When I wrote Marty Schaffer’s name down while compiling my ’99 Beers’ list, I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud. Not at the idea of having him as one of the 49 invitees, but purely for the fact that I knew I would be doing a lot more laughing when he actually showed up for a beer. I was right. As he walks through the door to my apartment, carrying his father’s old telemark skis, poles and ice axe, I know he’s going to regale me with some hilarious tales about growing up as a child of the backcountry. Sure enough, he entertains me with a story, complete with a photo, of his father popping the top of a bottle of champagne while wearing a top hat outside of Blanket Glacier Chalet, while his 8-months pregnant mother looks on. He goes on to tell me how 25-odd years later, he guided the same guests his mother did while pregnant with him in her belly. Somehow, this kind of story doesn’t surprise me, seeing as he grew up the son of XC ski racer/instructor parents who bought Blanket Glacier Chalet the same year he was born and turned it into a family-oriented backcountry ski lodge. This type of upbringing usually leads to exactly where Marty is today.
At 26 years old, Marty is a blossoming and talented full ski guide. Though relatively young in the guiding world, he shows experience in the mountains far beyond his age. His extremely positive and personable attitude towards not only skiing, but life in general, are the main reasons for his success at such an early stage in his career. He has worked as a heli-ski guide for a number of years already, as well as being a guide for film and media groups, in part due to his mountain skills but also the ‘good-times’ attitude that follows him everywhere he goes. This success has also led him to create a small guiding company called CAPOW, using a comic-book inspired logo design, fitting since he is himself a superhero of sorts in his own right. He slays it on skis (and a snowboard) and rips as hard as any mountain biker I’ve ever met. In the summer, he is a crew leader to one of Revelstoke’s Unit crews and is generally the ‘pied piper’ of fun times. His only downfall as a real superhero is that he would probably end up making friends with all of the super villains instead of locking them up behind bars. On second thought, he would probably be able to convince them to leave their life of crime behind and join him at the pub for a beer and some food, coincidentally fighting crime and making friends at the same time. I know….this guy has got some serious skills.
After opening our Mt. Begbie Cream Ales with his father’s old ice axe, we settle down to talk about growing up as a ‘lodgie’ and how it has influenced his guiding. When he reminisces about lodge life, he always comes back to the fact that the overlying themes passed down from his parents were quite simple: fun AND safety in the mountains. Being able to bridge the gap between these two different attitudes is not a simple task. However, teaching people about safety , for example during an AST course, can be difficult because the subject matter doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun’. Teaching the same course with a unique and fun approach can help people enjoy the course material and retain more information in the long run. This, Marty explains, is how everyone can enjoy the mountains in a safe manners for years to come. What I realize during our conversation is that this attitude, calculated yet highly enjoyable, is not just how Marty lives his ski life. It’s an overall attitude that was handed down from his parents and family, an approach towards life that more of us should embrace, myself included. And that’s what I try to take away from his visit, that a change, no matter how slight, towards a more positive life will yield just that: positivity.
When Marty finishes his beer and leaves me in my apartment to think about his visit, I immediately revert back to the superhero theme. He’s got all the qualities to being a superhero: talent, skill, charm and an attitude that people gravitate towards. What he’s missing, I soon realize, is a superhero name. It has to reflect who he is a person while at the same time giving him an identity that people can connect with. And then, CAPOW, I have it! Borrowing a line from Matchstick Productions newest ski flick, fitting I think, since Marty was a guide for a segment in their previous movie Attack of La Nina. Come to think of it, maybe Marty was the inspiration to the title of MSP newest movie. So raise your glasses to Revelstoke’s newest superhero, Marty Schaffer, the Superhero of Stoke!