Brody Leven is a rising name in American skiing. You might have seen him in Salomon Freeski TV’s feature episode Eclipse this year, or in different magazines finding deep snow in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains or in Romania’s Julian Alps. But you might not have seen Brody representing Protect Our Winters at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, or at Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop speaking on behalf of AIARE about assessing snowpack stability while traveling. He has traveled the globe looking for awesome climbs into technical ski descents, and found creative ways to tell the stories he creates while promoting environmental awareness and avalanche education through the lens of his experiences.
I sat down with Brody recently to catch up about his skiing and traveling history, the meaning of his personal brand, and a recent public hearing for the EPA in Utah that did not go according to plan.
I moved to Utah for college and to ski. I hated it at first, I arrived in August, when there is definitely no skiing and it’s over ninety degrees every day in the city. I started climbing to pass the time, which soon made me forget about skiing until the winter arrived. For the next few years, I alternated between the two and found that ski mountaineering combined the best parts of skiing and climbing.
Park skiing was my first passion. My first ski season in Utah I was in the park every day. The next season I was in the park half of the time. By my third season I spent almost no time in the park. These days my skiing is almost entirely human powered backcountry traveling, moving through the mountains without using machines.
I can work on this type of skiing as long as I stay alive. I will always push for improving myself, especially by going to more obscure places outside of my comfort zones. I do things now that sound horrible to most people, but that is part of adventure skiing that I enjoy. I think you need a high tolerance for suffering to be a ski mountaineer, which doesn’t appeal to most people. But one of my goals is to have good stories that inspire people to overcome challenges in their life, not necessarily related to ski mountaineering.
Being an adventure skier is a dynamic job. I am not tied to being “just” a ski racer or “just” a powder skier, because I suck at both of those. But I’m not always sure I’m cut out for the adventures I put myself in, either.
"So far, #COP21 is exactly what I hoped it would be: a surprise. I'm staying in a mindful hostel full of young, bright, forward-thinking journalists, bloggers, and activists in downtown Paris. It is sponsored by @benandjerrys who also makes our POW collab ice cream. Last night, I told a story on stage about the @salomonfreeski Eclipse, then @dnayscomedy improvised a hilarious skit about it. Now that @gretchenbleiler is gone, I'm on my own to navigate this city of international negotiations, low carbon emission technology, and pastries." -professional ski mountaineer @brodyleven #uniteforpow
There are three main spokes to my outlook on my position: Environmental awareness, avalanche education, and adventure through skiing, climbing, running, etc. The crucial part of an adventure is coming back to tell stories. These stories are shaped by environmental awareness and avalanche awareness/avoidance. These can all coexist, raising the credibility and image of each other at the same time.
I am not trying just to be a pro skier. I want to make myself a better person by making the world a better place for everyone. My goals are greater than me; my personal brand is for a greater good and not just for myself.
I was a content machine before content was a buzzword. Well, actually I was anti-social media until I figured out how to use it and make it work with my life. I somehow managed to go through four years of college without ever having Facebook. After that I dove in head-first. Now going skiing is not enough, I make a living by creating interesting content. This means not all of the content I create is about skiing, because I do things other than ski. I don’t always get paid in the short term, but it does contribute to my personal brand and therefore the greater good of what I am trying to accomplish.
To me, it’s more fun going uphill all day than going downhill all day. It gives more opportunity to have conversations and to learn about the environment I am traveling through.
The trip that got me hooked on adventuring skiing was the summer after my second year of college. I traveled to Argentina with heavy skis and first generation Marker Duke bindings in June and July because I thought that our summer is their winter. I pretty much arrived during their November and December during a low (no) snow year. I spent a month with open eyes before finding snow: different cultures, places I never dreamed of seeing, true dirtbag traveling. Skiing and climbing became the vehicles for me to continue to do this.
Now when I travel, I spend the majority of my time in the mountains. I sometimes struggle with not seeing the different cultures, food, and differences that most general tourists see, so I make an effort to try to spend time seeing these things wherever I go. For me, travel is not about being comfortable or just going to party; I travel to be uncomfortable, both in the mountains and in unique, different cultures.
Utah and the Wasatch are not as crowded as you think. The only places with too many people are the places you’d expect to have crowds, easily accessible ones. Take one step beyond those spots and the Wasatch Mountains have plenty of space for all of us. I wouldn’t live there if it sucked, I promise.
You may have heard, but POW Riders Alliance pros @brodyleven and @carolinegleich used their voices to stand up for clean air in Utah's national parks today at an @epagov public hearing in SLC. And it was amazing. Big thanks to the @sierraclub for organizing and to Brody and Caroline for braving the pro-coal mobs and representing the outdoor industry so incredibly well. ✌️
The EPA proposed regulations on limiting emissions from two coal power plants in central Utah to help eliminate the visible haze in some of Utah’s national parks. They held a public hearing on these proposals in Salt Lake City, and the Sierra Club held a press conference immediately beforehand. I am used to showing up at these events, giving a speech, getting a pat on the back, and carrying on. The press conference went that way, and then I was told to go in for the EPA Public Hearing. That’s when things got different.
In the building, there were several busloads of people from the counties where the coal power plants are located. They firmly believed that the EPA was there to close the power plants and destroy their communities and jobs. Our understanding was that the EPA was proposing scrubbers on the power plants to improve air quality, definitely not to shut anything down.
It became the three of us against 500, but we were talking about completely different things. I am used to speaking to supportive crowds, so it was the first time I spoke in front of a group that hated me before I even got on stage. Caroline Gleich gave a small speech before me, and everything we said was greeted by complete silence. I thought there was a clear misunderstanding that we were fighting for their health as well as ours, and that we did not want anyone to lose their job. But they didn’t see it that way.
It was nice to get something other than a pat on the back. To hear from the people that I know are out there, but never encounter–those that actually support exploiting our world’s limited fossil fuels–was a reality check that reinvigorated my drive to preserve a healthy planet for everyone, not just the cliche environmentalists.
What I took away from it was that people are out there who are very misinformed, either through bad information or leaders who push ideology instead of science and health. I was tempted to scrap my entire speech to address the misinformation I was hearing, but chose instead to speak directly to the EPA representatives, which is what I was there to do. It was a public hearing for the EPA to get the public’s opinion, not a debate platform. I came away reinvigorated and with a story that can be shared with the world: that this misinformation is still very real, and that there is still people that need education.
For more on Brody Leven, check out his website, BrodyLeven.com.