There are a million things that can be said about JP as a skier—how he pioneered and transcended genres, and the indelible mark he has made on the sport. But there is so much more: he was a genuinely good human; he was my favorite person to be around because he was hilarious and because he was kind.
In the summer of 1997 I watched a VHS tape of JP Auclair and JF Cusson skiing the park at Mt. Hood. It was a time when snowboarding was peaking and, in many places, skiers weren’t even allowed in the park. Skiers certainly weren’t doing tricks that rivaled snowboarders—in difficulty or in style. To see JP and JF doing cork 720s blew my mind, and, as a snow sports photographer, I wanted to meet them. At the time, I was a senior photographer at Snowboarder Magazine and I had begun contributing with a start-up ski magazine called Freeze. The following spring the photo editor of Freeze blew out his knee and in his place, I was sent to the Nordic jib land, Riksgransen, Sweden to meet these guys.
JP and I hit it off and that’s how it began – 16 years of traveling and shooting with him. Often, those travels were the kind which involved appearances, autograph sessions and less than ideal ski situations. He would put on a smile and give it 100 percent at an awkward press conference in China when we knew Interior BC was getting hammered. He would shred the icy slopes of Quebec when duty called, or log long hours in the Armada office to slam out a product video. JP was a champion no matter how adverse or inane. That was part of what made him so good.
Ironically, JP and I had a shared sense that what we were doing, while fulfilling in context, at times seemed frivolous. We spent our lives traveling to the far ends of the earth, and we weren’t doing it to build bridges or irrigations systems or to help people have clean drinking water. Instead, we were doing it for skiing.
We used to talk about how skiing and the snowsports industry didn’t really make a difference in the world. In his downtime, JP started Alpine Initiatives to help orphans of AIDS victims in Meru, Kenya. He went to Kenya for a couple of summers to actually build these structures with his bare hands and minimal tools. Real grunt labor, reinforcing what a better person he was than most, myself included. Alpine Initiatives continues today. Their mission has been refocused to support mountain communities here in North America and is one of the many legacies that JP has left us here on this world.
It is not until now, that he is gone, that I realize that some of the fondest memories of my adult life are from crazy trips (with JP) to Turkey, China, Norway, British Columbia, Alaska, Japan, and New Zealand. But of course I loved him that much. We started a fucking company together. JP and I started Armada to save skiing. That he’s not here to see what happens with it, and with skiing and with his son and with everything is mind-numbing.