By Christian W Dietzel
John Eaves, a native of Calgary, Canada, is often best remembered for bursting onto Hollywood's radar visa via his long-time relationship with famed Hollywood cinematographer, fashion mogul and action sports documentarian Willy Bogner Jr. While this work as a ski-infused stunt man on the 1981 James Bond feature "For Your Eyes Only" helped to establish his career, it was his track record as a champion freestyle skier that positioned him for such a license to thrill.
"Circa 74, I was just starting to sniff freestyle out," Eaves says. "When I started winning, it was like being in a movie—I was beating my heroes, guys like John Clendenin—these incredible personalities I saw in the ski movies. I was lucky to have honed in on Wayne Wong while working as a liftie at Whistler. [He] showed me moves I had been on a quest to absorb and add to my game. I begged him to show me his tricks while on my coffee breaks, and he eventually indulged me."
Eaves' climb to fame grew from there on out. When asked about the era that defined his future path as a secret agent shredder, Eaves shared the following story about the music that inspired him as a young freestyler:
"It was right around 1975. Rolling Stone magazine had sent a few journalists up to Squaw to write an article on freestyle skiing. I was interviewed as an upcoming athlete by a writer named John Warnecke Jr."
At the time, Eaves had no idea of Warnecke's role as a former manager of the Grateful Dead.
"We immediately hit it off and started talking music more than skiing," Eaves continues. "I told him about the piano piece I was training to, but was shy to use it because it did not have enough punch too it. So he says, 'come to Nashville where I live and we will orchestrate it.' Now of course I blew this off right away, but on the drive back east I started thinking about it and called up John in Nashville and said I’m coming down in October. John took me right over to Jack Williams, who was to be my arranger. It turns out Jack was the arranger for the Johnny Cash Christmas Show every year, besides producing some huge names in music.
"So Jack and I go through the music, I show him a video of my ballet run and we decide where the crescendos are going to be and suddenly I'm in a Nashville studio and all these studio musicians are rolling in and we record “Wind Song." I named it that because the wind would always blow at the start of my run for some reason.
"Suddenly I was winning more ballet skiing events than aerials. I did it for three more years: the fall trip to Nashville and writing new music."
Eaves impressive tenure in freestyle skiing would culminate in three consecutive combined overall world titles, in 1977, '78, and '79 (winning in moguls, ballet, and aerials)—making him the only comer of the era to do so other than female competitor Genia Fuller Crews. His career in freestyle extended to roughly 1984, where in he would maintain heated competition with other freestyle legends such as Greg Athens, Robert Young, Frank Beddor, Gregory Stump, and Joey Cordeau.
"To me, there were two guys that highlighted freestyle in that era as far as technique," Says Cordeau. "Jack Taylor, and John Eaves. The way he 'pins' his flips, that style he developed, and the people he went on to influence, makes John Eaves the godfather of aerials in my opinion. He took what was being done, and evolved it."
Eaves career as a stunt man then aligned with the rising popularity of extreme skiing of the early 80s. This came in an era when athletes were falling into the ever-growing pursuit of freeskiing—which was more akin to how freestyle first emerged: rooted in a spirit that broke free of the pedagogy of the racing world, and in many ways, from the expectations of society itself. Freeskiing owes much of its roots to the stage the 70s freestylers established, as personalities such as Eaves, fellow Hollywood stuntmen such as Rick Sylvester, and moguls skiers such as the late Jack Taylor symbolized through a highly uncommercialized transition to backcountry skiing.
Appearing again as a stunt double in the 1985 James Bond feature A View To Kill, Eaves found himself exploring the avenues of Hollywood and extreme sports alike. Pressing throughout the following eras as a spokesman, Eaves would go on to advocate for the growth of extreme skiing, extreme sports, and continued to inspire the next generation. While filming for an IMAX movie, Eaves worked with another icon in the making: Shane McConkey.
"He was doing shit that I wouldn’t do and he was 44 at the time,” Shane McConkey said in a 1999 interview on Mountainzone.com. “He would jump into these crevasses and land on the other side. He was like, ‘look, it’s not that hard,’ and I was like, ‘then you do it.’"