GUS ROWLEY IS THE WOOL GURU AT MONS ROYALE

As a lifelong farmer and a ripping skier, Gus knows the wool story all the way from sheep to peak. We recently released The Farmer Who Skis video to welcome Gus to the team and introduce our partnership with ZQ Merino, the world’s most ethical fibre. Now, we're catching up with Gus to talk about his experience shooting The Farmer Who Skis video, the importance of ZQ Merino and what’s next for him in the mountains.

MR: Hey Gus! So, your day job is a farmer. What was it like to be in front of the camera for The Farmer Who Skis video?

GR: To tell the truth, I was extremely nervous about skiing in front of the camera for this project. I have never done anything like this before and there is a lot to think about – like turning where the light is good, use of terrain and where the camera is. My usual day skiing is simply hooning around with my friends and family. I have spent my whole life devouring ski and snowboarding movies and I was thinking,

“Who the fuck is going to want to watch me ski?”

 

It was fun as hell though, we got to ride nice snow with some rad people and call it “work”.

 

Filming the farming side of things was a lot easier for me because it’s what I do every day. The mountains, the sheep and the dogs speak for themselves. It’s so beautiful – it was fun working out how to best showcase it. However, talking to the camera had me outside my comfort zone for sure.

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MR: It’s not the first time you’ve had media coverage though. You also landed the coveted New Zealand Skier magazine cover. Can you tell us about where that shot was taken and how you managed to capture it?

GR: That was up on Breast Hill, which is part of the Hawea Conservation Park. It has the most spectacular views that just drop away over Lake Hawea and beyond to Mt Aspiring National Park. A good friend of mine, Ross Mackay, always wanted to get up there for a mid-winter sunset pow shot. It was very late spring and after work we spontaneously decided to go up, just for fun. We got to the snowline in a 4wd, then had a half hour skin to the summit. A quiet whiskey to wait for the sun to set and then – boom. Roscoe got the shot!

We were really stoked with the photos he got, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we had a cover shot!

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MR: That’s awesome. So, where do you most enjoy skiing in New Zealand?

GR: Treble Cone is closest to where I live and it’s my favourite mountain. It has it all. I have been skiing there my whole life and I am still learning new lines. It has a good local feel to it. It’s my social place, where I get to see my friends.

I really love all the other mountains in the Southern Lakes as well. Cardrona is tons of fun and watching the stuff that happens in the park up there blows my mind. You can’t beat Coronet Peak on a good day, and it has a wild night skiing scene. And the Remarkables has the most unbelievable backcountry terrain.

Ohau is another absolute gem of a place; its lodge is a national treasure. And then there are the Canterbury club fields, each with their own culture and terrain. They have the most insane mix of inbounds riding and backcountry access and a pace of life that is good for the soul.

 

MR: Alright, let’s have it – your top 5 places you want to ski.

GR: 1) Mt Ruapehu. I haven’t skied the North Island of New Zealand yet, so that is pretty slack. 2) Little Cottonwood Canyon. I want to ski some of that Utah pow that has those little balls running down it. 3) Mt Baker, Washington. Legendary. 4) I want to watch the Hahnenkamm race in Kitsbuhel. Respect. 5) Haines, Alaska. Get a burger at Mile 33 and chew some baccy. I want to ring the bell in the Fogcutter. I want to pull up some crab pots. I want to get out of a heli and ski some pow overlooking the Chilkat Valley.

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MR: Of course, we must ask… what are your top five ski movies:

GR: The Leading Edge: A Kiwi classic that influenced a generation of NZ ski bums. Contrast: Nimbus Independent. Guatemalan Persuader: Mercon Industries. Valhalla: Sweetgrass Productions. Solitaire: Sweetgrass Productions.

 

MR: And your top five skiers?

GR: I like watching people that make skiing look as fun as it feels. Sammy Carlson, Candide Thovex, Chris Bentchetler. And a couple of local boys that always put on a fun show while you ride the chairlift… Tom Brownlee and Hank Bilous.

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MR: On a different note, what do you love so much about farming?

Farming for me is about working outside in a stunning mountainous environment.

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You are ruled by the seasons and nature. It keeps you humble. It is both a physical and mental challenge that pushes you to grow as a person every day. Getting to work with the animals is such a joy and it seems the older you get, the more you appreciate it. I could go on and on and on.

 

MR: Have you always been a farmer?

GR: No, I have worked in a bit of a crazy mix of vocations. I got a BPHED from Otago University. I spent time in the fishing industry. I worked on ski fields. I lived in Alaska for a year working as a builder’s labourer. I worked for Coca Cola… but let us never mention that ever again.

 

MR: As the Wool Guru, can you describe what’s happening on a typical ZQ farm right now?

GR: Right now, it’s springtime, so everybody is getting their shearing done and getting ready for lambing. The sheep have come through the winter and have had a full twelve months of fleece to protect them from the cold. It’s an exciting and very busy time for everyone. The sheep are glad to have their heavy fleece removed.

New grass growth is coming away, so the ewes will be able to provide plenty of milk for their lambs.

Merino sheep prefer minimal human interference for lambing. They want to be left alone. Farmers have special areas of their farms for lambing. They have saved these blocks up since Autumn so there is plenty of feed for lambing ewes. These blocks also offer shelter from spring storms, so an ewe and lamb can tuck away from a southerly blast and stay warm.

Farmers are always looking ahead into the seasons and are constantly planning in an everchanging dynamic environment.

 

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MR: When we talk about merino wool, we often hear the word ‘micron’. Can you tell us what a micron is?

GR: Micron is the measurement used to describe the diameter of a wool fibre. Merino wool has a finer micron than the wool that is used to produce carpets. This finer micron is what makes merino wool perfect for wearing next to you skin. It lacks the prickle factor that stronger micron wool may have.

 

MR: We know that ZQ Merino is the most ethical fibre for both the sheep and the people. One of the reasons why it’s good for the people is because ZQ farmers can secure long-term contracts with brands like Mons Royale. Can you explain why this is beneficial?

GR: Being able to secure contracts with brands is a good thing for farmers. A contract guarantees the farmer a price for their wool, sometimes years in advance. This takes away all the risk of selling wool on the commodities market and the wild fluctuations that can occur that are completely out of the farmer’s control. The farmer can budget and make solid plans for their business. They can get on with the business of growing the world’s best wool.

 

If you want to learn more about the ZQ merino wool used to create your Mons Royale apparel, explore the links below.

MR: When we talk about merino wool, we often hear the word ‘micron’. Can you tell us what a micron is?

GR: Micron is the measurement used to describe the diameter of a wool fibre. Merino wool has a finer micron than the wool that is used to produce carpets. This finer micron is what makes merino wool perfect for wearing next to you skin. It lacks the prickle factor that stronger micron wool may have.

 

MR: We know that ZQ Merino is the most ethical fibre for both the sheep and the people. One of the reasons why it’s good for the people is because ZQ farmers can secure long-term contracts with brands like Mons Royale. Can you explain why this is beneficial?

GR: Being able to secure contracts with brands is a good thing for farmers. A contract guarantees the farmer a price for their wool, sometimes years in advance. This takes away all the risk of selling wool on the commodities market and the wild fluctuations that can occur that are completely out of the farmer’s control. The farmer can budget and make solid plans for their business. They can get on with the business of growing the world’s best wool.

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If you want to learn more about the ZQ merino wool used to create your Mons Royale apparel, explore the links below.

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