The laws of time and space don’t give preferential treatment to anyone—not even Chris Davenport. For well over a decade Davenport has forged onward as a professional ski mountaineer and ambassador, earning him one of the most enviable ski mountaineering tick lists that spans the globe. He’s been in over 30 ski films, has a decorated career in ski racing and extreme competitions; he’s often a ski commentator for various television networks, works corporate events, gives slide shows, and conducts ski clinics on more than one continent.
And he’s married—with three boys. So, how does that work? We were able to squeeze in a little time to get an idea how Chris and company makes it all happen.
You’re a very busy man. How do you balance a professional career that sends you all over the world with having a family? There is no question that my life is a delicate balancing act. With three busy kids, a wife that works all winter as a ski patroller, and a hectic travel schedule, it can be very tricky. Without a doubt the glue that makes this entire circus function is my wife. Not only does she keep the home functioning and the kids organized, she really supports what I do for a job. Without her encouragement and understanding I would not have succeeded to the level I have, or I would have been divorced.
How does your career and parental role have an effect on one another? Being a parent and the principal breadwinner for the family is a big responsibility, especially living in a not-so-cheap place like Aspen. So it’s a bit of a burden. I have to create a program for myself year in and year out that balances many different aspects of skiing. The income has to be there to clothe, feed, and educate three boys who also play a ton of sports and travel to ski race. That comes from endorsements, guiding, my books, sports announcing, and speaking engagements mainly. But I also have to have a schedule that’s personally challenging and rewarding, with film trips, guided adventures, and expeditions that push my boundaries and raise the bar in the sport. I work extra hard because I have to, and because I absolutely love what I do.
You’re working with the Parisotto family (owners of SCARPA) in designing a new kind of boot. At your first meeting with them in Italy didn’t you unwittingly floor them a little with your vision of a boot because it was exactly what they’d been quietly designing already? This was truly one of those “Great minds think alike” moments… I spent the better part of an hour explaining my vision for this new high-performance AT boot, complete with some images and design ideas on my iPad. I talked them through my thought process and my analysis of where I believed the industry was at right now, and where it was going. My goal was to convince them that this boot would not only perform great but would be commercially viable and successful. After a short espresso break they came back into the room and presented me with their concept, which was exactly what I had been talking about. I was surprised for a moment but then realized that these guys had definitely done their homework and we were all on the same page. At that moment my decision to join the SCARPA team was made.
There isn’t one boot that can do everything. Expectations can play a key role in what kind of boot works best for someone’s intentions. Can you break down your boot quiver and speak a little about their strengths and limitations? Just like there isn’t one ski that’s perfect, there isn’t one boot that does it all either. Consumers really have to be honest with themselves, and decide where and how they will be skiing to find the boot that’s right for them. I traditionally have been a three boot skier: one alpine boot (like a race boot) for ski area ripping, filming, and contest skiing; one AT boot for ski mountaineering, guiding, and hut trips; and a ultra-light Rando boot for training and high-altitude mountaineering.
With the alpine boot it’s all about performance. Weight doesn’t really matter. I just want stiff, compliant, and responsive. When you are going 50+mph in variable snow you must have stiffness to help drive the ski. Comfort is also key in all my boots.
My AT boot, which I do most of my ski mountaineering in, must be light, with an excellent tread/sole for climbing. This boot is all about stiffness-to-weight ratio. I like a little wider last in this boot because I might spend 10+ hours moving through the mountains in it. It has to be super-comfy without sacrificing performance. The SCARPA Maestrale RS fits this category perfectly, yet is still evolving.
And finally, my rando boot. I will be in the SCARPA Alien this winter for dawn patrol training missions and mellow tours. For many years I never had a boot like this but now I really appreciate an ultra-light setup for training. It’s like going on a road bike ride.
One could argue that your ski boots are more important than your skis. What are your opinions on that? I would definitely agree that your boots are your most important piece of equipment when it comes to performance. It’s your connection to the skiing experience. A boot that doesn’t fit right or skis poorly will ruin your day pretty quickly. Fortunately these days there are so many good boot fitters out there, and many great after-market liners and footbeds. So it’s pretty easy to dial in your setup to work perfectly for the type of skiing you’re doing.
You’ve been knocking off several peaks over the last decade, has the aesthetic changed for you over time? Yes, I have skied several peaks here and there. As my career has evolved and ski-mountaineering has played a bigger role in what I do, I have learned more about going fast and light, and only carrying the absolute essentials. I’m a bit of a minimalist in that regard, and love tweaking my setup so it’s as streamlined as possible. With that said, you have to be pretty careful to not get caught unprepared. I love the human-powered aspect of our sport. The “up” for me is as fun and important as the “down.” At the end of the day getting a great workout in gets me as stoked as skiing a killer line.
What’s in store for Chris Davenport this coming winter? I’ve got a really busy winter lined up. I think I have six guided trips on the books already, some corporate group stuff, two film projects, and one big ski-mountaineering goal that I can’t quite talk about yet. When you are trying to do things that have never been done you have to keep them close for a while.
All photos by Adam Clark: http://www.adamclarkphoto.com/