2019-10-8 | Chevy New Roads Magazine
Powering to Powder
During an intracontinental road trip, skier Greg Hill falls for Chevy’s Bolt EV.
Skier Greg Hill loves pushing the limits. Like the time in 2014 when he broke his leg during an avalanche in the remote mountain ranges of Pakistan, spending 24 hours on an icy peak before being rescued by a medevac team. Then there was 2010, when he climbed and skied a total of 2 million vertical feet in 365 days at various locales in North and South America—the equivalent of ascending the Empire State Building four times every day. “At the end, I broke down crying,” Hill says of his then world-record feat. “I learned so much about myself, just having the confidence and ability to achieve something no one else thought possible.”
You might think Hill would have nothing more to prove, having conquered mountains and set skiing records. But in early 2019, the restless Canadian added yet another pioneering achievement when he embarked on a trek from his home in southeastern British Columbia to Teton County, Wyoming, in Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt EV. For Hill, the winter jaunt would put North America’s EV-charging infrastructure to the test, while allowing for an honest appraisal of Bolt EV’s tour readiness. Sure, Bolt EV has earned plaudits from the automotive media and praise from customers, but how would it hold up on the rangy terrain on Hill’s snowy route?
The road trip was just the latest exploration for Hill, who has made a career of barreling headlong into the unknown. Born in 1975 to an airplane pilot and a teacher, he was raised in quaint Sutton, Quebec, a town that would stoke his snow sporting passions. “It had a little hill where I skied with my family,” the 43-year-old adventurer recalls. “I would skip school for skiing.”
As his skills improved, Hill began testing his physical and mental limits. He gravitated to backcountry skiing. Equal parts mountain climbing and downhill skiing, backcountry skiing attracts adventure seekers who forgo the ease of chairlifts and helicopters, opting instead to hike up rugged mountains, then ski down in a celebratory banzai blitz. It’s an audacious sport, yet skiers insist the life-affirming rush they receive is worth the effort. “After six hours of climbing the mountain, to finally get to the top,” Hill says. “There’s something about being in the mountains, abiding by nature’s rules while pushing your limits at the same time. There’s nothing quite like it.”
Informally launching his skiing career in the early ’90s, Hill immediately displayed a flair for grand gestures—one of his very first climbs was the 14,410-foot volcanic peak of Mt. Rainier. It wasn’t long before his exploits were earning him acclaim. He won Canada’s Whistler Randonnée race three years in a row, from 2002 to 2004. He pioneered the Northern Monashee traverse, a 21-day ski expedition where he summitted 21 peaks along the way, just one of many first descents throughout the continental Columbia Mountains. He was the first North American to climb and ski 40,000 feet in 24 hours, setting a world record at the time of 50,100 feet in 24 hours.
Whether skiing the storied Norwegian mountains of Lofoten, scaling Nepal’s colossal Mount Manaslu, or negotiating the cliffs of Argentina’s Las Leñas, Hill is obsessive about his sport, as revealed in his independently produced 2008 documentary The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing. “I need to prove to myself that I’m living life to its fullest,” he says of his hard-driving personality. “I’m happy because I’ve learned who I am through my hardships.”
Charging Down the Slopes
In hilly driving, Greg can use the Hill Top Reserve feature (called Target Charge Level in model years 2018 and newer). It stops charging just before the battery is full, so Bolt EV can recoup "free" energy from regenerative braking when driving downhill.
New Mode of Transportation
Despite his status as a world-renowned skier, in 2013 Hill had arrived at a crossroads. An environmentalist who had planted thousands of trees, the proud father of two felt like a charlatan. “I had a big diesel truck with a snowmobile in the back,” Hill recalls. “There was this hypocrisy of loving nature, yet the way I was accessing nature wasn’t good. As a professional athlete, I realized I needed to show how outdoorsy people like myself should be stewards for Mother Nature.”
Determined to set a conscientious example, Hill began investigating ways of reducing his carbon footprint. He tried biking to various adventures around his home of Revelstoke, British Columbia, but cycling proved to be a time-consuming nonstarter. Hill was intrigued by electric cars, but their scarcity and costliness at that time—not to mention the lack of charging station infrastructure—made them an unrealistic alternative to gas-powered vehicles.
Then, in 2016, Chevrolet introduced the Bolt EV, a zero-emission small crossover with a road-eating range of up to 238 miles on a full charge.† “Here was an affordable electric car with enough range for me to adventure,” Hill recalls. “I remember ordering it—the excitement!”
There’s something about being in the mountains, abiding by nature’s rules while pushing your limits at the same time. There’s nothing quite like it.
Taking delivery of his Bolt EV in July 2017, Hill used the car to access locales around mountainous Revelstoke. The Bolt EV’s superb handling and EPA-estimated 119 MPGe† proved inspiring. So much so that Hill planned a 2,400-mile trek in his Bolt EV to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he was scheduled to teach mountaineering courses. “The charging infrastructure seemed to be there, so I knew it could be done,” Hill says.
Even before embarking on his two-week trip in late January 2019, Hill was impressed with the Bolt EV. “I didn’t bring my rooftop ski box because there would be wind efficiency loss,” Hill says, “but I was still able to get everything I needed inside the car.”
Winding his way through British Columbia into the U.S., Hill was “blown away” by the Bolt EV’s confident performance on the hilly, rolling roads of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, where his stops to charge the vehicle gave him the chance to enjoy the majestic surroundings. “Having to stop allowed me to pull off-road and get to know places,” the skier says. “I’d never stopped in Spokane before, but I got to wander downtown and stop at a nice place for some shopping.” Those stops also served to remind Hill of a favorite saying: It’s good having an end to journey toward, but in the end it’s the journey that matters. “With a car like the Bolt EV,” he says, “the journey really does become as fun as reaching your destination.”
While Hill’s trip to Wyoming was insightful, it was during his return to Revelstoke that the Bolt EV really demonstrated its mettle. “It was snow and ice storms the whole way home,” he says, but he felt confident in the Bolt EV thanks to its low center of gravity.
Planning a long journey in your Bolt EV is simpler with the myChevrolet Mobile App.† Here’s how it can help.
Winter Travel Safety
Avoid being caught unprepared when driving in cold weather. Keep your vehicle packed with items such as a cellphone charger, water, snacks, a first-aid kit, a flashlight and batteries, a blanket, gloves, and extra warm clothes.
In all, the trip provided Hill with a revealing glimpse of the EV future. “I actually saw new chargers that were starting to come online,” he says. “We’re right on the cusp of all the infrastructure being in place to go anywhere in an electric car, which is really exciting.”
Exciting, indeed. Though Hill had journeyed to Jackson Hole several times before, he ranks his Bolt EV experience among the most meaningful. Toward his goal of spreading the EV gospel, Hill has started a website chronicling his exploits (electricadventures.ca).
“As an explorer, I’m all about trying to lead the way,” Hill says. “Cars like the Bolt EV are the first defense in a new way of adventuring, and I’m just proud to be one of the first to show what’s possible.”
Through mountain passes, winter weather, and generally challenging conditions, the Bolt EV proved to be the perfect adventure companion. With daring souls like Greg leading the way, extending the fun and efficiency of EV driving has never been easier.
STORY: BRUCE BRITT / PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS ARACE