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Garrett Russell is a man with something to say. We sat down with him and didn’t stand up until we had way too much content to print in one shot. For the next few weeks we’ll break it down and give you a segment. This week Garrett talks about his pilgrimage from Mammoth to his ancestral home in the Telluride backcountry, and what life is like as a BC cabin operator.

rootsy garrett

Where are you living?

This year I just moved back to Telluride, Colorado. I’m running the backcountry cabin my dad built in the 70’s. He just got hip surgery so I had to move back, away from Mammoth, which is hard because they just got a bunch of snow. I miss Mammoth and my crew of skiers out there. But I’ve just been living in the backcountry getting rootsy.

Have you been getting backcountry footage this year?

Yeah, I’ve been skiing with my brother. He pretty much inspired me to ski and got me stoked on skiing when I was a kid. So we go out and ski the gnarly shit man; like the other day we did this shit with two repels. Scary. It was crazy, usually there’s only one repel, but we had to drop in and then anchor off a tree that was buried in the snow kinda. You couldn’t huck it because you’re just in this slot that goes for 600-700ft, just as wide as my skis.


Yeah man, it’s usually only one, but this one took two. So, I don’t know, just extreme stuff like that. Hopefully get some friends, build some jumps, and get some people out there.

Have you had anybody come out?

Andy was here for a day. I got to take one ride with him and I lost him. I didn’t know where he went, I was just like, “I’ll take you to the good spots.” But who knows what he does, he just does it.

We’ve got a little park; it’s fun to ride, but it used to be a lot better. It used to have bigger jumps, and that’s where Gus Kenworthy got his ninja skills from. He kills it now, and that’s cool to see.

Other than Traveling Circus, what film projects are you doing this year?

Nimbus sent me a GoPro, so I’m trying to get artsy with that. I’m not going to be able to travel much this year because I’m just so busy running the cabin. At some point I want to get people like Nimbus to come over here, but when and whenever. March is usually good weather there.

So give us a snapshot of your day to day as a backcountry lodge operator.

Well, there are variables, if I have friends then we pretty much have to go out there and ski cut it and read the snow to make sure it’s safe. There’s times when I’m up there by myself and I’m scared to go outside and ski Hans Solo and get killed right in my backyard just because of stupid slough, you know? So, younger me, I used to go out there more by myself and just get spiritual with the mountains. It’s really intense out there, because you’re all the sudden in the mountains and life has a different perspective.

So, wake up, bust out the snowmobile on the trail for 20 minutes, and load water because now we’re out of water. I have to haul water and melt snow. The cabin actually has electricity, which is nice. I make beds for the people, then go ski powder laps with my friends.

Usually I have parties that come in, like my friends and my brother’s friends. We go out and just yahoo-ski powder all night; full moon skiing. We ski really gnarly couloirs, it’s all there. It just depends on who is there and that determines how I’m going to ski that day—either build a jump or hike up a couloir.

It’s beautiful out there. Telluride’s amazing, you guys should come check it out sometime if you ever get a chance.

Absolutely. So it’s a commercial business?

Yeah, my parents run it. We can’t afford it, so that’s why we rent it out. It’s been open to the community ever since my dad built it, so we want to keep it like that. It’s on the market, which is super sad because I don’t want to see my house get sold to a second-home owner and then no one can go there and ski.

Do you do any guiding?

No I can’t do the guiding yet. You have to have a permit to guide, and I’m working on it. I don’t want to burn any bridges in the town. People just rent it out privately, I help them get in with all their gear, and then they just go. I recommend aspects and that they are careful. Snowpack is sketchy in the San Juans, so everyone should have a beacon, shovel, and probe. They sign a release form, and that’s it.

I hope to have it where people can just rent a bed for $50 a night. That’s what I’m trying to do with it. You can ski down to the ski area in like 20 minutes and it’s about a 30 minute skin back up. That’s opened up a whole new world for the backcountry cabin. Ski in, ski out.

It’s hard because I feel like I’ve kind of jumped away from the ski industry. But I really feel like I’m building a different level for my ski career.

2008 04 03LINE ATHLETES DAY 2 25GP MARTIN © 2008
Photo: GP Martin
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