The ski magazines called him the sport’s “renaissance man.” His close friends say he was the most humble man they had ever met. From his earliest days skiing icy moguls in his home province of Quebec, to pioneering ski film work, JP Auclair was one of the best skiers to ever emerge from Canada.
The 37-year-old from the Quebec City area died in an avalanche in the remote mountains of Chile on Monday, alongside fellow skier Andreas Fransson from Sweden. They were there filming for a new project.
Chilean searchers say the bodies of two foreign tourists were spotted by a helicopter around noon Tuesday in bordering Argentina during a joint rescue operation by Chilean police and the armed forces.
Authorities said Fransson and Auclair arrived in the Aysen region of Chile’s Patagonia on Thursday along with two other tourists from Sweden. They had been hiking the 11,800-foot (3,600-meter) San Lorenzo mountain, and disappeared when a wall of rocks and snow cascaded down Tuesday, dragging them to a stream in Argentine territory.
The two survivors in the group were treated at a local hospital, and police said they provided information to help locate the bodies.
The regional director of Chile’s Emergency Service, Sidi Bravo, said 90 per cent of the people who go missing in the hard-to-reach area are never found. “It was lucky to have found them and to be able to recover them,” Bravo said.
There was an outpouring of condolences and grief online in the ski community on Tuesday afternoon, as the news emerged. Auclair was first known as a creative mogul skier, a leader of the “New Canadian Air Force,” and went on to become best known among fans for his urban skiing. His segment in the 2011 film All.I.Can, made by Whistler's Sherpas Cinema, was a major online hit.
Shot in and around the small industrial city of Trail in the British Columbia interior, the segment exemplifies the type of playful, talented and one-of-a-kind skier Auclair was – dancing through the brown-snow gravelly streets on skis, over cars and through yards.
“He was just the most humble human being of all time,” said All.I.Can director Dave Mossop, reached by telephone on Tuesday afternoon. Mossop struggled to compose his words, gutted by the news. “He represented the most wonderful qualities a human could have.”
Auclair was celebrated on Tuesday, as people grieved.
“When talking about the most creative minds in ski history, there are only two names in the conversation: Shane McConkey and JP Auclair. RIP,” tweeted writer Micah Abrams, also referencing American extreme skier McConkey, who died in 2009 in an accident in Italy.
Mike Douglas, another Canadian ski pioneer and long-time friend of Auclair, tweeted a single word: “Crushed.”
Auclair’s many industry accolades include being named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year for 2014.
He helped revolutionize skiing and ski equipment, working with manufacturer Salomon, and later co-founded Armada Skis.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail in 2013, when he was making All.I.Can followup Into The Mind with Sherpas Cinema, Auclair recalled how their usual method was one without official sanction. He and Mossop filmed the All.I.Can sequence by themselves – no crews or lights or any of the usual fixtures of movie making. Mossop in 2013 joked that the celebrated shoot was “highly illegal.”
For Into The Mind, Auclair and Sherpas Cinema filmed in Calgary with permits and city support, having been significantly buoyed by the success and awards for All.I.Can.
“We’re used to working on the ground, more like guerrilla-style with no permissions or anything,” Auclair told The Globe. “We usually just get kicked out of places.”
Files from the Associated Press were used in this reportReport Typo/Error