Meet Greg Hill: skier, climber, electric car evangelist
Once named one of 25 fittest guys on the planet, Revelstoke dad goes electric
The next time you hear someone boast of an epic ski season of 30, 40, or even 50 days on the slopes, tell them about Greg Hill. The guy once named by Men's Fitness magazine as one of the 25 fittest guys in the world, has climbed and skied 2 million vertical feet, at 71 different mountains.
And that was just in 2010.
Four years later, in a challenge he dubbed March Madness, he climbed and skied 100 vertical km in a month, never going to the same area twice.
Celebrated on the covers of magazines around the world, the Revelstoke adventurer is mind-blowingly well travelled. But until recently, he didn't travel well. A guy who embraces the outdoors like no one else realized that he had a carbon footprint as enormous as his high alpine exploits. It was time to make a shift in lifestyle.
"My idea is to climb, ski, run, 100 different summits, without the use of fossil fuels," Hill says at the start of a new documentary – to be released later this year – that details his switch to an electric car for all his mountain travel. "I can't use a snowmobile. I can't rely on helicopter access, and I can't fly to foreign lands to go on big adventures."
Earlier this year, Hill joined his daughter on a climb of Revelstoke's Mount McCrae – a 9 km hike to a 1,907-metre peak – for his 100th summit. He had started the Electric Adventures challenge two and a half years ago by leasing a Nissan Leaf for a volcano-hopping journey from Washington to California, and he now proudly owns a 2017 Chevy Bolt that – with a range of up to 383 km between charges – is quite an upgrade from the 150 km range of that older-model Leaf.
In the process, he has converted friends and admirers to the quest for a smaller footprint. And in several cases, that has meant a switch to an electric car.
"In the last two years, many people have reached out to thank me for helping me change their ways," says Hill, 43. "For example, Mike Douglas, a buddy of mine who's a professional skier, now has his own e-car. I was just chatting with him and he's so excited about it. A complete convert.
"That's what happens. You become a convert because it's fun, exciting, new technology," says Hill, who like Douglas traded in his pickup truck for an electric car. "I call it 'the electric smile', this little grin you get from being part of the future that makes you feel better."
Hill learns to enjoy an 8-hour drive from Revelstoke to Vancouver
At home, Hill uses a Level 2 charger to keep his Bolt charged, usually via overnight top-ups. But there's a learning curve in driving electric for longer trips, and Hill confesses that it has taken some getting used to.
It's a story he tells well in his warts-and-all new movie, which features a shot of him pulling up to a Washington charging station with zero km left on the Leaf, and another featuring a groggy Greg during a 90-minute winter night fill-up – charging can take much longer in sub-zero temperatures – in his Bolt.
"We learned that it was about turning that negative charging time into something positive," says Hill, who made the trip to climb and ski the likes of Mount Hood and Mount Rainier with his pal and fellow pro skier Chris Rubens. "We'd go on a run, we'd read, and did other things that would turn that waiting time into a good time. I realized that I couldn't just be the typical A to B type person I was. I used to just hammer it."
Back in his "A to B" days, Hill would make the trip from Revelstoke to Vancouver in 5.5 hours.
"Even with kids, it took barely over six hours," he says. "Now it takes me around eight. We've definitely discovered all the little towns along the way, and where the good food is, or the secondhand bookstore. I've learned some cool things about towns I didn't know anything about."
A frequent traveller to Vancouver, Hill usually stops at BC Hydro fast charging stations in Merritt or Kamloops – where he eats Indian at Zaika Lounge while waiting for his charge at Thompson Rivers University – and a second stop at Hope. Most electric cars need only 30 to 40 minutes for an 80% charge at the BC Hydro stations.
As a skier, Hill needed to have a car that could handle the snow
The plowed road on the way up to ski Revelstoke Mountain Resort is no real challenge for Hill's Bolt, but he has learned to consider the car's relatively low clearance when navigating roads and driveways with deep snow. There's a shot of him in his new film with the car stuck in the snow, but proper winter tires have paid off.
"I've always had four-wheel drive cars, and this one is front-wheel drive, so it's a little different," he says. "I drove to Montana and back this last winter, and there was a massive snowstorm, with vehicles in the ditch everywhere. But there was Greg in his little electric car just cruising along, no problem."
While those closest to Hill seem to be getting won over by the electric option – his teenage daughter has already claimed the Bolt as her first car – he doesn't expect that all will be convinced. That's not, however, going to stop him from trying.
"I'm starting to realize that the biggest reward is feeling really good about what I'm doing," he says. "In life, emotional reward is what we're really looking for. In this case, it's been really fun because it means more than just my selfish, personal adventures. This is for more than just me, and it feels really good."
BC Hydro is sponsoring three presentations around B.C. by Hill, who will tell the story of the Electric Adventures challenge and his experiences driving electric cars. Here's his schedule:
- Victoria: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 8, Harry Hickman Lecture Hall, Room 105, Hickman Building at the University of Victoria
- North Vancouver: 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 9, Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University
- Kamloops: 6 p.m. Wednesday, October 16, Mountain Room, 3rd floor Campus Activity Centre at Thompson River University
All events are free to attend with no tickets required, but seating is available on a first come basis.