Q&A: Garrett Russell talks Argentina, the endless pursuit of skiing and an upcoming Level 1 segment

Q&A: Garrett Russell talks Argentina, the endless pursuit of skiing and an upcoming Level 1 segment

If you don’t know who Garrett Russell (AKA G-Funk) is, then you don’t know skiing. The dude is an absolute legend who loves our sport more than you could possibly imagine, and the contributions he’s made over the years are immeasurable; from his fun and creative park edits to his always-growing work in the backcountry, the mustache-wearing, laugh-inducing 32-year-old has left a long-lasting impact on us all, whether we realize it or not. And, thank goodness, he’s still going strong.

In G-Funk’s constant pursuit of skiing, he’s spent the last dozen or so summers in Argentina coaching at Surf and Snow Sessions (SASS) camps. (He can’t quite remember how many times he’s gone now, as each trip has left him in disorienting awe.) We recently caught up with him to see what’s in store with SASS this time around, as well as some info on an upcoming Level 1 segment, wisdom on backcountry safety and more.

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G-Funk with a signature South American hand drag. Photo by Ben Girardi.

The Q&A:

How’s life, Garrett? What’ve you been up to?

Life is good. I’ve been trying to get as much time as possible fishing on the rivers and lakes while doing whatever else summer can offer between shifts tending bar in Squaw.
 

Heading back to Argentina with SASS, I hear?

I just can’t get enough of it, I guess… Winter in the southern hemisphere is peeking its head around the corner and I can only hope the good winter here in Tahoe reflects what’s to come in the Tahoe of South America, San Carlos de Bariloche.
 

What is it that keeps you going back to Argentina every year?

Ever since I learned at age 11 or so that the seasons are the opposite in the hemispheres, I dreamt of chasing an endless winter. In high school, I tried a handful of the summer camps in Whistler but would get frustrated with separation of the camps, the rivalry between them—within them—and the monopolization of the snow.

When I graduated high school, I spent all my graduation money and lived in New Zealand for their winter. I loved New Zealand but felt like something was missing. And, when I landed in Argentina, I fell in love with it within the first week: The language barrier; the culture; endless untouched mountains; beautiful people; the discoteca all night long; and the challenges that exist outside the norms of the United States. The reality of teaching people about mountain safety along with the grace of being a part of the mountains gives my life more meaning than just a pro showing off; I still have so much to learn and so much room to grow myself.
 

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Into the snowy abyss. Photo by Ben Girardi.

What’s the absolute best memory you have with SASS?

One of the my all-time favorites is when a nuclear snowstorm came through and closed the town of Bariloche for three days or so and there was a meter-plus just walking to the base to get to the chair. The lower mountain can be so much fun when the snow covers the bamboo.

And then I have to think of the early days when Skylar Holgate, one of the SASS Guides, and I would just lap Las Leñas without campers. There were only 10 clients that year and four coaches doing their jobs so Skylar and I would just point out lines we’d skied and keep going deeper with the exploration; it was a whole new world—the start of what SASS truly is, in my opinion.

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That bottomless, Argentinian pow that keeps G-Funk going back every year. Photo by Ben Girardi.

It seems like you’ve really shifted from park skiing to backcountry skiing over the years. What’s the reasoning behind this?

Funny as it is, I have been touring with my brother and friends since I was 14. Having grown up in the backcountry of Telluride with the Alta Lakes Observatory as our headquarters, I find it amusing people only know me for park. It is a lot easier filming in the park than it is in the mountains and you are only young once. As for now, soft snow feels much better on the body than riding park and casing a 60-foot jump at 32.

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A sampling of the terrain offered at SASS Argentina camps. Photo by Ben Girardi.

If you could sum up your time with SASS in Argentina in one word, what would it be?

Oooohhhhhhhh. Is that a word?
 

OK, here’s a scary one: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Man, I can only hope to be stronger and ski the lines my brother has skied around Telluride when I am in my 50s. ‘Til then, I really feel it is important to show the upcoming generations that us old-timers can still shred and create. I only have respect for the OGs who are still trying and giving it their all in action sports. As a person, I will probably turn into a grumpy, crusty old man who lives in the woods alone with five pet hawks who feed me, a mountain lion or some other big ass cat and the wolf from the LINE Anthems.
 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Honestly, thank you everyone who has ever made the journey to join our SASS family and give us the chance to teach and learn from you along with your trust and faith in making your times some of the best times we have ever had. My amigos have made their dreams their own and stand beside me in the mountains with the intentions to create the best day ever, everyday, and keep it as safe as possible, considering there is nothing safe about shredding in mountains. SASS would not be the same experience if it was not for all of you.

And, keep an eye out for some funky Japan shit with Will Wesson, Sami Ortlieb and Rob Heule in the new Level 1 film.

Lastly, thank you to my all my sponsors: The House Boardshop, LINE Skis, Smith Optics, Full Tilt Ski Boots, Trew Gear, DMos Collective, Treefort lifestyles, Grandtrunk Goods and SASS Global Travel.

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“Oooohhhhhhhh.” Photo by Ben Girardi.

Click here to learn more about SASS Argentina.

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