Remembering CR Johnson by Lorraine Johnson
LORRAINE JOHNSON, CR'S MOTHER
We lived in the mountains growing up. CR’s father started ski patrolling when CR was 2 years old, and I was skiing a lot, as well. I put him in the Mighty Mites program at Squaw Valley. The coaches would take the kids out and ski all over the mountain and they used to call him the “Air Detector.”
They’d say, “Okay, CR, you go off of this first and tell us if it’s good.” He was always bugging the coaches, saying, “We have to go off those cliffs. We have to go off those jumps. We can’t just keep doing the boring stuff.”
It was hard to ski down the mountain with him, even when he was 6 years old, because he wanted to get air on every single mogul and jump. He just had to get air. He joined the freestyle team, and it was obvious he was really talented in the air.
He met Tanner Hall at Vail, and they competed in their first big air contest together, but he always wanted to start doing what Kent Kreitler was doing. Kent and Shane McConkey were his role models.
P: Erik Seo
I remember me and my girlfriend going up Cornice II chairlift when CR was about 8. It’s the lift that goes up to the Light Towers where CR died. We saw some kids straightlining the Light Towers. At first, we didn’t know who they were, and then we looked at each other and went, “Those are our boys!” Those were our sons.
We spent all this money putting them through mogul school, and they were straightlining everything. CR finally woke up from the coma after almost two weeks. Tanner was in the room when he woke up. I think that Tanner’s energy, whenever he was in the room, would cause CR to be really into it.
It would make CR more present in his body, even though he was in outer space. And finally, he opened his eyes and Tanner was there. Tanner ran out into the intensive care and yelled, “YO! Nurse! He’s opening his eyes in here!” And then he ran back in and CR looked up at Tanner and lifted one arm and leg. The other side of his body wouldn’t move.
CR had to learn how to drink and eat and sit up. He couldn’t do anything. He was very weak and some of his body wouldn’t move. His voice didn’t work because he had a tube down his throat for two weeks. So breathing for him was hard and he would whisper things to people.
CR’s brain was really coming around very well in these last six months before he died, and he really got in touch with his spirituality. Before his accident, he was really just a young kid for whom everything had come too easy. When he came back from his injury, he had to work very, very hard at making himself better. He just adored his family. He was just really happy to be alive.
"It was hard to ski down the mountain with him, even when he was 6 years old, because he wanted to get air on every single mogul and jump. He just had to get air."
He took all the positive out of everything and forgot about the negative. But it was tough.
The last two years, CR had a girlfriend who would help him train. He never really trained before, because everything came naturally. I would see Daron Rahlves out on the trail, running. I never saw CR running anywhere until he met his girlfriend.
This last year he had been getting stronger and more positive. He wanted to start a company — him, Tanner and Cali P. — called Inspire. CR was going to design the clothing. He had so many plans, and he was the happiest he’d ever been in his life.
CR was so positive. He loved everything, especially his career and the whole industry. I think he took his career very seriously, his occupation, and trying to be true to his sponsors and to always be there for them. He was really excited about working with Matt Sterbenz and 4FRNT. He finally got to design skis that worked the way he wanted them to work.
He wanted to make a ski that would make the mountain a playground where you could go out like when you were a little kid — a Mighty Mite — and play and bounce off rocks and jumps, where you’re flying through the air and you’re making it like a dance out on the mountain. For CR, it was all about relaxing and enjoying the dance of life on your skis.