Ian Compton believes in aliens—especially after a close encounter on a walkabout last Thanksgiving night with his sister, Vanessa, and her boyfriend. While wandering through fresh snow in the woods around Compton’s yurt in Greensboro, Vermont, Ian noticed a sapling forming the shape of a portal. Compton’s superstitious side lured him through. The trio marveled at three massive oak trees and in wine-induced Vermont tradition, they each hugged one. They meandered separate directions, when suddenly, the entire forest lit up with a soul-stirring blue glow. Compton felt an overwhelming sense of something he struggles to describe, but he couldn’t bring himself to look to the sky. The fluorescent color exploded three more times. They’ve researched possible sources—lightning or an exploding electrical transformer—but the Comptons are positive it was something otherworldly. “I’m an avid believer of entities outside our knowing and have always wanted to experience something mind blowing,” says Compton.
There aren’t many—if any—outspoken conspiracy theorists in the ski industry, but there also aren’t any yurt living, chicken raising, vegetable growing, woodworking, Carhartt wearing, one-footed rail sliding pro skiers who rarely leave home. So, the notion that Ian Compton would believe he’s been in the presence of extraterrestrials (and Bigfoot) kind of makes sense. It aligns with his quirky brand that’s so different from everything else in skiing. It’s garnered a cult following for the 26-year-old that’s kept him incredibly visible for a guy who conducts interviews on a landline.
“He can be at any ski resort in the world and people recognize him,” says Shane McFalls, the filmer and editor for Line Traveling Circus and Yoke Collection. “It’s insane. Every time you ski with him, people will come up to him and freak out, even when he’s with dudes who are a bigger deal in the public eye. We were with Nick Goepper [the 2014 Olympic slopestyle bronze medalist and three-time defending X Games champ in the same discipline] and no one freaked out on him like they did with Ian.”
“Compton is a prime example of someone doing it right,” explains Evan Williams, team and digital marketing manager at Nordica, and one of Ian’s best friends. “He’s an endless stream of content. His personality and what he brings to skiing are so relatable.”
Williams met Compton during their sophomore year of high school at Vermont Academy, and they became close friends while skiing at nearby Mount Snow. “He’s one of the goofiest, funniest, best personalities to be around,” says Williams. “After skiing with him for a couple years, it was pretty obvious he was going places in the industry.”
The two made their first edit together in 2008, using only two days’ worth of footage, captured at Okemo. Compton’s innovative 360 switch up—the opening shot—helped earn more views than Williams ever expected. Compton joined the Line Traveling Circus that same year, effectively launching his ski career; his weekly webisode series, The Weak, further solidified his position as an Internet ski star. Compton represented Line Skis for four years before signing with Nordica in 2013, a move that dropped jaws. Two years later, his fans aren’t over it. When Compton posts a picture of his dog, Gretel, on Instagram, there’s a good chance the first comment is from a kid asking why he left Line. But Compton says it was a calculated decision. He lives less than an hour from Nordica’s US office, and his best friend manages the team. “Evan trusts me, so I can just be weird and off in the woods making videos, and he knows people will watch them,” he says.
Compton grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont, with his father, a successful musician who played with the likes of Van Morrison and The Allman Brothers; mother, a painter from Québec; and sister, a cellist and pianist turned visual artist and professional rock climber. Tall, super skinny and having a larger-than-life smile, Compton’s nickname “Chompers” didn’t take long to stick, which Compton says he doesn’t mind. Hockey occupied most of Compton’s time until he was 14 years old and tried skiing for the first time. The freedom from the rink, the creativity of the sport and the speed resonated with him.
“I immediately bought twin tips,” Compton says. “It’s all I’ve thought about for pretty much the rest of my life.”