From Uganda to the Tetons: Catching Up with Steve Fisher

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Watch out, American boaters. Steve Fisher has come back from Uganda and is now living in none other than the hardguy Mecca of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he’s learning to ski and getting ready to rip up local paddling runs with near-record runoff. PL caught up with Fisher – once named the world’s best paddler for his big water cajones – to get his take on coming to cowboy country…

PL: Why the move?
Fisher: There’s always a lovely lady: Lauren. Nut after spending two months in the beginning of winter in Uganda, we decided to come to Jackson where she likes to ski and help out with the adaptive ski program. So I thought, hey, why not try my first ever ski season at the best ski spot in the Lower 48.

PL: What do you like/dislike about it?
Fisher: I’ve been to Jackson once or twice before and thought of it as part of my top three favorite zones in the U.S., primarily because of its good vibe and epic access to all sorts of outdoor activities. So it came as no surprise that I loved this winter. It turned out to be the biggest snow year in history. I had great instructor friends and did an avalanche course early on. Day eight was my first backcountry day and the rest is details. People keep asking me how I handle the cold. On one of the days it was -47 with windchill and I went skiing, but I still wasn’t nearly as cold as we regularly get on the river. In my next life I’ll choose a sport where you never get wet.

PL: How’s it compare to life on the Nile?
Fisher: In some ways it’s similar in that there are a bunch of people in town who are here for a sport and who are like-minded. But I’ve really enjoyed being settled in one spot for a few months where everything works properly and you don’t get hassled at every turn. That gets old in Uganda.

PL: How’s the skiing coming along?
Fisher: While I’m by no means an expert, I can say that I ski. I did a few nice 3,000 to 4,000-foot climbs on skins and skied down and had some epic powder days. Mad air and lots of falls but a great time. I’m just disappointed that it took me so long to do a ski season. Now that I have a full ski set up I’m pretty sure that I’ll get some skiing in every winter from now on.

PL: How’s it compare to kayaking?
Fisher: A lot of stuff transferred and I’ve always said that people who are good at one sport quickly improve that another. In the early stages some of my breakthrough moments were when I skied with other kayakers and that compared some of the concepts to kayaking. For example, separating the upper body from the lower body and pointing your shoulders and head in the correct direction.

PL: Got guys showing you the ropes?
Fisher: Yep, I made a few new friends who were good skiers and my girlfriend Lauren is pretty handy at skiing as well. I also did a day with Brad Ludden and a few days with Aaron Pruzan, who owns Rendezvous River Sports in Jackson.

PL: Looking forward to this year’s epic boating?
Fisher: I must say that now that it’s warmed up, I’m ready for the snow to go away. They have a time frame here that they call the off-season where you can’t ski really and you can’t really mountain bike much, although kayaking has begun. They’re calling for massive floods this spring with runoff potential at 167 percent. That said, I just got back from five weeks on the road, paddling near Hood River, as well as in Minnesota and Michigan. I’m shooting a 3-D movie.

PL: Tell us about that and some of your other projects
Fisher: Well, I’m still on the tail end of Halo Effect.It did way better than I’d thought, winning ‘Best Adventure Film’ at X-dance and Best in Show at the National Paddling Film Festival. Hopefully the final TV deal will be done soon and I should have that available online shortly after that. In the meantime, I’ve started shooting for a 3-D film. It’s pretty experimental and quite difficult but it’s very exciting when we get the shots. I like to try new things and this has certainly got my hands full. I should have something for folks to watch at this year’s Outdoor Retailer. People can find out more at www.fishmunga.com. My new website will be up this week…

PL: We’ll check it out…and saddle up and grab a beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for us…