Photo: Chris Whitaker (@kh.chris)
Why are you a skier?
How much time do you have? [Laughs] Skiing is unique and it evolves on a daily basis, depending on what you want and what you want out of it. Conditions continually change, from day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute depending on physical location, terrain, aspect, and prevailing weather factors. When I started skiing, it was the ultimate freedom, a place I could play with the natural elements while inciting pure adrenaline-fueled exhilaration at any moment in time. It’s like having control of a rollercoaster where at any given moment, you have a choice to scare yourself senseless or go on the dumbo ride. Over time, skiing has developed into a love that covers every human-constructed categorical space. The act of skiing itself challenges my minds’ ability to analyze, execute and adapt quickly. It challenges my body to stay healthy, fit and endure long missions. And it allows my spirit to completely relax in the tranquility of nature while fully engaging in my surroundings.
What’s your favorite part about the backcountry experience?
One part… Hmmm… I guess it's the combination of journeying into a veritable blank canvas where all of your faculties are employed while allowing for personal discovery. Or just skiing powder with good friends, where few humans tread.
What gear do you like to ski? Skis, bindings, skins?
Skis. All types except ski jumping skis! All skis perform differently, which is one of the beauties of the sport. If I could only ski one ski, I’d ride a mid-fat, semi-playful, semi-charger in the 108-112 range coupled with a versatile pin binding with a high DIN rating. I love taking out GS and SG skis on cold crisp mornings, I love skinny bump skis for mashing moguls, fat full rocker skis for those deep days and long and straight when I’m feeling uninspired. As for skins, I prefer a mohair blend that has adequate glide but better uphill performance. Most missions I go on are more vertical approaches where gliding is not as much of a priority. If I go for a long approach or know I will encounter a long flat section, I’ll use kicker skins. Kicker skins are modified skins that are essentially g-strings.
Any unusual quirks in your setup?
Not to my knowledge. The things I bring all feel pretty regular to me. My whole setup is composed of very “normal” backcountry products.
Best backcountry fuel?
Fruit Snacks! I like the variety pack. They are more of a placebo, but make me happy and remind me of my daughters because that’s how we incentivize them to ski longer. And more seriously, I love Gnarly Nutrition’s Gnarly Greens before a long mission, and I’ll bring along a personal hydration formula from either Gnarly or Skratch Labs because I sweat… and when I say I sweat, I mean I sweat! I also tend to bring along a few different bars. One of my favorites is the chocolate peanut butter bar from Tahoe Trail Bars.
How do you prep for a big day in the backcountry?
This could be a long one but I’ll try to make it short and sweet... I organize the night before and make sure I have the essentials; batteries charged, headlamp, hat, sunscreen, proper layering, food, pre-load my French press, review the weather forecast and any recent avalanche condition observations that could relate to my objective and inform my decision making. I usually pre-apply my skins to save time and pack a tote to carry extra stuff including; water, layers, socks, food for post-mission and a few beers to celebrate afterward.
Pep Fujas and Matt Sterbenz skinning in the Wasatch
Photo: Adam Clark (@acpictures)
What are some of your favorite places to ski and why?
My backyard is Little Cottonwood Canyon and the greater Wasatch range in Utah. It provides everything from mellow pow skiing to challenging mission-oriented objectives. I really love the diversity and featherlite snow. I love Japan for its incredible ability to provide continuous powder days. I love Alaska and BC for their massive runs, relatively stable snowpack and playful terrain - pillows, spines and as much trouble as you want to get yourself into!
What is one of your best recent ski memories?
Personally, I had two days this season where I skied Mt. Superior in absolutely unbelievable conditions. One day we were shooting for Cody Townsend’s Fifty Project and the other on a casual mission with Matt Sterbenz. Another one I have to share is watching my 3yr old daughter ski a groomed black diamond.
How do you continue to hone your skiing?
I continually think about skiing because I know I can still get better. I think about how my weight can be distributed in different situations, when I can be light on my feet, how I can approach various features or obstacles and position my body in ways that will change the experience or make it more fluid or energetic.