The big-mountain monster (and family man) raps about the snow in Chile, upcoming films, books and his new line of Spyder gear.
Renowned big mountain skier, ski mountaineer, climber, author and sports commentator Chris Davenport has carved an enviable career out of his love for the mountains. He’s won the World Extreme Skiing Championships, skied all of Colorado’s 14ers in less than a year, logged first descents around the world, starred in numerous movies and earned a reputation as a modest, hard-working professional. Not one to rest on his laurels, he’s charging into this ski season with a new gear line, an upcoming book and movie, international expeditions and, when he’s not working, family time. We caught up with Davenport in August in Portillo, Chile.
What have you been doing since you completed your Ski the 14ers Project (which took place from January ’06 to January ’07)?
I’ve been keeping the gas pedal down and skiing iconic peaks around the world, including all of the other 14ers in the lower 48 (except for two in California), a bunch of stuff in the Tetons, the Eiger, Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc and Monte Rosa in the Alps, two ski trips up Denali (one as a guide), two trips to the Antarctic Peninsula, three trips to the Andes and so on. Basically, I travel full time in search of great skiing in beautiful places. I also worked as the host announcer for all the skiing events at the Olympics in Whistler, which was a huge honor.
What media projects are you working on?
I’ve got two in the works. The first is my new Antarctica film documentary, called “Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey.” It’s a beautiful testament to skiing in one of the world’s most aesthetic environs. The film will be out this fall (catch the trailer at antarcticskiodyssey.com). I’m also working on a new book titled “50 Classic Ski Descents of North America” with my friends and partners Penn Newhard and Art Burrows. My first book, “Ski the 14ers,” was so successful that I wanted to do another one, and we took it to the next level with this new, large-format, coffee-table book. It’s 200 pages of beautiful images of some of the most aesthetic peaks in North America with writings by top ski alpinists like Jimmy Chin, Andrew McLean, Eric Pehota, Chic Scott, Greg Hill, Glen Plake and Hilaree O’Neill. [You can order the book online at wolverinepublishing.com.]
What are you doing down in Portillo?
I’m hosting my Superstars Ski Camp (now in its seventh year) and we are having a blast with 30 great clients from all over the world. The camp is geared toward expert skiers wishing to take their skiing to the next level by skiing hard with top pro freeskiers for a week. They’re here to push the envelope. They leave with new and improved skills that make them more proficient skiers, more efficient backcountry travelers, wiser decision makers and generally more responsible mountain people. We try and mostly ski steeper, off-piste terrain although we aren’t afraid to warm up on a groomer here or there. I’ve been coming here for a decade and it feels like a family more than anything. There’s only one hotel to stay in and no village. All my clients arrive on Saturday and we set sail for a week of good, hard skiing. We eat our meals together, the coaches do evening presentations, we show films … and you don’t touch your wallet the entire week.
What’s your next big ski project?
I have a couple sticks in the fire for next year but nothing that I’ve pulled the trigger on yet. I’ll be working on that this fall between time spent touring with the Antarctica film, the new book and Warren Miller.
Rumor has it you’re getting involved with solar energy. Tell us more.
I have had some conversations with some very bright people who are doing cool things with solar in Colorado and I plan on getting more involved as time goes on. I’m a big fan of creating and managing our own energy needs if it can be done efficiently and shared.
What is your life like when you’re not skiing?
It’s still the life of a skier. There’s a lot of trip and project planning, design and development work with sponsors, involvement with media projects, and long-range planning of my career. I’m busy 24/7 with ski stuff. But nothing beats being up in the hills with friends.
You have three sons, ages 2, 7 and 9. How do you balance parenting and your ski career?
The two older ones just left Chile before camp started after a great 10-day family trip to the Atacama Desert for hiking and biking and to Portillo for some skiing. We have a blast traveling together, and my boys are becoming pretty worldly. But balancing my skiing career and family is hard for sure. I was gone 160 days last year, and that’s tough on the kids. But that’s what they have grown up with, and my wife Jesse is very supportive and encouraging, which takes a ton of pressure off of me while I’m gone. When I’m home I’m 100 percent dad for them, not Chris Davenport Pro Skier Guy.
Do you hope your kids become professional athletes like you?
Jesse and I definitely encourage the kids to do as many things as they would like, but we don’t pressure them. I want them to be happy, responsible and humble kids. I don’t care what sports they do or love, as long as one of those is skiing. That’s our family lifestyle and something that has been big for our families for generations.
How has aging and becoming a dad affected your pursuit of adventure and your comfort level with risk?
I get this question a lot. As I’ve gotten older I have a deeper well of experience to draw from when making good decisions in the mountains. That wisdom is something that I didn’t have even 10 years ago. The older I get the better I get at managing risk. I can draw on experience and a bunch of great partners to help me make good decisions with regards to risk. As far as the kids go, I really never think of them when I’m getting down to the tasks at hand in the mountains. I’m just really focused out there when I’m skiing or moving through dangerous terrain. So it’s not until the end of the day that I take time to contact them or think about them.
Is it true you have a new line of gear?
I have a new collection of clothing that my friend and ski partner Stian Hagen and I designed for Spyder called the White Spyder Collection that is geared specifically towards backcountry skiers and ski alpinists. Our inspiration came from trips together in Antarctica and the Alps and have attempted to build the lightest, most functional gear out there. •