Joey Schusler: Coming Down the Mountain

Redefining High Performance By Making Molehills Out of Mountains


he term “high-performance” isn’t just for superhumans who go heliskiing every other week and Laird Hamilton. Sure, Laird is about as high-performance as they get, after maybe Thor, the God of Thunder. But what about all the surfers out for dawn patrol at the local break, rock-climbers scrambling over boulders in Joshua Tree, guys shooting a pick-up game after picking up the kids, cyclists on the climb of their lives, and the runners sprinting for the subway the same way they run in triathlons? Fellas, we see you. We got you. Hill City makes technical apparel for all of the above scenarios. And hanging off of mountains.

We asked a few high-performance humans we admire to show us their perfect days and talk about how high-performance is being redefined. This is where professional downhill mountain bike racer and filmmaker Joey Schusler came in. We asked him to show what his ideal day looks like. He scaled some more than hills in his hometown of Boulder.

Some 14 year olds are really just trying to get it together, deciding if it’s cool or not to pop the collar on their denim jacket and whatnot. By the time Joe Schuster hit 14 though, he had risen to be a top-ranked mountain biker in Colorado, and turned pro at 17. His need for speed led too many racing decorations to comfortably summarize here, and his mountain upbringing left him with a taste for climbing and skiing, too. Those pursuits have taken him from Colorado to Norway, Peru, Bolivia, the Republic of Georgia and Mongolia. Those stamps on his passport were fueled by Joey’s other passion, filmmaking, and he’s become a respected cinematographer and director, with his bike packing trips turning into stunning documentaries.


Hill City supplied some of the gear and the thought bubble asking what would you do on your perfect day? Joey and some pals shot the photos of what they did on their day climbing and biking in Colorado.

Before they left we ask Joey where he’s going and a bit about where he’s been.

What are you doing on your ideal day?

Joey: With the crisp cold air moving into the Colorado High Country, and winter just around the corner, it’s a time to get out and get after it, wether hiking, mountain biking, climbing, or camping. As the days quickly shorten, these wonderful fall days will soon be numbered. I’m setting out on a big day in the mountains around Estes Park with some friends to enjoy it as much as I can.

What drew you to racing as a kid?

Joey: I had been into mountain biking for a while through a summer camp my parents had signed me up for randomly one summer. Through that camp, I was slowly introduced to the culture of the sport, and thus racing. I got a few MTB VHS tapes from the local shop, and they became my holy grail. I would watch them endlessly, and I quickly because obsessed with racing. I entered my first race that summer at the age of 13, and from then on did any and every race I could possibly get to.

I got a few MTB VHS tapes from the local shop, and they became my holy grail.

At what age did you know you’d be a professional downhill racer?

Joey: It was pretty immediate. From first discovering racing, to wanting to be the best racer in the world was about 6 months time. [laughs] I was instantly obsessed. That dream became a reality when I turned pro at 17.

Hairiest downhill you’ve ever ridden?

Joey: Lots over the years, but I’d have to say the World Cup course in Champery, Switzerland in the mud was still the gnarliest thing I’ve ever ridden. An extra 20 pounds of peanut butter-like mud on your bike in a 4-minute downhill run, on some of the steepest and rootiest terrain I have ever ridden.

Filmmaker (or filmmakers) who made you want to pick up a camera?

Joey: Getting into filmmaking from the athlete side of things was really cool. Obviously I had my early idols in the mountain biking film world like Alex Rankin and Clay Porter. Once I got more into the adventure space, people like Anson Fogel and Renan Ozturk became huge inspirations.

Your bike and camera have brought far and wide, some of your favorite trips?

Joey: It’s unreal what a bike and a camera can do. It’s been my vessel for all the exploring and traveling I have done as an adult. Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Greenland, and the Republic of Georgia are all standouts, but it’s impossible to weigh any of those experiences against another—they are all such special and distinct memories.

And where do you want to ride that you haven’t?

Joey: So many cool trails and little areas of my backyard here in Colorado that I still have to explore. It’s great to know the area around home still isn’t even tapped out.

What inspired you to go to the Mongolian Altai for the film you made there with Mason Lacy, and Sam Seward?

Joey: We had studied the area throughly on Google Earth somewhat at random, and slowly became more obsessed with the idea of going there. One thing led to another and we pulled the trigger on making it happen. So glad looking back on the past five years that I’ve always had this “let’s just make it work out now” mentality. I’ve been able to experience so much in my 20s because of that train of thought and I’m so thrilled to be able to look back at all the wild things we’ve done and been able to create.

The act of just doing it is the training.

What sort of special training do you do to excel at all these sports?

Joey: For me, there is always so much going on, that the act of just doing it is the training. Trial and error, quick learning, great mentors, and just figuring things out that need to be figured out. With biking, skiing, rafting, and all forms of adventure like this, there are a lot of things that cross over, and if you are doing it with the right people you can learn at a quick and safe rate.

What does high-performance mean to you?

Joey: High performance to me means performing at a level where you can find an incredible level of satisfaction, having put in the time and effort to get to that level, and having experienced the entire process to get to that point. I feel like I’m there in biking, sometimes in skiing, just learning in rafting. In filmmaking, sometimes I feel it, sometimes I don’t. But it’s a great thing to strive for always.