Sander Hadley, Self Realized

An Internet-famous yogi and champion of resort skiing

This story originally ran in the November 2014 issue of POWDER (43.3) and has been rereleased with the addition of Sander Hadley’s 2014/2015 season edit, Ostlay. Words by Clare Menzel.

Ostlay is pig latin for lost. My father passed away May 3, 2014. He was my best friend and biggest supporter. His passing left me in a lost state of mind all of last winter. He always laughed about being required to take a dead language (pig latin) in high school. Here are the highlights from when the camera did end up coming out. I’m happy to say I am in a much more peaceful place nowadays and continue to live on as his legacy. Cheers to the lost ones, thanks for the inspiration. —Sander Hadley

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PHOTO: Trevor Woods
Sander Hadley does it his way. PHOTO: Trevor Woods

On a Monday morning last January, Sander Hadley grinned goofily, fist-pumped, and laughed out loud in a quiet lecture hall. The Pocatello, Idaho, native ignored his University of Utah professor explaining Internet audience strategy, a fitting topic as he giddily watched the ticker on “The Way I See It,” his inbounds P.O.V. edit from Snowbird that now has nearly 83,000 views on Vimeo. In keeping with his style, Sander’s low-budget, accessible, resort-based videos won over the web last winter. A whirlwind year started with an appearance in Sweetgrass’ award-winning 2013 release, Valhalla, and will conclude with a role in a Matchstick Productions’ resort segment for their 2014 film, Days of My Youth. In December, he’ll graduate a semester early with a degree in Strategic Communications. Like any 21-year-old, he has no clue what’s ahead. “He’s not following anyone else’s path,” says Cody Townsend, who will also appear in the MSP film. “He’s so creative. And he’s 100 percent passionate about doing skiing in his own way, for himself.”

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Last summer was what my father called the “Summer of Love.” He supported me as I focused exclusively on skiing for the first time and did my first professional shoot for Valhalla. He said, “This is what you should be doing as a young person. Go do it.”

My dad was my best friend and main guy, the one I was closest to. He passed away this May of a freak heart attack. With his depression we’d always talk about death and be really hopeful with it, and he was always like, ‘well, when it happens it’s going to be great. I’m not going to worry anymore, I won’t feel this way anymore…

It meant a lot to be able to share this winter with him—it was something tangible to show him for his support over the summer.

I asked myself why I was waiting for someone to find me. I said, “No. Just go grab a camera. See what I can do.”

More than anything, I want my videos to be fun. Relatability adds to that, so I filmed where everybody skis. I uploaded “The Way I See It,” on the Saturday night of the X Games, and I think that must have played a little bit of a role in its success. People can’t connect to triple back flips.

I have always felt there was a gap in skiing media. These pros didn’t just hop into those helicopters—they must ski every day, right? Do they actually ski resorts? Do they do it the same as me? You can jump into a helicopter and only post Instagrams of that, but then you lose the unique spark with your audience.

There’s no flags set up in the resort to tell me to jump here and land there like there are in the terrain park. There’s freedom and leeway to be creative with the unknown in riding the whole mountain.

Cody Townsend has been a super empowering mentor. He’s sent me personal handwritten letters, and I have saved everything.

My signature move is the Screamin’ Semen 360. Not a whole lot of folks do it due to the mind block of tangling your skis, but it’s a real crowd pleaser.

Since I was 13, I’ve been on Newschoolers every day. Getting to see what skiers outside Idaho were doing is something I’m forever grateful for. For a long time growing up, it was only me and one other dude on twin tip skis at my hometown mountain, Pebble Creek.

I had a goat growing up—nothing huge like a mountain goat or incredibly small like a mini goat—just a regular domestic goat. His name was Billy.

Skiing is coming to a higher consciousness: the revelation that it’s just skiing, we ski because it makes us happy, and that this is what we want to do with our time. We’re getting past, “What trick are you doing?” Past the judgment. We’re detaching the ego of doing a trick just so someone else can watch. I liked the fact that Days of My Youth has this consciousness because MSP is more known for ski porn, for big mountain skiing.

I meditate every day. Before, I didn’t know what awareness was. Now I’m picking out squirrels on the sides of trees as I’m skiing by.

I have a special admiration for Oakley White-Allen. Skiing was always a fast-paced thing for me, and there was a pride in that, a masculine strength thing. When I first met Oakley, he would just suddenly go into the woods and play his flute and I’d leave him to keep skiing. Eventually, I tried slowing down to be in the trees with him and see what he was doing. He was just there looking at silly things—how the snow was crystallizing, or the way it was blowing.

I was a state champion for mixed-double tennis. I used to play against Karl Fostvedt in high school. We talked about skiing once and I remember thinking he was probably such a gaper. Then, a couple years later I saw him at the Valhalla shoot. It’s kind of irrelevant, but I totally used to whup him.

I want to live a life of passion and embrace what makes us human. To have a family of my own to share what I’ve learned, as well as to learn from them. To teach them to skateboard, ride a bike, about spirituality and being a good human.