I wrote this piece 2 years ago and pitched it to some ski magazines. All the editors knew Matty, Dom and Slicer, but no-one could find a place to publish it. Maybe becasue these types of characters exist in every ski town and it would open the door for every ski bum story, but none I am sure, are quite like these three.
Since then, they no longer live under the same roof, Slicer has had knee surgery, Dom a reconstructed wrist from mountain biking and Matty doesn't compete anymore. One thing is still the same though, they ski as much as they can together.
There is no shortage of uber-talented shredders in Whistler, but few possess the infamy of the MDK Posse. It stems not just from their skiing, but also the uniquely distinct orb that they form as a trio. They are a soap opera, a ski-de-force, and a brotherhood of grommets with spaghetti sauce running down their chins. They are Matty Richard, Dominic Melanson and Kris Cormier.
It puked 25cms overnight and Matty is already up and cooking eggs. Dom is walking around half asleep, half naked trying to find roaches to coax together a joint for breakfast. Slicer (Kris) is defending himself to Matty because he plans to shoot photos instead of just ripping the hill. He rolls his eyes and shrugs, wondering what the hell he is meant to do. The phone is ringing constantly in the background with locals and blow-ins alike wanting to meet to ski the nooks and crannies of Blackcomb that only these boys know. They play it down, issuing the standard non-committal reply; “I’ll see you up there then.”
Up on the mountain they systematically shred every pocket, leaving no exposed or crooked ledge with slough on it. If there is a ski track that doesn’t seem mortal, it is highly likely that it was one of these three. Long after everyone else resigned to the belief that the mountain is skied out for the day, they are still going.
It wasn’t until I rode the chairlift with a missionary – a man of god – that I could really articulate the roll these three skiers play in the hyped-out Whistler scene. I asked the man in question who foots the bills – where the bread comes from – to which he replied, “The church, but individuals are always pitching in. Someone gave me twenty bucks yesterday, another one hundred. A stranger gave me a car. If people believe in what you are doing, it always turns out.”
In this way these three are missionaries. They practice more than they preach and people who encounter them aren’t star struck; they are impressed. The ski community still firmly believes in the “ski bum” and the MDK posse is a resonating tuning fork of that culture. In an atmosphere of stardom, there is a deep respect for their cause. Even the likes of Ptor Spriceneiks looks up to these three for their vitality and the energy they direct towards the mountains and the lifestyle.
I ski the following run with the MDK posse and they recount the previous night in the bar where one whiskey-spiked pitcher of beer after another would land itself on the table unordered. They went out with ten bucks in their wallets and woke up with five.
Dom and I ski down at the end of the day and call by Spicy Sports to pick up some skis that were being tuned. Dom lingers a minute, detailing what he has been doing lately- just back from Europe, bought a sled, flew into a hut… He attempts to pay and is waved on. It’s on the house- gratis.
Everybody knows who the trio is, not because they have heard of them, but because the three boys welcome anyone from anywhere that can keep up and won’t divulge their secret stashes. From Chamonix to Utah, New Brunswick to Golden and in every corner of Whistler they have believers who will always top them up if needs be.
Whilst these three may well be akin to missionaries on fat skis, don’t fool yourself- they are skids at heart. They are six in a three-bedroom house and they don’t stretch or do plyometric-dry-land training in the fall. They just ski… everyday.
One afternoon I phone to see if they were interested in hitting the hot springs in Pemberton. It is the middle of a dry stretch and the hill is textured in hard, icy bumps you could see from the Village. Slicer answers and through the crackle of the wind on the chairlift, he says they are skiing.
“Don’t you guys ever take a day off? It’s shit up there right now,” I retort in bewilderment.
“Shut up. It’s like back east. We are having a great time. Got to go.”
They grew up together and learnt to ski on the bone jarring slopes surrounding Moncton, New Brunswick. Amongst themselves they prattle away in Acadian: an inhospitable mix of bad French and English expletives with the odd nugget of ski jargon thrown in. “Grabber breakfast pis aller shredder” – “Lets have breakfast before we go shredding.”
Dave Treadway has his Boler trailer parked in their driveway and pays a flat of beer for rent. He shakes his head at their jibber. “The Ragin’ Cajuns.”
They moved out west to Whistler in October ’99 after Matty and Slicer spent the summer at the Camp of Champions. “It was after the epic 98/99 year so Chainsaw was still filled in. We ended up skiing lines in there all camp.”
When they made the pilgrimage, it was for the powder and the big mountains. When quizzed on how they even knew what powder was, they describe a gravel pit in Moncton that had cliffs they would boot-pack. Another muse was a half built ski hill. Slicer describes it with little or no hint of nostalgia. “The trails were cut but there were no lifts so there was always fresh snow.”
“We would boot-pack that too,” adds Matty.
Skiing with each of them individually, you gain an insight into how they fit together as a group. Boot packing towards DOA with Matty one alpin-glow tinted afternoon he talks about taking about his plans to step onto the ski mountaineering stage and challenge himself on some of the biggest mountains on the planet.
Matty plays the role of the eldest brother and wears the pants in the trio. He has built a profile for himself that allows him to take the winters to ski and compete on his sponsor’s budget. He was invited to the inaugural Freeride World Tour last year and traveled to Russia and Europe. Dom describes him as “the most energetic and creative skier I know. I’ll hit 4 features on a line and Matty will hit 8.”
He adds an existential dimension to the trio. He doesn’t own a sled on principle, but when the others are readying to go sledding, he will fire up his 2-stroke chainsaw just fit in.
Dom on the other hand is almost solely concerned with the present. On a trip to the Fairy Meadows Hut north of Golden, there is no talk of the 10 weeks hanging Christmas lights in Calgary that he just completed. There is very little mention of what the winter holds except the hope for an abundance of powder. For the moment he is only focused on where we should set a skin track to ski another pillow line.
At the top, he drops straight down the fall line, blinded by blower, Kooteney gold. He sends the 30ft air at the bottom and it’s one of the most impressive lines I’ve seen skied with my own eyes.
Dom is the gentlest and most passive of the three. He only got his license this last year and Slicer taunts him about having “no comprehension the real world”. Dom grins and orders him to “go back to work to pay for your truck, insurance and cell phone. Ill take photos and show you how deep it was.”
Kris is the little brother that has had to fight for every inch that he stands on. He got the name “Slicer” from Matty after a night gone bad years ago and it stuck. He pays rent to sleep on the couch in the loft and Matty harasses him for making a mess and not paying rent on time. Kris is the only one with a trade and covers payments with what he makes from working carpentry over the summer and the small business he started building packing crates for local Whistler art galleries.
For all his initiative, he is also a complete hypochondriac. If it isn’t his knee, it’s his moustache or back. He bitches to me one day about the meniscus in his knee as he shuffles down through the shark-toothed entrance to the “Dominator”- a 30+ft cliff on Blackcomb- before sending it and skiing away clean.
The same day, Matty’s folks are visiting from Moncton and have lined up on Mr Belvedere below the same cliff to form the peanut gallery. He drops in, launches it, and stomps the landing to their applause: a family tradition.
You might say they function as a married trio, or that they are a band of brothers. They bicker and argue amongst themselves; sometimes causing you to back out the door for fear that things might escalate. The relationship is a solid one though. It is the product of growing up together and living under the same roof for the last nine years.
From the outside looking in, sometimes you can’t help but wonder where they will end up. Friends from seasons gone by come to visit, sporting university degrees and mortgages, highlighting how these three haven’t grown out of the pursuit of winter on one hand, or sold out on the other. The question of the future doesn’t really bother them though. “So long as our kids grow up together, it’s all good,” they answer univocally.
In their favor they all have their joints in one piece: not a single knee surgery between them. They are aspiring ski-pros but you get the feeling this image would never really fit any of them.
“Don’t get me wrong. I want to travel the world, but I don’t want to be pressured into anything just to get the shot,” says Slicer. It’s ironic because the next day shooting with Jordan Manley, he insists he can find the narrow pocket that forms the trani to a boney 40ft cliff.
When asked, “If you went to AK and got to ski 1 line in 3 weeks would you go?” Dom replies, “Yep. Because when you aren’t skiing, you are fishing and getting to know people and adventuring away from the mountain.”
For all the media-trips and competitions, they are always in a hurry to get back to Whistler. They swear it is the best place to ride on any given day and still ski a vast majority of their days each winter as a trio. At the root of it though, unbeknownst to them, perhaps it isn’t Whistler they come home to, but each other. Only at home can they ski together, spot each other’s landings and watch each other’s back. Just like brothers.