Chris Davenport gives the low-down on the Centennial Peaks Project, “Faces of Dav” and more
Chris Davenport is among the hardest working athletes in the ski industry, and his 2013/14 season is a prime example of that. Between trips to Norway, Alaska, Italy and Hawaii, he became a part owner of Kastle, began work on his new Red Bull series, The Faces of Dav and continued to knock off descents on his Centennial Peaks Project with Ted and Christy Mahon.
What did you do this season?
We got Dav on the horn last week to talk about his season and his upcoming projects for the summer and fall.
On the phone:
Hey Dav, how’re you?
I’m good, just got back from Norway last weekend and I’m enjoying a couple of days at home. Right now I’m packing up my gear before I head down to the San Juan [Mountains, Colorado] to ski a couple more Thirteeners.
How’s the snow holding up down there?
I think it’s OK; it’s June, so this time of year it’s nothing special but for the committed there’s definitely still skiing to be done out there.
What’ve you been up to the past couple of weeks?
I was just in Norway, down in Svalbard, filming for my Red Bull series and for Matchstick [Productions], which was awesome. It was a really great trip, living on a sailboat and sailing through all of these fjords, looking for great terrain. It was very productive, we had a great group with James Heim, Michelle Parker and Ingrid Backstrom, so it was definitely a fun crew, in addition to the filmers and photographers. That was my last international ski trip of the season, although, it never really ends, I’m going to Austria in a couple of weeks to do some ski testing, and I’ll be in South America for all of August. But I’m done for a little while anyway.
Do you want to touch a bit on your Faces of Dav project with Red Bull?
It’s a really cool opportunity and I’m really excited about it. It’s just one of those things that Red Bull brings to the table as a sponsor and a partner, is this opportunity to do big projects like this one. So, when they approached me with it last fall, I was like, ‘this sounds great.’ We had to come up with eight episode ideas and instead of just doing eight different trips and having the show be different travel destinations, the idea was to really touch on all of the different aspects of my life and career as a skier, because I have my hands in many different aspects of the sport and the industry.
The series is called The Faces of Dav, and it focuses on all of the different hats I wear in the business, from father, husband and Aspen local to ski company owner and ski guide to mountaineer and adventurer. There’s even one episode that we’re calling the “Legend” episode, and it sort of goes back twenty years to all of my old Matchstick and Warren Miller footage, turning the tape back and re-editing all of the older stuff and putting that together to show it in regards to history and the growth of freeskiing. The episodes start airing this fall, in October, and there will be an episode every week for eight weeks. It’s been a big focus of my winter, a ton of the travel I did this year was for that, but it was totally worthwhile, I think it’s going to be really cool.
You mentioned earlier that you were getting ready to head down to southern Colorado to continue your Centennial Peaks Project. What’s the status on that?
The goal of the Centennial Peaks Project is to ski the 100 highest mountains in Colorado. And, I’ve already done the 54 Fourteeners, and then was working on the 46 highest Thirteeners. Last spring I think I skied 29 or 30 [Thirteeners], so that left me with about 16 for this season. This year, being so busy with this Red Bull series and all of my other work, coupled with some weather issues, I’ve gotten nine of them done, so I’m at seven left and I’m going to try and get that down to five or four here in the next couple of days.
We were hoping to finish this spring but we’re not going to finish. Some of the peaks in the Weminuche Wilderness, which is between Silverton and Durango and is the largest wilderness area in Colorado, there are five of the Centennial Thirteeners in there. We did this big traverse with [photographer] Ian Fohrman, in fact he’s got some awesome images, although he’s in China right now, but he came along and Ted and Christy [Mahon] and myself, we were hoping to get all five, but we only ended up getting two. Two [failures] were due to weather and one was due to difficulty, it was just super hard. We’re going to have to revisit those peaks next winter or spring, with a different strategy and plan about how to pull them off. But, that’s part of the project, is figuring out logistics and how you can access and ski these peaks that, frankly, never get skied or very rarely get skied. It’s OK, we’re going into next season with a short list and a bit of extra motivation to try and finish them, it’s not like there’s anyone nipping at our heels to do this, so it’s not too big of a deal to push it.
Which peaks do you have left?
The ones that I’m going to bag in the next couple of days are two unnamed peaks, point 13,811 and point 13,822, outside of Lake City. Then there’s the Rio Grand Pyramid, which is at the headwaters of the Rio Grande River, sort of between Lake City and Creed, in the eastern San Juans. I’ve got to do Huerfano in the Sangre de Cristo range, and then the three peaks in the Weminuche that we talked about, Pigeon, Turret and Jagged, which are all really challenging, and I think that’s it.
Do you have a favorite peak that you’ve bagged for the project?
It’s funny, that’s a good question. It’s kind of like the Fourteeners, there’s so many, that ultimately there are some that become favorites and some that you want to forget about. There’s some that have fantastic skiing and some that are regrettable, and just not that great. There are some that standout, in Aspen I would say that three of the best ones in the state are right here, Cathedral, Haegerman and Thunder Pyramid, which Ted Mahon and I did a first descent of the east face about four or five years ago. It’s ultra classic and really big, steep, tough and awesome. One of the ones we did in the Weminuche was called Vestal Peak, and skiing the south face of Vestal was really awesome as well. Then there’s some that kind of surprise you; there’s the Fourteener, Mount of the Holy Cross, which is a famous peak near Vail, right behind that, on the same ridge, is what’s called Holy Cross Ridge, and that was awesome, it totally surprised us and it’s almost as high as its parent Mount of the Holy Cross, but we had awesome skiing and a really big, fun day. Those are some of the standouts, I guess, and there are certainly plenty of others. One of the last ones we skied was Mount Adams down in the Sangre de Cristo range, right next to Kit Carson and Crestone. It had a big west face and it was really awesome, made for a long, super fun day.
Besides the ones that you weren’t able to complete, were there any that were the most difficult?
Some of the ones I just mentioned, like Thunder Pyramid is super difficult. One of the definite classics and more difficult ones is right above Telluride, which is Dallas Peak. And Dallas has not been skied very much, even though it’s right above town. We skied it in a foot and a half of new spring powder snow on a beautiful blue sky day with Pete Gaston along as well, and another friend Sean Sheahan from Aspen as well. It was fun hanging out in Telluride and skiing the big south and west side of the mountain, looking out over the San Juans. It was super inspiring and a huge highlight.
Another difficult one that we did last spring, right next to the Fourteener Mount Sneffels, is Teakettle Peak, and it’s considered, in the summertime, one of the more difficult Centennial Thirteeners to climb. We got it with some great spring conditions that made for some inspiring climbing. There’s tons of standouts and for me it’s just a real motivating project that just gets me out there to these amazing places, which is what I love about ski mountaineering. It’s the discovery of new mountains and my hobby is kind of collecting summits, collecting ski descents, it’s one of the things that inspires me, checking goals off the list I’ve set for myself.
Switching gears a little bit, do you want to talk a bit about your Super Stars Camp down in Portillo?
This year is the eleventh year of the camp and the fourteenth year that I’ve been going down to Portillo, the coaches this year are Ingrid, Chris Anthony, Mike Douglas, Wendy Fisher, Jess McMillan as well as Jesse Hoffman, who is sort of my photo and media guy. Just an A-list crew once again, we’re all great friends who enjoy spending time together, and I’ll be there for the entire month of August, although the camp is just one week, the ninth until the sixteenth; I’ve got some private clients the week before and I’ve got my family coming down the week after, and we’re going to be filming for the Red Bull series the final week after that, up until early-September.
All of the GoPro athletes, yourself included, just went down to Hawaii for a company retreat. How beneficial was that as an athlete and brand ambassador?
It was really cool; they sort of took a page from the Red Bull model, we used to do all of these athlete retreats and meetings. To gather some of the world’s top athletes in all of these different sports, snow sports, water sports, moto sports, you name it. It was such an A-list group of people, hanging out with moto guys like Nate Adams and Rodney Redder, then hanging out with Travis Rice and Shaun White, my roommate was Shane Dorian, the big wave surfer, and it just goes on and on. That in itself, gathering all of these people, motivates everybody and just gets everyone super stoked, being part of something bigger than just a sponsorship. This company is investing in you, we did a bunch of seminars that detailed how to use cameras and edit footage, and sought to get us all better at using the product, which was really cool because ultimately it benefits everybody.
Then, spending a bunch of time in the water doing a bunch of water sports with everyone. It was such an incredible group. As far as the skiers go, we all kind of know each other, but we don’t really get to spend that much time together. For me to get to hang out with Tom Wallisch, Bobby Brown, Tanner Hall, Grete Eliassen, Kaya Turski, some of the freestyle skiers that I know but never get to hang out because we’re on different programs, that was really awesome. Julia Mancuso on the ski racing side, it was this really nice variety of talent. It was totally awesome and everybody left there fired up on the brand, fired up on their sports and their teammates, more or less, you really feel like you’re part of this team.
Switching to another one of your sponsors, one that you’re now a co-owner of, what’s going on with Kastle?
Now as an owner I have an invested interest in the company and it’s something that I really enjoy. It’s an extra motivating factor, no longer is it enough to just give my input on designs and testing, I really have to make sure we have the right products for the right customers and that we’re actually creating skis that we can sell and that are going to help us grow. It’s not just skis that I want, but skis that the whole industry and the consumers want. Just getting to work with the Board of Directors and getting to make bigger business decisions and trying to grow the company in a smart and efficient way, I’m learning a lot and it’s just a natural progression of my career in this industry and my career as a skier is to be involved on this level, and it’s something I’ve really worked hard at for most of my life, so the opportunity came and I took it and am really proud. It makes me that much better of a brand ambassador because I’m part owner.
With all this travel you’ve got going on, are you going to have any time to enjoy Aspen’s summer?
Honestly not as much as I would like. It’s really nice being home right now for a few days, getting on my bikes and hanging out with my kids, I’m actually in the garage tuning skis right now because my two older boys are getting ready to go to Mt. Hood on Friday. So, I’m still working on ski stuff and have been working on designs for our t-shirts for Portillo this morning. There’s always stuff to do in my business, which is really fun, even though you’d like to have some time completely off and it’s never really the case. But, I’m going to take off for Mexico, just me and my wife, the two of us for a little bit next week. I’m going to Austria at the end of the month to do some ski testing and design meetings for Kastle and then July’s here, going to see some music, then head to Portillo.
About the author:
Donny O'Neill hails from the mystical, faraway land of New Hartford, CT. When he's not in the mountains searching for Big Foot, he's the Associate Editor here at Freeskier.