Remembering CR Johnson by Matt Sterbenz

Remembering CR Johnson by Matt Sterbenz

Christopher Jerard | Kahlil Johnson | Tanner Hall | Mike Laroche | Scott Gaffney | Matt Sterbenz
 Tag Kleiner | Ladd Williams | Lorraine Johnson

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View the CR memorial photo gallery from our tribute issue.


MATT STERBENZ, OWNER, 4FRNT SKIS

I first met CR at Camp of Champions around the summer of 2001. He came up with a bunch of Tahoe guys like Kent Kreitler, Shane Anderson, Skogen Sprang, Mike Laroche and Aaron McGovern. They guarded him like he was their own son. He needed it. He was super cocky or should I say, confident. His had earned that persona, though. Cork 7s were just becoming a norm at the time, and sliding rails opposite foot was progressive.

Lo and behold, here comes a teenager with all that, plus his own bag of tricks. I'll never forget his outfit. It was a Spyder suit: tight, yellow pants with a mesh skiercross long sleeve jersey. I think he wore a backwards baseball hat too. Nothing even close to his most current attire, but back then we were all dressed like idiots.

I recall visiting him at the hospital after his injury and hanging with his dad, Rusty, in the hallway outside the ICU. The doctors had warned Rusty that CR was going to be very angry when he woke, and that we shouldn't be offended. The reality couldn't have been any more different. He woke up the most humble, appreciative, soulful guy I'd ever met. I think that's when we really started to click.

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P: Scott Markewitz

During the winter of 2006-07, CR was back on snow, filming for his segment in MSP's Seven Sunny Days and looking for a new ski sponsor. We got him on some 4FRNTs in January of '07, and by summer we had scored a deal to make him a team rider and owner, based on his desire to build a legit pro model and get back to where he wanted to be in the backcountry. I remember we did shots of tequila when he signed the deal. It was a morning meeting.

It takes the right personality to motivate a long- term deal. CR was not only 100 percent legit on snow, but post-injury his attitude, perspective and motivation for life was 110 percent. CR brought a new level of legitimacy to 4FRNT overnight, and he shifted our brand into a gear we never knew we had.

He was the best at long-term perspectives. Shortly after the injury, he maybe couldn't recall what he had for lunch, but he could pick up exactly where he left off a week ago on our debate about the future of our industry and how we need to grow as a brand. He was a real visionary on and off the snow.

If I had to narrow one down one memorable moment, it would be the week we spent testing his CRJ prototypes in May, '09. We skied slush up at Snowbird for four or five days straight. In his hoody with a full face helmet, he scoped a jump that basically launched him into a bump line. So there we are, under the Peruvian chairlift stacked with tall-boy drunk locals rooting CR on. He sent a 360 but landed back seat.

He was holding on and then hit the bumps. We were testing skis, so he was on demo bindings. He pre- released out of the toe and walked out of the other ski, which led to three or four rag dolls down the bowl, which at this point was a blue run. While novice to intermediate skiers cruised turns, there was CR, rag dolling next to them in a full-face helmet. He was so embarrassed and dazed. I thought the worst, but he was fine. His injured brain was tougher than I thought.

"CR basically became a kid again at 22, and he had to re-learn everything. He became one with his brain, and he recognized how much it could handle. He could be spirtiual about it and send positive vibes to friends and people he was thinking of."

If I could talk to him now, I would first tell him everything about his ski. I would tell him we did a memorial graphic with his artist Greg Lipp, that we did this to raise money for a fund his family started to help kids find alternative ways to heal from injury. I would show him next year's graphic and make sure he was stoked on that.

I would make sure that he knew everyone was thinking of him and that we all can't say enough about the role he continues to play in our life. I would get really brother on him and tell him how much I miss him and that he was always a major source of support for me, and his perspective on life always had such a positive effect on me. I would tell him my wife's pregnant and that we're having a boy and that I wish he could meet my son. I would just give him a huge hug.

In closing and with blurry vision, because this has been hard for me to stay strong on, I would say something about the life lessons he learned along the way, which he called Powder of the Mind. He would say this to me often, and talk about finding positivity in all aspects of life. He would remind you to be optimistic and positive about something upcoming in your life.

CR basically became a kid again at 22, and he had to re-learn everything. He became one with his brain, and he recognized how much it could handle. He could be spirtiual about it and send positive vibes to friends and people he was thinking of.

He always lit up a room no matter how dark it was, everyone around him would naturally find the good in their surroundings. He will always be remembered for these lessons he would teach his friends and family.


View the CR memorial photo gallery from our tribute issue.

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Christopher Jerard | Kahlil Johnson | Tanner Hall | Mike Laroche | Scott Gaffney | Matt Sterbenz
 Tag Kleiner | Ladd Williams | Lorraine Johnson

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