Remembering CR Johnson by Tag Kleiner

Remembering CR Johnson by Tag Kleiner

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.


TAG KLEINER, FORMER SMITH OPTICS TEAM MGR.

CR was the first athlete I signed when I took over as Smith's Team Manager in 1999. We were building our park and pipe team and CR was a no-brainer: he came from skiing blood, had all-around talent and he was a top-notch kid who was friendly and easily approachable.

I more or less lived on the road with CR from 1999- 2005. I have a ton of travel stories with him, but one that stands out was when he and I were heading home from Park-a-Saurus in 2001, right after he'd won the Core Games. He started talking about how he'd discovered his core muscles and strength.

He'd had this realization that all he needed to do was engage these new muscles and he could handle the biggest landings and deal with huge impacts. It was such an introspective look and such a mature understanding of what he was capable of. What struck me most was that it wasn't about can-and-cannot do, it was only about can. And that played out in the rest of his life through all the adversity he faced.

"I think he's the greatest skier of his generation."

I was hit really hard when I got the news about his head injury. I was coming home from a vacation in Mexico with my kids. I was crushed, but there was never a question about whether or not we would keep him on the team. CR was much more than a potential podium or sticker in a magazine. He was family, and for me he was a little brother. We encouraged him to take his time during his recovery and knew that there was a lot we could do together that didn't necessarily require him to risk his life on skis.

I think it's been comforting for people to turn his injury into a positive, in hindsight. The reality is that his head injury sucked, and it's something that CR, his family, and his friends should have never had to experience. I do think that the CR that was known by his family and close friends before his injury was more apparent to everyone after his injury. He re-prioritized his life and pursued the things that brought him joy. He no longer took his ski talent for granted and cherished every moment he had.

I think he's the greatest skier of his generation. He showed everyone what was possible in a pipe, pushed the limits in big air and diced the gnarliest lines on the mountain. Along with a handful of other skiers, he made sure kids knew it wasn't cool to be in the park when there was a foot of fresh on the ground.

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P: Scott Markewitz

When he passed, I cried. I cried for days. I'm crying right now thinking about it. It was very selfish of me. I didn't think it was fair that I wouldn't be able to spend more time with him and that my kids wouldn't be able to ski with his kids. I immediately called his mom and when she answered, I had no idea what to say. We just cried on the phone together.

It really affected me because my son Holden knew CR and CR was his role model. And it wasn't because of his ski talent, it was because he had shown such incredible perseverance and was everything a man with character should be: passionate, loyal, courageous, respectful and fun-loving.

He epitomized what it means to be a good man, a good son and a good friend. He's what I hope my children will grow up to be. It's the best compliment I could possibly give anyone and no one is more deserving of it than CR.


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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