The Luck Factor of Tonje Kvivik
Words By: Lisa Richardson | Photos By: Dylan Ross + Jordy Kidner

Tonje Kvivik is lucky. Not in the sense of winning boons she didn’t earn. More like attracting her own fortune through an openness to the unexpected, in a way that generates opportunities better than she could have imagined.

“It seems so random,” she laughs, reflecting on her eight year path from teenage ski bum to award-winning pro athlete. “I just followed my gut.”

Here are the elements, if you’re trying to reverse-engineer her success. (She’s already getting the question.) Rip up your vision board and just honour your passions. Find a crew who are into the same stuff as you. Have as much fun as you can. Try. Try your tricks. Try that drop. And follow the little breadcrumbs that get sprinkled on the trail of life. When your gut tells you to go, don’t question it.

Also: it helps to be an insanely good skier.

Kvivik was raised in Kristiansand, the California of Norway – a beachy area where “people are really excited about their boats.” Every weekend was spent at the family cabin. T-bar, poma lift, a little park, a big jump and some rusty rails that you’d always catch an edge on. She would charge around with her brother and cousin. “It was super family friendly.” The cabin had a copy of In Deep on DVD that she and her brother played so many times, they had to throw it out for all the scratches. They’d sing along to all their skiing heroes belting out “Piano Man” in the closing credits, with no idea that she’d be starring in Matchstick Productions films a decade later. “I didn’t even know that was an option.”

Craving big mountains she straightlined from high school to Serre Chevalier, France for a season of ski-bumming before University. She had a rule – “every day I would talk to a new person.” 2016 was a terrible season so when a chairlift companion pronounced that “even a bad season in Canada is like a really good season here,” she followed the glimmer. Applied for a working holiday visa that day. “If it feels right, I’m going to do it. I love learning, but that feeling of going to Canada was just so much stronger than going to University.”

She landed in Revelstoke, BC, following her pow radar without a second thought, not even when her first sharehouse turned out to look nothing like the ad. A mattress on the floor of a mouse-infested trailer was not what she was expecting. She got a job flipping burgers with the only employer who was willing to let her ski all day and take time off for freeride contests. Her debut at the Freeride Qualifiers was characterised by over-enthusiasm. “I’d be looking at the biggest flattest stuff, like YES! That looks sick! I’m gonna hit that!” She got recognition, when she didn’t get the podium, for her untempered enthusiasm. The biggest win was meeting Emily Childs, a fellow Sick Bird, the award given to the skier who “hangs it out there and goes harder than anyone else.” “We’re going to be friends,” Kvivik pronounced.

The duo would join up with Janelle Yip, dub themselves the Blondes (after a beer, not their hair), and start filming themselves. They just wanted to ski powder. They filmed each other constantly, throwing themselves, and the camera bag down the hill, because no one wanted to forfeit a run to be the filmer. “I can’t believe we were just chucking it. It was the most expensive item, except for the sleds, that we owned.” They’d show their edits at the local pub at its monthly video contest. The motivation, a $100 bar tab, was awarded by applause-o-meter, which, when the bar is full of friends who you’ll shout a drink to afterwards, makes victory a guarantee.

“There’s something so special about going out into the mountains and being super attracted to a line that you want to ski and then getting to ski it. I was just having the best time ever.”

quote-leftThere’s something so special about going out into the mountains and being super attracted to a line that you want to ski and then getting to ski it. quote-right

One of their pub edits was posted online. They’re not quite sure how somehow it got in front of Matchstick Productions, but the invitation soon came: “You guys should film with us.” Kvivik wondered if it was too good to be true. The crew’s motto – “It started as a joke and it keeps getting funnier” – proved prophetic, because the next year, they’d moved to the coast and were filming professionally.

Unafraid to chuck their carcasses – (The Blondes had made a People’s Choice winning film to that effect), Kvivik could suddenly drop pillows, big airs and straightlines for professional cinematographers. She was nominated for Discovery of the Year, then Female Skier of the Year, before clinching the award for Standout Female Skier in 2022. In 2023, How Did We Get Here was released – a showcase of what putting fun first gets you.

Switching gears from skiing with her Revy crew, to settling in Squamish, studying a masters in cybersecurity, and joining Arc’teryx, is just the latest deliciously random turn of events for Kvivik, all a result of being open to opportunity. “I like contrast. Skiing is so high intensity, there’s adrenaline going, you have to be so present. School brings a really nice balance to it. When you’re doing one, you get a break from the other.” Moving from playing with a DIY intimate crew to working with a professional team is another evolution — a little out of her comfort zone, admits Kvivik, a nod to the closeness she has shared over the last few years with her fellow Blondes and their filmers. “But it all feels so right. I’ve never been too much of a fan of the comfort zone anyways.”

quote-leftI’ve never been too much of a fan of the comfort zone anyways.quote-right