Torchlight parade honours local skier

Emilie Dawn Schmidt credits her father Rick with her love for snowboarding in the backcountry.

Emilie and her brothers horsing around with their father Rick Schmidt.

Emilie and her brothers horsing around with their father Rick Schmidt.

Emilie Dawn Schmidt credits her father Rick with her love for snowboarding in the backcountry.

“I grew up on the mountain with him. He used to always take me over to the black diamonds when I was really young like seven or eight-years-old,” said Emilie. “So that’s where I got my love for the backcountry and going out of bounds, he inspired me in that way.”

Schmidt’s family moved to Smithers two decades ago when she was just a year old. Her father Rick, along with her grandfather and uncle, purchased the par 3 golf course.

Shortly after settling into town, Rick started teaching lessons on Hudson Bay Mountain and eventually became the snow school instructor, where his passion for the sport flourished.

In the summer, he could be found at the golf course, while in winter, the mountain became his second home.

“He loved the mountain, he loved the people. He loved teaching, so that was a big thing for him. He really enjoyed being up there,” said Emilie. “It was his ultimate love.”

For the next two decades, Rick dedicated himself to the mountain.

Chrissy Chapman, resort services manager on the mountain, worked with Rick for more than 10 years. She said in addition to running the snow school, he also helped out at the rental shop and whenever else he was needed.

“Rick was just a warm, kind, hard-working guy. He was passionate about his job and he was just an all-around genuine person,” said Chapman.

“Anyone can say that about anyone a lot of the time, but with Rick it was just so true. Anyone that was a part of his life would know that.”

When Emilie was eight, her father was diagnosed with cancer and after another eight years of battling the disease, he eventually succumbed to it.

He passed away on June 1, 2010 when he was in his early 40s, leaving behind his wife, Emilie and two sons.

Since then, ski hill members have worked hard to keep Rick’s memory alive.

“There’s still a lot of workers who are still working there now that were working there when he was still there and when I was a young girl,” said Emilie.  “A lot of those guys and the instructors know my dad. It’s kind of cool to be able to still be around them and have those memories alive.”

One of Rick’s favourite events was the annual torchlight parade, an event that he helped organize for several years.

“Rick would always be so excited about it,” said Frank McBride, manager of hills and trails and the current event organizer. “It’s always been a goofing around, fun thing.”

As part of the event, experienced skiers and snowboarders travel down the hill with torches and they  finish the night off with fireworks.

A few years ago, the torchlight parade was renamed the Rick Schmidt Torchlight Parade in honour of him.

“I’m very excited for the torchlight parade. It’s just a beautiful way that we’ve been able to keep his memory alive and keep him a part of the ski family,” said Emilie.

Another way that his memory remains on the mountain is through his daughter.

The 21-year-old recently started waitressing on the hill and continues to hit the slopes after her shifts and on her days off.

“I love the freedom of [snowboarding]. I love that it gives you that window of opportunity to challenge yourself as much as you feel like you can and it gives you a lot of room to improve yourself and just to be up on that mountain everyday reminds me of him,” said Emilie.

The Rick Schmidt Torchlight Parade kicks off on Feb. 7 and will include a fireworks show and raffle.

All proceeds from registration go towards the Canadian Cancer Society.