Mike King: Skiing, Surfing, Farming and Advocating in “Feast or Famine”
By Grant Perdue
At the farm, sun beams through blue skies onto the lush green landscape; the night before, it rained. It’s growing season in Central Lake, Michigan, and professional skier and farmer Mike King is getting seeds planted for another big year of cherry pickin’. “I’m actually in the tractor right now,” King said as he picked up the phone. “Oh! And a bunny just ran by,” he said later.
However just a few months ago, King found himself in a different rig: a 6×12-foot cargo trailer, his mobile humble-abode. During the winter months, he travels the Pacific Northwest in search of the deep and steep. Here, he’s been stacking footage for years, and decided to make a ski film on his own accord; in “Feast or Famine,” King takes us on a journey blending life on the farm, in the lake, and on the snow, to help protect our winters, summers, and everything in between. Get the backstory behind his adventure, and get psyched for his upcoming POW film screening, in this Q+A.
Q: What’s your “climate story,” how did you come to care about the outdoors on a more serious level?
Mike: Skiing, surfing, hiking, and camping took me into the wilderness and made me want to stand up for it. Being out there really makes you respect it. I think it was actually the Lakes where I was like ‘Whoa, I need to start stepping up for this place.’ The line 5 pipeline is a ticking time bomb. It’s terrible.
Everything kind of changed when I made the connection that the problems that we face today on the farm are the exact things that were predicted would happen from climate change, such as big oscillations in weather; early-season warm-ups are followed by freezes that freeze the buds. We’re actually looking at less than a 20 percent crop of tart cherries this year due to late-season freezes. This has been predicted, and this is what the climate crisis is.
Q: What was it like creating “Feast or Famine,” blending your passions for skiing and environmentalism?
Mike: It totally felt like everything I care about and everything I’m passionate about, I was able to put in this film; connecting it with my passions of skiing, surfing, and farming, it was incredible to be able to link all of those things. I’m really proud of it. I made this film to try to inspire people to get up and stand up for what they believe in.
Q: Do you have any skiing highlights from the film?
Mike: Ooh! The skiing — you just get that perfect day, and it’s so epic. But I’ve claimed this term “love the struggle.” It just seems like it’s a never-ending struggle of everything breaking down and nothing lining up… I look back and those breakdowns and stuff are totally what I remember, getting through those challenging times. And then that’s what makes the skiing so epic and so rewarding: when it does come together and you do get to get on a big face or get in bottomless powder.
Q: How did the COVID-19 situation affect your life as a professional skier?
Mike: It threw a major wrench in the program! March and April are my two favorite months for skiing because that’s normally when you get that snowpack that allows you to get high up on the mountain to put a lot of big lines down and whatnot. We still got outside at a distance, but it was very very relaxed; we didn’t want to hurt ourselves or be part of the problem. There are massive sacrifices happening all over, so the fact that my ski season was cut short is just small potatoes.
Q: How does your life as an athlete and activist translate over to the social sphere, specifically in regards to Black Lives Matter and other social movements? Is there intersectionality in these areas?
Mike: Totally! I think it goes hand-in-hand. Access to clean water, air, and food is essential for life and when we are literally polluting all these things it has a direct effect. I’m a skier and I’m a farmer; I’m totally not an expert on a lot of this stuff, but maybe this is where I can inspire and help some people. It’s totally a human rights issue.
Q: So, you’re at the farm right now. How has life on the farm impacted you over the years?
Mike: I grew up on the farm at my parents’ cherry and apple orchard – as long as I can remember I’ve been working on the farm. It’s pretty incredible actually paying attention to how things grow and how we produce our food. It’s really shaped me in a lot of ways. You put hard work in and you get a good result from that!
Q: How has that ethos growing up as a farmer translated into your skiing career?
Mike: We’re relying on a lot of things that are out of our control, such as your vehicle breaking down in the mountains or a piece of farm equipment. You just do the best that you can, and that’s it at the end of the day!
Q: Anything else you’re psyched to add about the film?
Mike: This film became something so much bigger than I ever thought it would be… It was always just for the joy of it. Skiing, surfing, hiking, and camping took me into the wilderness and made me want to stand up for it.
Q: Itching to watch King advocate for the environment while sending airy three’s, busting out burly big-mountain lines, catching nice swell in Lake Michigan, and tending to life on the farm for yourself? Sign up here to join Protect Our Winters on July 24 at 6:00 p.m. for a live screening of “Feast or Famine” and a live Q+A with King himself.