Face Shot: Ryan Schmies

Face Shots
Ryan Schmies

EARLY IN THE 1999 SEASON, Ryan Schmies drove from Steven's Point, Wisconsin, to Ski Brule, Michigan, to get his first turns of the year. On a crowded run, he popped a misty 720 off a trailside kicker, landed flat-and smashed his knee into his face. The damage: fractured upper jaw, nose, brow, and cheekbones-plus collapsed sinuses and a cracked eye socket. "I thought I was going to be blind when I woke up," he says. "Later, I could barely draw. I was seeing double." He still suffers from tunnel vision, but Schmies, 25, has no trouble putting pen to paper: He designs the streetwise graphics for K2's factory freeride skis.

"Ryan's the only artist I've worked with who can translate ideas into design, knows younger skiers-and is one," says Mike Gutt, K2's team manager. Gutt first saw Schmies's portfolio in 2000 at Whistler Blackcomb's summer ski camps, where the kid was a "digger," building terrain features for pros. "I knew right then that we had to get him on board," says Gutt. Shortly after, Schmies's first ski, the Public Enemy, hit shelves-and its illustrator went back to finish school at the University of Wisconsin.

Finding a job was a breeze: K2 hired him straight out of college, and his sketches went straight to its top sheets. If you've seen the Seth Vicious or the MissDemeanor, you've seen Schmies's work-which is a combination of hand-drawing, athlete feedback, and Photoshop touch-ups. Beyond that, there's no big secret. "Basically, Mike and I look at what's been done before," he says, "and try to depart." -JAMEY VOSS

UNDER PRESSURE: "I designed the Made'n AK overnight and Gutt presented it to K2's execs the next morning. I knew it'd be fine."
SQUIRREL BAIT: "When I was 10, I was climbing a tree and felt something dig into my hand. A huge squirrel was going to town on my fingers. My right hand now has deformed digits-looks crazy as hell. But the injury acts as a big calloused pad that holds my drawing utensils nice and tight."