So writes professional skier Chad Sayers in his landmark 2021 book Overexposure. Having been in the limelight as one of the sport’s most iconic skiers for decades, featured in hundreds of photos, dozens of magazine covers, and a ground-breaking film series, Sayers had the luxury of time and experience to ponder his early motivations. But in typical introspective fashion, he finds that it wasn’t just getting air or logging laps under a chair he was hooked on, but more aesthetic nuances like “staring into the night as snowflakes floated down to create perfect, powder-topped moguls. I loved the feeling of being on skis, in the mountains, and in solitude.”
As young Sayers immersed himself in this new milieu, his ever-supportive parents presented him with the classic Canadian economic dilemma: he could pursue skiing or hockey. It was an easy decision — Sayers finished the hockey season and joined SilverStar’s Freestyle Ski Club.
Days of ripping moguls and launching big jumps, as well as the encouragement of coaches and friends, soon set him on a path to professional freeskiing. Drawing further inspiration from images of film heroes like Trevor Petersen and Andrew Sheppard skiing neck-deep powder and the big-mountain mastery of Shane McConkey and Seth Morrison, he aimed directly for skiing’s big leagues, moving to Whistler where he was suddenly a tiny fish in a big-mountain shark tank.
Qualifying for the Freeride World Tour that same year, competition quickly became Sayers’s life, and a seven-year career brought many highlights, including 1st at an event in Switzerland and 2nd two years running in the Canadian Freeskiing Championships. But along with the wins came the wrecks, one of which made it to a sports channel’s top-100 crashes and took place as his father looked on in terror, sure he was watching Chad rag-doll to his death. His dad had a reason for concern, but Sayers, displaying the stubbornness needed to succeed, never questioned what he was doing.
That all ended at the 2005 U.S. Freeskiing Nationals in Snowbird, Utah. In his prime, with enough points to take the World Title if he did well, Sayers was scoping lines with friends before the competition when he clipped a rock on a jump, slamming into a boulder and sailing off a cliff into the trees below. Helicoptered to a hospital, he was rushed into surgery with a snapped femur, smashed pelvis, broken ribs, and punctured lung. He’d get back on the horse that threw him at the 2007 Snowbird event, but it was a pyrrhic victory: he’d lost the taste for competition and, more importantly, his body never fully recovered. This and other injuries would now dog him incessantly.
As Sayers pivoted to photo work and celebrity as an editorial model, two long-time friends — photographer Jordan Manley and skier Forrest Coots — floated a concept for a series of unique short films that would document their path through the ski world. A Skier’s Journey was born. From 2009–2016, the trio travelled to the literal ends of the earth, exposing themselves to madmen and mentors, crime and poverty, and dangerous and sacred landscapes.
The process pushed Sayers to physical and emotional ends. Some moments found him skiing from the heart and feeling passionate about his love for travel, mountains and skiing, while others brought physical hardship, personal clashes, and paralyzing uncertainty. He sums it up: “In the end, the deeper meaning of skiing where no one else had ever skied — leaving tracks that would only be swept away by the wind — made it all worth it.”
Amid an internal struggle over continuing this nomadic life, he moved to La Grave, France, hoping a scene change could help heal his body, mind and soul. But the uncertainty remained, and a near-death experience saw him flee the Alps, hang up his skis and search for salvation in more forgiving tropical climes. Eventually, he’d find his ski mojo again and return triumphantly to the fold — to this day; he is one of the most enduring athletes in a high-stakes sport. Indeed, between his parallel lives as a climber, surfer and photographer, he has travelled through over 60 countries on six continents, searching out the perfect run, the perfect wave, and the perfect light.
This brings us back to the book, a passion project based on journals kept during Sayers’ two-plus decades inside the belly of the pro-freeskiing beast, competing, adventuring and experiencing ski culture in the far corners of the mountain world — then trying to run away from it all. A finalist at the 2022 Banff Festival of Mountain Books, Overexposure is a visually stunning coffee-table volume with a compelling story about how “living the dream” was also a tiring treadmill of pain and daily risk that set Sayers adrift from family, friends — even himself. The story comes together in a miscellany of Sayers’s bite-size recollections and introspection and through the eyes of the world’s most outstanding outdoor photographers, who documented his career. Between these images and Sayers’s own compelling shots, readers can see both the high-stakes gambits required by a pro skier to stay in the spotlight and the grandeur in which these play out — a fitting paean to an inspiring and ongoing career that started with a kid mesmerized by snowflakes.