By the age of 15, Riley Poor already possessed the credentials of a bonafide ski bum. He was born in Oregon and spent his early childhood in Wilmington, Vermont, before moving to Crested Butte, Colorado, where he spent his teenage years soaking up powder days as a budding professional skier. It was here, at the age of 15, that he met legendary freeskier Seth Morrison, who introduced him to a whole ’nother realm.
Soon, Riley had evolved his professional goals. Instead of pursuing a full-time ski career, he was interested in becoming an action-sports filmmaker. So he interned with Matchstick Productions and used college money to buy a 16mm film camera. His first cinemagraphic feat was capturing Jay Quinlan soaring 80 feet in the air, over a dam spillway, on a snowmobile. Over the next eight years, Riley traveled the globe filming freeskiing, snowboarding, downhill mountain biking and freestyle snowmobiling, earning a reputation for his remarkable vision, and becoming an integral member of the action sport’s burgeoning community.
In 2007, his passion for the pursuit and its athletes inspired Riley to begin shooting Transitions, a documentary that parallels the freeskier Simon Dumont’s life with the sport’s history, highlighting additional influential figures within this extreme world and culture. The goal, Riley disclosed, was “to showcase personalities within [the sport] and show how their individual stories relate to the broader progression of action sports as a whole…and try to open more eyes to what’s going on in a sport that has completely reinvented itself over the last 10 or 15 years.”
Halfway through the filming of Transitions, on January 10, 2009, Riley’s world profoundly and irrevocably changed. While in Mount Snow, Vermont, for the Winter Dew Tour, Riley suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a swimming pool accident. The incident left him paralyzed in all of his extremities and his core, with some arm movement, but no hand function.
Less than a month after the accident, Riley described his paralysis as “something I was meant to go through,” later sharing how he “always knew, always had this feeling that I’d have this amazing test in my life, that I would walk away from victorious.“ This intrepid attitude never faltered. Throughout his initial recovery, he continuously eschewed sorrow for gratitude—gratitude for his family, his friends, the opportunities afforded him following the injury, and the ski community, which he calls “a web that no one can fall through.”
An astounding eight months later, in September 2009, Riley completed Transitions, which debuted to much acclaim and succeeded in meeting his original ambition: to boost the popularity and awareness of freestyle skiing, which will be featured in the Olympics for the first time this winter in Sochi, Russia.
Moreover, Riley has fully reprised his film work, producing videos for Nike Action Sports. Having served as the ski team manager of Nike 6.0 prior to his paralysis, he is currently the Global Video Production Manager of Nike Snowboarding and Skateboarding, which has seen him working on myriad films and advertising campaigns, including the award-winning Never Not series, and continuing to inspire—both through his cinematographic achievements and his personal accomplishments, which comprise returning to the slopes on a sit ski and fully embracing the present because, Riley reveals, “I have learned that there is no guarantee [for] tomorrow.”