Marcus Caston has been shredding Alta and Snowbird since he was a tiny two-year-old. After competing as a high-level ski racer, he turned to freeskiing and filming to rekindle his passion for the sport. In recent years, he’s ventured more and more into the backcountry, becoming a self-proclaimed ”couloir skier” in the process. The Utah-native skis with a power and grace that would make the most seasoned skiers jealous—his signature turn transitions make it appear as though he’s barely touching the snow surface at all. Caston, whose own video series, Return of the Turn, has made a splash this fall, takes us through a multitude of his “firsts,” below.
HOMETOWN: Salt Lake City, Utah
SPONSORS: Blizzard, Tecnica, Helly Hansen, POC, Leki, Osprey
The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m pretty introverted and shy. I promise I’m not trying to be an asshole, I just get lost in my head sometimes.
The first thing I reach for in the refrigerator are eggs for the daily breakfast burritos.
Every time you eat a burrito it’s like having one for the first time. They are just that magical.
The first time I realized having long hair and skiing went hand in hand was when I first saw Glen Plake at a Warren Miller movie premiere when I was a kid. But, honestly I just hate scheduling haircuts… or anything else for that matter.
The first ski movies I ever watched were those same Warren Miller flicks as a kid, when the tours would come to Salt Lake City. But the first movies I got really into and watched over and over were MSP’s There’s Something About McConkey and TGR’s Tangerine Dream.
The first place I head to when it snows 20 inches or more is a secret.
The first song I play on a long road trip is Lucinda Williams’ “Right in Time” from “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” It’s definitely the best road-tripping album out there.
The first time I went skiing with Jonny Moseley was this spring at Squaw Valley, when I filmed bumps with Jonny for my Return of the Turn project. The whole time I was just like, “Oh, my god, oh, my god, act normal, act normal.” He’s just such a nice guy and an unbelievable skier. It truly was one of the coolest days of my life.
The first place I went touring internationally was Svalbard, Norway, for a feature Kim Havel wrote for FREESKIER many years ago. That was actually my first season with a touring setup and my first real touring trip. I was really out of my comfort zone and scared a lot of the time. Fortunately the group was made up of patient, understanding and helpful people. I asked lots of questions and everybody in the group helped me along. That trip was instrumental to me for setting my tone and finding my values in the backcountry.
The first time I knew I was hooked on skiing in the backcountry was that same trip, in Svalbard. Up until then, I thought that touring was fun, at times, but wasn’t 100-percent sold on the effort-to-skiing ratio. In Svalbard we anchored on a fjord with hundreds of couloirs and at some point I remember thinking to myself that I only wanted to be a couloir skier from then on.
The first couloir I bootpacked up was the first one we did on the “Zebra Wall” in Svalbard. We took the zodiac boat to the beach and booted straight up from there. There were low clouds that day so the upper half was shrouded in the clouds, making for an even crazier vibe. Again, I was really uncomfortable most the time; I even bailed on the cruxy first turn and had to watch a couple people do it before me. Once we were on the beach I couldn’t have been more elated to be alive, it was that moment that got me fully addicted to couloirs.
My routine on the morning of a backcountry tour consists of, first and foremost coffee and a good breakfast burrito, obviously. Over coffee I take the time to read the avalanche forecast and observations. You can learn a lot from simply reading the forecast every day, even if you’re not going skiing that day. Then I come up with a plan A, a plan B and hit the road.
The first time you go heli-skiing is like being stuck in the desert for five years without seeing a human, then one day stumbling into a colony of Norwegian girls and immediately being offered a Big Mac, a puppy and a back rub.
The first true backcountry partner I had was my lady crush, Keely. She had recently retired from the U.S. Ski Team and we started touring and learning about the backcountry together. It was really nice to start from scratch and learn with somebody because we would constantly bounce questions off each other. Is this right? I’m noticing this, what does that mean? That’s the most important thing in the backcountry, I think, to check your ego and constantly question everything.
My first kiss was with a girl I met in a hot tub on a ski race trip. Oh, how not much has changed!
The first place I’d tell people to go skiing outside of North America would be Cortina, Italy is the best full ski experience you can have, I think. Best food, best wine, best coffee, best ice cream and best couloirs.
A really nice place to be standing at the first light of day is just about anywhere, because sunrise is nice most everywhere, except maybe the bar. Watching the sun come up from the top of a mountain is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.
The first person I call on a powder day is… well, usually I won’t call anybody. I like skiing on my own for the first few runs if I can. I get super amped, ski really hard for a few laps and then meet up with friends in the afternoon.
For people looking to get into the backcountry, my first piece of advice is that the backcountry is not the place to be a hero. Be mellow and go easy. Take a deep breath, everything should slow way down. Make sure you learn from the right people—the right people are usually the older and quieter ones.
I’m going to go skiing now, but first I need to make a pot of coffee.
Blizzard Zero G 95 Ski — $840
The Zero G 95 is Blizzard’s mid-width touring ski, a daily driver for backcountry rippers. A uni-directional, threedimensional carbon frame combines with a featherweight paulownia wood core and layers of directional fiberglass for incredible strength, torsional rigidity and stability, with minimal weight.