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Monday, October 11, 2010
Chris Davenport, storyteller


Dav's new book, 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, will be published in November.

For more than two decades, Aspen-based Chris Davenport has been at the forefront of the so-called extreme skiing movement: The two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion has climbed and skied all of Colorado and most of California's 14,000-foot peaks, he's skied first descents all over the world, and he's appeared in Matchstick Productions and Warren Miller Entertainment films (including their latest, "Wintervention"). But lately, Dav's career has evolved to include book author and film producer. "My job," says Davenport, "is to create content. Content is king." We sat down with Davenport to discuss two of his upcoming projects: a coffee-table book, 50 Classic Descents of North America, which releases November 15, and a film, "Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey," which premiered September 30 at Colorado's Boulder Theater.

When did you make this transition from being just a pro skier to a skier who produces films and books?
In 2005, I made the decision to take on the Ski the 14ers project in Colorado. Prior to that, I was thinking about hanging 'em up as a pro skier and maybe doing something else within the sport of skiing. But the 14ers project really reignited my passion for having skiing be the principle thing in my career. Since then, I've really tried to be proactive with creating new opportunities. And in many ways I think it's paving the way for what's possible as a professional skier. We sold a lot of copies of the Ski the 14ers book, and that led me to question: What's the next book project? We put our heads together and came up with 50 Classic Descents of North America.

Have you always been interested in the storytelling-side of skiing?
I had this notion from an early age that I wanted to work in the sport of skiing, and I didn't know if it meant loading lifts, driving the cat, flipping burgers or whatever. I remember being in English class my junior year of high school, and I had this great teacher who inspired me to write a book some day. I always had that in the back of my mind, but I didn't know if it would be a novel or non-fiction. During the Ski the 14ers project it hit me that this was the perfect venue to write my first book. I was a history major in college, so I love that aspect of our sport, and the journalism side, like writing and photography. I've worked really hard to create this content and now I get to tell the stories. Hopefully these projects inspire people to go do cool things and travel to new places.

Chris Davenport on a glacier in Canada.

What lines are in the new book?
The book highlights lines from all over North America, like University Peak and the Messner Couloir in Alaska, everything around Rogers Pass in Interior British Columbia, Terminal Cancer is a quirky trip outside of Reno and the Newton Clark Headwall on Mount Shuksan in the Pacific Northwest. This book definitely is not a guidebook; it's a snapshot of the history of ski mountaineering and what ski mountaineering is currently. The book was really a communal effort with more than 70 photographic contributors. We tapped into the local knowledge of contributors like Andrew McLean, Glen Plake, Christian Pondella, Lowell Skoog, Chic Scott and Ptor Spricenieks with first-person descriptions of their favorite ski-mountaineering descents.

What about your movie, "Australis: An Antarctic Ski Odyssey?"
I am executive producer of "Australis." It's my first foray into my own film that's actually going to be released. I say that because I produced a film called "Skiing the 14ers," but we weren't able to be release it because of some issues I had with the US Forrest Service and the Wilderness Act. I still have that film and I hope to release it one day, but I'm pretty excited about "Australis" because I've put a lot of time and effort and money into it.

How did the idea for this film come about?
The Antarctica trip was one I had been working on for almost a year. When we finally flew down to Ushuaia, Argentina, and walked up on the dock to see the sailboat we were going to get on for the next month I just rubbed my hands together and was like, "Okay, this is going to be cool." We spent 18 days skiing the Antarctic Peninsula. I had been there before, but it is by far one of the world's most beautiful and inspiring ski destinations. Not just for the skiing itself but because of the wildlife -- penguins, seals, whales, and there are albatross everywhere. The goal of the trip was to film and produce a documentary about skiing the Antarctic Peninsula, which had never been done before.

Find out more about Chris Davenport and his book and film projects at www.steepskiing.com.