Davenport hiking with skis on his backpack

Chris Davenport Takes On Another Montana Peak

| Marc Peruzzi

Seven reasons why Bozeman’s Peak Ski Company is thrilled to welcome big mountain freeskiing legend Chris Davenport as its Senior Director of Skiing and Product Innovation.

Chris Davenport skiing

Chris Davenport is the first to pilot the new Peak 110 in South American hot pow. Location: Portillo, Chile.

1. Throughout his career he’s advanced ski design.

Davenport signed on with Salomon after winning the World Extreme Skiing Championships in 1996. He wrote the design brief on the French brand’s AK Rocket and worked on the Pocket Rocket and X Scream projects, two skis that changed the sport. Later, as an owner/athlete he joined the team that relaunched Kästle. There he helped design a slew of award winning skis. At Peak, Davenport will be heavily involved in the refinement of the SC line (it stands for sidecountry), and he’s already contributing to the R&D for Peak’s future line of backcountry skis. “I was lucky enough to work as a magazine ski tester for Skiing,” says Dav. “Skiing on everyone else’s product gives you perspective. It taught me how to articulate what I was feeling. Testing skis against the best in the business is a tenet of Peak’s ski development. I’m psyched to be involved in that process.”

2. He prepares like an athlete.

It’s March 2000, and skiers in competition bibs line a ridge above a steep backcountry zone on Alaska’s Alyeska Resort.

One by one the freeskiers drop in trying to find a line that will impress the judges below. But the terrain is a confusing jumble and most follow each other’s tracks to the same cliff, where they huck and lawn dart into the snow, before picking their way down again. The skiing is jilted and derivative—decidedly not in keeping with the creative and fluid style of the young sport of big mountain freeskiing.

And then Chris Davenport’s name is called. It’s hard to see him at first because he’s skiing an entirely different line—and he’s moving fast. The airs he takes look natural. His turns are in sync with the terrain. He’s flowing down the face like water. It’s like his skiing is choreographed—and it is.

As a former ski racer, visualization, dryland training, coaching, and self coaching is part of his identity as an athlete. That mindset allowed him to become a pro skier and sustain that career while so many others flame out.

“Chris is a lifelong athlete,” says Bode Miller, Peak Ski Company Cofounder and Chief Innovation Officer. “He maintains that same intensity and focus with everything he does.”

3. He’s a professional risk manager.

When he’s not on a mountain, Dav is often on the lecture circuit—his Ted Talk in Denver was a smash—drawing parallels between corporate risk and his alpine experience. Today, Dav thinks of himself as a professional risk manager. He’s studied the field to better himself and the companies he represents. “Chris is a legendary mountain athlete, but he’s always been held in high regard for his focus,” says Peak Ski Company Cofounder and CEO Andy Wirth. “It’s why he’s had such a long career. And it’s why he’s such a great fit for Peak Ski Company.”

4. He knows gear matters.

Actually, he’s a gear nerd. He has to be. His life and career depend on precision. Whether he’s riding lifts with the kids at Aspen Highlands or climbing and skiing with clients on Denali, no detail gets overlooked.

“It’s really cold camping on the glacier on Denali,” says Davenport. “When you’re awake, you never stop working. I take joy in making hot water bottles when it’s 20 below zero. In the mountains, you can’t have gear failures. Gear is paramount. I’ve told every company that I’ve ever represented that you can pay me all the money in the world but if the gear is shit I’m not going to do it.”

Davenport at Everest’s Lhotse Face in 2011.

Davenport skied Everest’s Lhotse Face in 2011. He somehow found spongy powder skiing in a short timeline bookended by un-skiable black ice.

5. Grit is not just a word to him.

As a 27-year-old Davenport brought his skis to Baruntse, a 23,497-foot Himalaya peak. He drove hard on the climbs and skied big lines with rhythm and flow. Everything clicked. “‘Hell yeah,’ I remember thinking,” he says. “‘High altitude ski mountaineering is my jam.’ I felt like I was superhuman.”

The next season he returned to the Himalaya to ski Makalu (27,825’) and the mountains reminded him that nobody is above the human condition. He awoke at Camp 2 with his lungs gurgling with pulmonary edema. Descending to Base Camp, he sucked on bottled oxygen but didn’t improve much. So he grabbed a camp stove, food, and coffee, and hiked solo 10 miles down-valley where he made camp at 14,000 feet. He bivouacked for five nights until his blood oxygen levels normalized, then he hiked back up to elevation to give the summit another go— only to hear his lungs re-fill with fluid.

“I was confident to a fault,” says Dav. “And I got my ass kicked because of it. No matter where you ski, you have to bring humility. Later I was able to take those lessons and ski the Lhotse Face on Everest and lead clients on great trips.”

Davenport hiking with skis on his backpack

Davenport will be heavily involved in the Peak SC (sidecountry) line and a future backcountry collection.

6. He doesn’t just innovate skis, he innovates skiing.

The 1970s brought us the French version of Extreme skiing: alpinists picking their way down “you fall, you die” terrain—often with ice axes in hand. The 1980s delivered the Americanized version with skiers like Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, and Mike Hattrup skiing steep—but less exposed—terrain with speed and flair. The 1990s witnessed the first real mashup of those worlds in the likes of skier/climbers like the late Doug Coombs.

Of course there were many more, but no list is complete without Chris Davenport. Equal parts alpinist and freeskier, he learned directly from Coombs, and went on to specialize in what he calls Big Mountain Freeski Mountaineering. The idea is to identify remote lines that require fitness and climbing skills to access—and then ski them with Coombsian flow. That type of innovation doesn’t happen without passion, vision, teamwork, and perseverance.

“Doug Coombs was that way,” says Davenport. “Someone sent him a photo of Alaska and he had the vision to open that terrain to skiers. Perseverance is about learning how to fail. We all fail on a daily basis. The pioneers learn from those missteps.”

7. He’s a skier for life.

“Last week, my wife and kids were down in Portillo with me ripping around on Peak skis. Having one through-line in a family, one shared passion, is essential. It could be horses or climbing or whatever. Skiing is our through-line. Mom is a 30 year ski patroller. Dad is a pro skier. The kids grew up racing and now ski all over the world. Skiing is this great equalizer. You sit on a chairlift with your kids and they’re present. They’re in the moment.”