while in Leadville. Skiing is up there with breathing, sleeping, and eating as one of my first practices. They say, “Free the heel, free the mind.” I feel like it’s usually alpine skiers saying it jokingly, but I think it’s true. Practicing telemark turns makes me reimagine what a turn is, and that opens up to reimagining what life is and what’s possible. 

My love and practices of skiing and bicycling go hand in hand and serve one another well (other core practices include guitar playing and meditation). Bicycling maintains my fitness during warmer months and is a fun way to get moving and not have to turn my truck engine on. Skiing is the thing I have practiced more than anything else in life and it’s what I model all of my life practices after. Both are practices in curiosity and exploration of both the outside world and the self. In particular, practicing skiing brings me closer to something dear that I stand to lose to the climate crisis–it’s paramount to why bicycling feels revolutionary to me. Bicycling is a way I practice living an eco-centric life in line with a potential future society in which the climate crisis is met with our full force. It makes me more interested in public policy related to transportation and the greater climate crisis. Simply put, If I don’t practice I can’t expect that end result to become reality!

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Why did you relocate to Seattle?

I realized as an adult I hadn’t made any headway in my goal to strengthen my connection with my Japanese identity, so I made the move here where that feels a lot easier to do. I also bike a lot here. I love exploring the city by bike and finding cool stuff. Biking and skiing definitely take me places where my curiosity can steer. We don’t protect winter without halting our greenhouse gas emissions; Biking is one way I practice living in alignment with that goal, and it happens to bring a great deal of joy to my life. 

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How does winter connect you to your community?

My family built an identity as skiers and skiing has defined my life for a lot of it. I’ve lived in snowy places where skiing is accessible, and that’s not by accident. I do find that wherever I live I tend to get into activities that I can do out my front door which just gets me out and connects with ecological communities near me as well as people who share those interests. I love the little pirate bike infrastructure I find when biking in Seattle–it’s evidence of an energized and caring community of cyclists.

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Why is winter worth protecting?

Telemark skiing has taught me to lean into curiosity and be open to new and different ways of doing things especially if you’ve done them one way for a long time. It also has allowed me to practice curiosity for the world around me which feels core to my existence and what makes me excited about being alive.

Seeing queer people and BIPOC represented in climate conservation leadership and industries/organizations concerned with the climate crisis because diverse leadership is strong and more comprehensive than homogenous leadership. And teaching young people the science behind the climate crisis–gives me hope to see young people fired up about affecting change who understand the fundamental physical phenomena that drive what we see happening in nature, and how we as humans fall into that picture.

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"For The Love Of Winter"

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