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The Ski Mountaineer: Chris Davenport Interview

Chris Davenport, 37, is a world-renowned skier, mountaineer, adventurer and record breaker. His latest feat was his famous ‘Skiing the 14er’s’ project which saw Chris climb and ski all 54 mountains over 14,000ft in the state of Colorado. We catch up with the world famous ski mountaineer to chat slopes, surgeries and mowing the lawn…

From: Aspen/ Snowmass, Colorado

Sponsors: Snow+Rock and Helly Hansen

Have you always loved the outdoors?
Yes, my parents were big outdoor lovers and they passed that on to my siblings and I. We love all outdoor sports.

How did you get into skiing?
My dad was a ski racer and we grew up skiing and racing at a small ski area in New Hampshire. It was our big family activity and we all loved it so much.

How did you make the progression to backcountry expeditions?
I believe that skiing is an evolution within us and throughout our lives. What we love to do on skis when we are kids might be different than what we love to do when we are older. I ski raced for many years, then got into competitive freeskiing and filming, and am now loving ski alpinism. Maybe ten or twenty years from now I ‘ll be trying new sensations in skiing, but I’m pretty happy right now with the backcountry mountaineering thing.

When did everything turn serious and you decided to commit yourself to skiing full time?
I was pretty much committed to skiing full time since I was maybe 14 or 15 and racing. I didn’t really make anything of my ski racing career, so I switched to freeskiing and then my career really took off. Once I won the World Championships in 1996 I realized that I could make a business out of it.

What made you decide to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-ft peaks within one year?
I was looking for some new goals and challenges in the fall of 2005 and was out on a long bike ride by myself when the idea came to me. I clearly remember thinking about the 14ers and wondering if I could ski them all in one year or less.By the time I got back from that ride I had made up my mind to spend the next year working on that project.

How did you prepare for the trip?
I didn’t really do too much special training aside from what I would normally do. But I did research all the peaks and speak with others that had skied 14ers that I hadn’t done yet, just so I could have a clear idea of what was possible and how to make it all happen as efficiently as possible. The project was spread out over such a long time period that I was season and focus on other goals, which helped keep my motivation up.

What’s your favourite place to practice?
I love skiing no matter where I am, but I certainly think the skiing around Aspen is tough to beat.

Do you still get nervous before a big challenge?
Not really, and I never really have gotten nervous. But sometimes I get a little anxious before a big trip, like right now sitting in Ushuaia, Argentina about to get on a boat bound for Antarctica.

How did it feel to finally conquer all of the peaks?
It was an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and the fulfilment of a big dream. I literally had tears in my eyes at the bottom of peak #54, Longs Peak.

Do you consider yourself to be an adrenaline junkie?
Not really, I’m not a crazy adrenaline guy, more of a spiritual guy I think.

Can you give us a run down of your average day?
Well during the winter I travel so much that I’m not sure there really is an average day. But when I am home I usually take my kids to school at 8 and head to the ski area to ski hard with friends until about 2:30, when I’ll go grab my kids again and take them to the nordic ski track or climbing wall or some activity that we can do together. Dinner in our house (we have three boys) is around 6:30 and I’m not really a night guy, so we are usually in bed at 10!

And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
Definitely skiing powder with my family, and then perhaps a date at night with my wife to one of our favourite Aspen restaurants and a movie maybe.

You must travel a lot in your line of work: what are your suitcase essentials?
You know nothing really that special, just comfortable clothes like jeans, hoodies, t-shirts, and of course all my ski stuff.

What have been your biggest career setbacks?
I have had four knee surgeries, but they have only been minor setbacks. I think losing friends in the mountains is a huge setback emotionally.

But on the flip side, what have your greatest achievements been so far?
For sure my kids are a great achievement, but all of the contests that I won, plus big projects like the 14ers and alps Project have been incredibly satisfying.

Which of your expeditions have you enjoyed the most?
I love the Himalayan trips I have been on to Makalu, Baruntse, and Annapurna. Traveling in that part of the world is really amazing. I have also had an amazing ski trip to Denali in Alaska where we skied four first descents.

What affect does your career have on your personal life?
It definitely makes our life a little more high profile, but I try hard to be “regular guy” at home.

How do you relax when you get the chance?
I like to get on my tractor and mow our big lawn.

What’s up next for you?
I am sitting in a hotel in Ushuaia right now waiting to board a boat, the Vavalov, headed across the Drake Passage to ski on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Are there any spots you still want to conquer?
There are definitely a lot of spots I would like to visit, but conquer isn’t a word I would use. I want to visit the Karakoram range in Pakistan, the islands of Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland, and the Cordillera Blanca in Peru.


Images courtesy of: Helly Hansen

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