Jake Doan compares and contrasts his two biggest passions—skiing and music

Jake Doan compares and contrasts his two biggest passions—skiing and music


Jake Doan at West Coast Sessions. Photo: Kjell Ellefson

David Steele: Music is a family affair for you. How does playing together affect how your family functions, where you go and how you grew up?

Jake Doan: I often say I was born into music just as much as I was born into skiing. From before I can remember, I was going to bluegrass festivals with my mom, dad and sister. My dad is an avid (and killer) musician. I love hearing stories about his buddies in bands like Leftover Salmon (shameless plug) staying at the house I grew up in Pennsylvania. Man, that must have been a good time having these great musicians stop by at my house to stay the night and jam! Too bad I was still in diapers.

I play in a band in the summertime with my dad on guitar, banjo, or dobro, and my sister on lead vocals. That’s why I always make the trip back home to Lake Placid in the summer; there’s always so much music going on and it’s a great way to connect with family members and friends. It’s hard to stay away.


You’ve done plenty of filming on skis, and spent some time on stage. Both are performances: what’s similar and how do they feel different?

There are certainly a few parallels between the two. At the core of each, it’s all about the satisfaction you gain. They’re both things you work on and want to get better at. Sure, you can learn a song once and go perform it at an open mic or whatever, but you’re going to be nervous and probably feel like you could have done it better. It’s the same with skiing. We have all put out edits from when we were younger and look back on them with a chuckle at what we thought, at the time, was awesome on a backyard rail. As I have progressed and moved up in my respective disciplines, my comfort level has grown, and I have found my own style in things.

On stage, its so in the moment. I actually feel like I sometimes play better on a stage most of the time. You have people watching, and hopefully they are stoked, and their energy transfers to you and your other friends on stage, which gets you excited. The cycle goes on from there. I remember so vividly playing two summers ago at a small venue in Lake Placid called Smoke Signals and there were so many people—friends, famly, tourists, etc. And they were so into it! I am still relatively new to performing but that was probably the most fun I have ever had playing music. I remember having a shit-eating grin on my face the whole night. Performing gets you so jacked up; it’s an incredible feeling. It’s similar to landing a trick you have been working on for hours at an urban or backcountry spot.

Many people know you as a skier, but as your musical talents show, your identity is more complex than just sliding down snow. How do you feel about how people see you mediated when it’s only part of who you are?

I mean, I feel like I’m a pretty straight forward guy. I love skiing, music, my friends and family, good beer and nachos. Plain and simple. I have no problems with being labeled as a skier, because that is probably what I would label myself, honestly. It’s my life, and if people only know that side of me, I don’t have any issues with that. If I get to know you off the slopes, then you will learn more about who I am, and that’s great too. Unless you just got back from Electric Daisy Carnival—then things may not work out! Just kidding, but not really.

Swingset Rail

Photo: Trevor Woods

Your roots are in New York, and you still spend a bit of time there, but how has living in Salt Lake City for school and skiing affected the music side of your life?

I love the Adirondacks. I moved there when I was ten and have always been in love with the place. As I mentioned, it’s hard to stay away. Not only because of my family and the music, but the landscape as well. It’s so beautiful. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the area or never been, just give “adirondack mountains” a Google search and you will know what I’m talking about.

That being said, I can’t stay away from Utah either. It’s truly the best of both worlds—the ADK’s and the Wasatch. As far as a music influence, I have met many good, diverse music-loving friends to jam with out here. Lake Placid is a small town, and while I have found a close group of people who I play with, beyond them, it’s fairly limited. Out here in Utah, I feel like the opportunity to meet other musicians is just around the corner. It’s not only that, but the Western ideology is certainly a transparent factor of my music. Looking west and knowing that just beyond Nevada lies California where, quite literally, all of my favorite musicians have come from is inspiring in itself. Also, looking out my window and seeing that Wasatch Front staring me in the face can be pretty inspiring.

Skiers scope lines—it’s about finding your way through the terrain and snow at hand, and the way in which you do it. How does that creative process differ for a musician?

That’s actually an interesting question, Steele. Obviously, when scoping a line, there is a certain calculated risk that comes into play. There can be a few right ways, and probably a really wrong way to go if you want to be riding out successfully. At the same time, one must realize what they are capable of, and their confidence, and assess whether or not they want to push the limits of what they know. Maybe you take the conservative line and ski it as smooth and as well as you know. Or, maybe, you take a risk and see what happens with the double stager, even if it’s sketchy. This same concept can be viewed from a musical perspective.

As a musician, I have found that there is definitely a “comfort zone” when improvising by myself, or even with others. I have certain riffs and styles already in my head depending on whether it’s a blues jam or a funk jam. It’s the same with having a bag of tricks in the park, or a familiar line at a resort. However, while playing an instrument certainly lacks the same mental toughness of pushing yourself skiing, you still need to push yourself beyond what your comfortable with, and step outside that box. And that’s where music is so fascinating. You can literally play whatever you want and the only consequence is that it sounds kind of bad (or, maybe, really bad). But, you won’t know what else sounds good until you just try it and see what happens.

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Related: Drop in on the multi-talented Jake Doan’s 2015 edit, “Duality”

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