John Race

Age: 42, Skiing since: 1981, Hometown: Leavenworth, WA, Favorite product: STRATOS EVO


Who introduced you to skimo? Who are your influences?

I think of myself as someone who literally fell into ski guiding. To become an IFMGA guide I had to become an AMGA certified ski guide. I have always loved alpine touring and made the switch from Tele to AT about 8 years ago in an effort to remove the bullseye from my back when taking my ski exams. In the process I realized that ski guiding was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than sitting in a tent at 8000 meters on a guided Cho Oyu trip. I somehow skipped the ski mentor step and always wish I had found the opportunity to shadow someone larger than life like the late Doug Coombs, but ended up piecing it together with my friends and the AMGA.

How old were you when you first became a professional athlete?

I started guiding in earnest in 1989, first worked on an 8000 meter peak on Shishapangma in 1993, and started the Northwest Mountain School in 1993. Patagonia picked me up about 12 years ago and I am still with them and grateful for the opportunity the provided. Since then I have added some really fantastic sponsors including Sportiva and am still amazed to have such great sponsors while essentially doing what I want for a living.

What are some of your lifetime skiing/race goals?

The mountains out my back door in the Cascades are as remote and hard to reach as about any. I am fascinated by long winter traverses and have undertaken many with clients and friends. At 42 I don’t see myself crushing the Europeans in any randonee events, but I would like to do the Patrol du Glaciers and have a dozen long trips sketched out in my head here in WA.

What is your proudest skiing accomplishment?

I should be embarrassed to admit it, but hanging with some locals in La Grave a few years back blew my mind. Almost daily we skied things that would not be pretty if you blew a turn. I have a 6 month old and a long list of great friends who died in the mountains, so I prefer to spend most of my time skiing things that would result in the solid thrashing rather than certain death if I slip. This has me focused on linking together 35K weeks, usually topping out at around 5 consecutive weeks in the meat of the season.

Are you a skier for life? Was there a defining moment that made you realize this?

Are you a skier for life? Was there a defining moment that made you realize this? Absolutely. I figure the first thing to go will be extreme high altitude guiding. I have been over 20,000 at least almost every year since 1990 and most years go higher on multiple trips. This takes a toll. Next to go will be my tendons and with it rock climbing. If all goes as planned I will still be ski guiding my 80 year old clients at age 75 someplace with great huts. I see this ever year in Europe and watching these old guides waddle around with even older clients sets out a vision for old age.

What do you enjoy most about skiing?

You can do things and go places on skis that you can’t go on foot. Blasting downhill in the alpine is amazing, but I think I have come to relish the burn of the uphill almost as much. I constantly find myself in spots in the winter that would basically be impossible to reach in the summer and am also amazed at how you can feel comfortable skiing down something that would seem more exposed if you were climbing up. I don’t know of a better device that has been invented for travel than a ski.

Describe your dream run:

Start on the summit, slip in trying to stay calm, making it through the crux, cruising a few thousand feet of nice, open glacier, finishing with some nicely spaced trees, and kicking your skis off at a place with espresso and beer......basically half the terrain in Europe.

Top five favorite movies:

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou June Bug Lost in Translation Amelie The English Patient

What do you do to train for races?

I guide. To train for guiding I run, do Crossfit, and skate ski. I am realizing that like most people I do way to much long and need to focus more on short, powerful bursts in order to balance out far too much mileage.

Top five favorite books:

I was an English Lit major so this is an impossible question. Recent great reads include: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes House of Rain by Craig Childs All the Devils are here by Bethany McLean Life by Chuck Close Breath by Tim Winton

What’s the longest you’ve spent on a single skimo expedition?

Longest ski trip was 5 days. Longest expedition was 95 days on the North side of Everest. I have spent over a year on Denali in 19 expeditions and over a year in Tibet. I have also spent upwards of 400 days above 17,000.....which seems really stupid.

Top five favorite musical groups:

Beastie Boys Spearhead Cypress Hill Big Head Todd & the Monsters John Forte

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a race?

A few hours. All of my races have been in WA. Longest travel for a ski trip was a 20day flight to the Falklands followed by an 850 mile open water crossing in a sailboat to ski across South Georgia Island, which we did successfully following Shackleton's Route.

Top five favorite foods/meals:

Burritos Thai Sushi Annie's Mac n cheese with broccoli Leftovers wrapped in a tortilla

Briefly describe your most memorable moment while skiing:

The first time I got into Trefides 2 in La Grave and realized what would happen if I blew it. Second would be skiing on the coast of Anarctica above a penguin colony and watching a whale cruise the iceberg filled bay...still don't believe I was fortunate enough to do that.

Are injuries a part of skiing? What’s your general mentality for handling injuries?

They are. I have been blissfully injury free. My wife blew her ACL a few years ago and it really sucked. If I strain of pull something I really try to take it easy so as not to have to miss a winter, which would be devastating

Top five hobbies when you’re not skiing:

Father Rock Climbing Reading Road Tripping Building a guide service

If you had to ski one mountain for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Probably somewhere in UT. They have the best combination of tons of snow and reasonable stability.