Originally published on Tetongravity.com in Collab with Orage. http://rad.tetongravity.com/orage-faces-and-places-rory-squamish/
Rory Bushfield’s first memory in life is getting candy from his ski instructor Edmore on the chairlift at Mt. Norquay Ski Resort outside of Banff, British Columbia. He was two years old and already set up for a lifetime of skiing.
At a young age, he got his start skiing moguls on the Canadian Alpine Ski team, becoming a Junior World Champion in the discipline before transitioning to freeskiing. Rory soon started competing in the X Games, notably landing the first ever 1080 on skis in halfpipe. He became a star in ski films, with over 30 movie credits from Poor Boyz, to Sherpa Cinemas, to Warren Miller and TGR.
In 2010, Rory married the incredibly talented Sarah Burke. She was the first female halfpipe skier in history—she literally pioneered the SuperPipe for women. She won gold at the X Games five times and was the world champion in halfpipe in 2005. Sarah died in January of 2012 from injuries sustained in a crash while training in Park City, Utah.
Four years have passed since Sarah’s death and Rory misses her every single day. He wants to keep living each day to the fullest—like she did—at his home in Squamish, British Columbia.
“I guess you can call me an adventurer,” Rory says. “I travel around to lots of different places—not just for skiing—looking for surf, looking for good mountain biking, all with my dog, Dex.”
Flying a Fixed Wing
Rory wanted to fly planes since he was a kid—his grandpa was a pilot in World War II. When a knee surgery in 2004 put him on the couch for the season, he looked at it as an opportunity to learn how to fly. “I was down for the count and flying gave me my smile back,” Rory says. On his first flight ever, his instructor taught him how to do multiple spins and he knew flying was going to be a lifetime pursuit.
Now, Rory has plans for his 1952 Cessna 180. He wants to scour the coast for bare beaches to surf, and the mountains for empty glaciers to ski. The opportunities are endless; that’s why he loves to fly.
“The freedom flying allows is the best part about it for sure,” he says. “It gives me the opportunity for endless crazy adventures. This winter I want to land on glaciers and alpine lakes and ski from the plane.”
“Will Dex get to go?” I asked. Turned out that was a dumb question. Of course he does.
Living in Squamish
Rory has lived in Squamish for ten years and thinks it’s “the best place in the world.” He loves the terrain, the never-ending prospects for activity, and perhaps most importantly, the burritos (specifically the two-pounders at Mags 99: Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina—he even gets them for Dex).
A story about Rory can’t be told without addressing Dex, his best friend. “She inspires me every day,” he says. Six years ago, Sarah found her under a truck when she was only two weeks old, brought her home, and convinced Rory they had to keep her. Now he can’t imagine life without her.
Together, they experience the magic of living in Squamish.
Squamish is on the Sea to Sky Highway—the famous north-south road that runs from the U.S. border for 250 miles and eventually connects with Highway 97. The place is an outdoor activity mecca, and according to Rory, it’s easy to be good at everything if you live there. The town is perhaps most well known for its proximity to Whistler Blackcomb (about 30 miles away) and the beautiful dolphin and whale-filled Howe Sound. It also has an abundance of surf, mountain bike trails, climbing, skiing, boating, fishing, and more.
“Rory’s known for finding wild and crazy things to do pretty much daily here in Squamish,” says Jan Phelan, Sarah’s mom. Jan chased Sarah to Squamish years ago, and made the town her home as well. She and Rory have stayed close and have a cherished relationship.
“Here in Squamish,” says Jan, “all it takes is a walk in the woods you’ll find your spirit at peace.”
Crabbing on the Howe Sound
“There’re not too many people that will turn you down if you invite them to go crabbing on the Howe Sound,” Rory says. He grew up in the prairies around Calgary so crabbing is a must for him now that he lives near the water. “We just dump a trap full of stinky fish in 100 feet of water and bingo, there’s dinner,” he says.
“Crabbing also gives my buddies and I a great reason to go boating together. We get to boat and jump off cliffs and ride the Howe Sound while also getting dinner out of it. Dex loves it, too!”
Blow it if you Got it
At 33 years old, Rory has already lived an extraordinary life filled with crazy ups and tragic downs. But no matter what, he seems to always be pursuing a smile. “I love Rory dearly, he’s a very bright spirit, and he always sees the good side of things,” Jan says. “He’s talented, he’s charming—he’s a lovely man.”
“Loving and losing Sarah made me realize that only an idiot would stay sad,” Rory says, “and a bigger idiot wouldn’t live life to the fullest. So I’m just trying to live my life not being an idiot.”
He now lives by the slogan, “blow it if you got it,” meaning: Life is happening right now, and you never know how long it’s going to last so take advantage and live it while you can.
Rory has endless goals and stunts he wants to achieve, and I don’t doubt he will do them. He’s driven not by accomplishment but by exploration, adventure, and Dex. He loves Dex.