People tend to do a double-take when they see Sierra Quitiquit. Sure, it happens on sidewalks in Park City and in lift lines at Alta, but they also do it in front 100-foot-tall screens in Times Square, ads in Cosmo and TV commercials. Her blonde hair flows past her waist and demands attention. Her 5’10” frame is strong and feminine, and her feet are gnarly, gross, and destroyed by ski boots.
While Sierra’s career as a model for brands like American Eagle, Lulu Lemon, and Nike rockets forward, her skiing is quickly and simultaneously coming into its own. Her recent moves to Discrete, Spyder and Volkl are defining her as not only one of the hardest-charging skiers in the scene but a respected representative of brands reaching across industry lines.
Quitiquit isn’t home in Utah very frequently. I caught up with her between trips to New York and Japan, curious about her life that so many people refer to as “the dream.”
Hey, Sierra. Hi @brodyleven!
You’re a professional skier—in that you are paid to ski—and professional model—in that you are paid to model. Talk further about your roles in the ski and model worlds. I don’t really like roles. I think it’s just easier to be. I feel like a role puts parameters on life and I’ve never really been one for fences. I get confused among all the different hats I wear. Sometimes I’m a fashion model giving attitude on the runway, sometimes I’m a brand ambassador, sometimes I’m an athlete. Sometimes a photographer wants serious and sometimes happy and joyful. And amidst all of these role changes, at times I get a little bit confused as to what my role really is. But, then I remember who I really am and what this is all really about. It’s about expressing myself and ultimately, in all of the varied forms of expression, finding passion and joy. And then I can stay grounded and always know that my role is simple: it lies in passion and joy.
How do these two positions overlap? Although they have obvious differences, they are very much the same—you’re photographed, acting as a face of brands and an ambassador to specific lifestyles. How important is it, in each realm, to be professional, skilled, and super hot? Modeling and sking are alike in a lot of ways: long days, careful nutrition, diet and exercise, mental strength, confidence, competition, fun, expression of physical body and hard work. I think being hardworking, having a good attitude and professionalism will always trump looks. I mean, don’t get me wrong—you are either qualified and have the skills for the job or you don’t—but looks will only get you so far. You have to perform.
Like anything in life, you either have the skills and talent or you don’t. I’m a horrible musician… can’t play an instrument to save my life. So, I don’t have the passion for it. Once you define the skill-set it’s really more about what you do with the talent. Maybe some people are just so damned talented or hot that they can forget about hard work and professionalism, but I’ve never considered myself to be one of those. I don’t think anyone ever became successful without an immense amount of passion.
Although there is a lot to take from each world and apply to the other, in my eyes they are very separate, different worlds and I intend to keep it that way. Skiing is who I am. I am a skier, not because it’s my job, but because the culture and lifestyle is in my blood, and that defines me. Not to mention that I’m in a full time, lovesick sort of affair with the mountains. This shit is deep and inescapable. I love modeling. I love making art, creative and emotional expression, traveling, nice paychecks, working with talented artists, having billboards are pretty neat too… but it’s not skiing. It’s not who I am. Sometimes I work as a model, and it’s an amazing job, but I’m a skier. Most models would kill for a campaign like American Eagle. I almost turned down the job because I wanted to go to South America to ski. It’s good to be detached from the industry, because tomorrow I might take my face to my knee off of a 30-footer and it will all be okay because I was never really a model anyway, I’m a skier.
Sierra Quitiquit | Mountain Love
How do your ski sponsor relationships mix with your modeling? Does your Discrete contract state that you have to wear a snapback on the runway? Do you have to wear Lulu Lemon underwear on the mountain? I love taking what I know from each world and building ideas, connections, relationships and new concepts. It’s awesome to be on break at a photoshoot and jiving with the San Francisco-based art director about the sexiest fit for outerwear and connect her with the product designer for future projects. And to take inspiration from a NYC-based designer and pitch concepts to the ski world is really fun and progressive. I’m always amazed what I can learn and take from my relationships in one world and thread into my other world.
How did your modeling career begin? How is that different than the development of your ski career, especially coming from your early days of racing? I was first scouted for modeling at about 11 or 12 years old. The agency wanted to put me on a fast track to the global runway circuit, but thankfully my mom had the better sense to keep me skiing. I stuck to ski racing for a couple more years and learned to be passionate, aggressive, hard working and confident. My mom nagged me to model over the years but I never saw it in myself. I didn’t see the girl in the magazines when I looked in the mirror. I saw a ski bum.
Finally, my mom had her way and convinced me to audition for America’s Next Top Model. She bought me a pair of heels and dropped me off. I sat in a room full of hundreds of beautiful girls with beautiful portfolios. I didn’t have a single photo and could barely walk in my new heels. I felt super awkward and out of place, but I threw my shoulders back, and remembered my mom’s old advice, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Tyra [Banks] picked me and flew me to LA. My experience on ANTM was very interesting and short-lived, but it did give me confidence that perhaps I could make a career in this industry. I still can’t believe that this path led me to an international campaign, billboards in NYC, Tokyo, LA, publications in US Weekly, People, Cosmo, Teen Vogue and Seventeen. I guess the passion and hard work I learned as a ski racing grom really paid off.
Describe your style of skiing. I like to ski fast, fluid and aggressive. I think I thrive on steep, technical lines with fall-line airs. I also really like shitty snow conditions. Powder is great and all, but there’s something about knowing that you just charged a line, aggressive and controlled, when the snow conditions are less than stellar. I’m obsessed with progression. I get really upset if I feel like I’m not charging at 110% every day.
How does the work in each industry differ? Is skiing more fun? Are models that much more attractive than the rest of us? Who has more fun? Nothing is more fun than skiing. That being said, modeling is hard work. It’s tough when you’re trying to use your physical body to make a living. There’s a lot of criticism, a lot of rejection and, often, a lot of self-doubt. But like everything that is challenging, it’s incredibly rewarding. Modeling and skiing are alike in that they are ultimately about body awareness. In modeling, you emphasize form for the sake of beauty. In skiing, it’s form for the sake of power and technique.
There are some pretty hot mega-babes out there, but models are humans and everyone has their flaws. Plus, I think it is a person’s energy that makes them attractive, so I would say skiers are more attractive because they hold the energy of the mountains, you know? Skiers have more fun. Always. Skiing.
Think about it like this: Your job in skiing is to charge, to send it, to rip. Sure, it is to film and shoot photos and keep up on social media and to be a good ambassador to your sponsors, but ultimately, you get paid to ski. How ridiculous it that? Pinch me. Being a model is a lot like being an athlete. You have to take really good care of your body, you need to perform and you should look good while doing so. Modeling can be incredibly physically and mentally demanding. Having skiing to inspire me is definitely a bonus.
Yesterday, I was driving to Park City and listening to everyone’s favorite online radio app. A commercial began, I heard your voice, and looked down to see your smiling face on my cell phone. How do you feel when someone mentions to you that they just saw you on TV… in a magazine… on their phone… on the poster over their bed? I think it’s sweet when people take the time to acknowledge seeing me. The other night, I was out at a ski event and this girl came up to me to ask if I was Sierra. I said “Yes,” because, um, that’s my name. She said that she thought I was such a ripping skier and was really inspired by me and looks up to me. She walked away and I seriously cried. I could not believe that I inspired this girl and she was sweet enough to come tell me. I was so flattered that I called my mom to tell her all about it.
A lot of girls have complimented my modeling photos and said that they are inspired by my modeling career. While it’s nice to be acknowledged for my success in modeling, I also can’t help but think that I really don’t have much to do with the fact that my folks handed me some genetics that Western society happens to think make for good marketing, and that I’ve come into contact with some really talented photographers that work wonders with lighting and make-up artists that I’m fairly certain are magicians. However, my skiing has been 21 years of hard work, dedication, focus and an immense amount of passion. And to be recognized for that, damn it feels good.
How do you stay happy? You’re happy, like, all the time. Is it because you get paid to ski and to have a pretty smile? I practice a lot of gratitude. I’ve been in some challenging situations throughout my life, and through those experiences I’ve learned that everything is always more beautiful seen through rosy lenses. I guess I’ve just got a pair of rosy lenses on.
Are you ever portrayed differently than you’d like? Do you feel as though you are able to be you, even though both the ski and model industries may each want to corner you into having a certain distinct image? I used to worry about that. Then I remembered that I can’t control what other people think, so I stopped wasting my brain space thinking about it. I can only be who I am. It’s really awesome to me that I cannot wash my hair for a week, skateboard to an audition all sweaty, confuse the hell out of the casting director when I drop the stoke on him, ‘rad’ and ‘shred bombs,’ and then book the job. The more the modeling world gets to know me, the more they let me just be me. But when I’m not working, I don’t want to be a model. When I’m on the mountain, I don’t want to wear lip gloss and smile for the camera. I want to jump off shit and take photos.
You talk to your fans a lot and use social media to share your daily stoke. How can we follow you? Not, like, follow you, but, um, you know… Twitter: @sierraquitiquit. Instagam: @sierraquitiquit. Blog: www.wanderthisearth.tumblr.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/squitiquit.
She’s hard to track down but even harder to follow around the mountain. The first time I saw Sierra ski, she was absolutely charging through inconsistent, knee-high, skied-out moguls from the “storm” that dropped a few inches at Solitude, Utah two weeks prior. She was skiing the variable surface at a consistent speed, making huge, perfect, arcing turns through the crud that I’d eventually gain the courage to hop-turn through with hopes of seeing her waiting for me, again, at the lift. Even if you never beg her to wait for you, know that Sierra’s blossoming and bi-directional career is careening toward an unprecedented level.