This is an interview I did with skier Sierra Quitiquit in summer 2015 …
Would you call Sierra Quitiquit a regular skier? Not at all. She fluctuates between modeling jobs and skiing, between apartments and a life in her removed van. She is the current ski shooting star and talked with us about her movie „How did I get here“ and about how she got all there.
Hi Sierra, I hope you´re fine and feeling good in the place you are right now. You are a one of a kind person and one of the most inspiring people in the ski industry. A truly free spirit and an outstanding skier. But how would you describe yourself and what you do?
Hi! Well thank you. Those are some very kind words. I would describe myself as a goofy, playful person that likes to have fun and send time outdoors. Right now I have two careers that are keeping me busy, one as a model and the other as a skier. The ski season just finished and I’m on to modeling. I just fulfilled one of my great dreams of buying a van, remodeling the interior and moving to Southern California to surf. It’s been so incredible already. I’ve also just signed with Wilhelmina Modeling Agency so I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having some fun modeling jobs this summer. I feel like I’m in a really good spot in life right now. I’m having a lot of fun, not worrying about the future and just enjoying the present moment.
Most of the people know you since your appearance in Sweetgrass´ Valhalla in 2013. You also skied some big lines in Warren Miller movies and did some campaigns for American Apparel, Lululemon, Levi´s and so on. How did your two jobs get started? How did you get there?
Skiing all started with my Dad. He was a really accomplished ski racer and was my ski coach growing up. We were always a ski bum family. I decided not to go to college so that I could spend my winters ski bumming and working as a ski shop. A couple years ago I put together an edit and signed my first sponsorship deals. It was a total dream come true. Shortly after that I flew to Iceland for my first film trip with Warren Miller and ended up landing the closing segment of the film. My ski career has been a life long culmination of my greatest passion, hard work and following my heart.
Modeling started after my mom convinced me to audition for America’s Next Top Model. I was such a tom boy at the time and quite awkward but somehow I made it on to the show. Shortly after that I landed a massive, worldwide campaign to be the face of American Eagle. Modeling is a very competitive industry and takes a lot of energy and thick skin. But ultimately it’s a great way to make a living and travel the world. I’m excited to see where my new representation with Wilhelmina will take me.
Is it difficult for you to combine these two jobs? Or do they have any similarities?
It’s hard to have two full time careers. I find myself always wishing I could have more time on snow and at the same time wishing that I could say yes to every modeling job. Both require a lot of travel and really long shoot days so that can be tiring going from back to back ski and modeling shoots. The jobs are similar in that they both require me to be in front of the camera, but in very different capacities. Modeling is about being expressive and moving in certain subtle ways, it’s very chill. Skiing is about athletic performance and what goes in to capturing that is much harder and more complicated. I would say they are very different jobs but they each help me to appreciate the other.
Do you see yourself more as a skier or a model?
Personally more as a skier. Professionally, both.
According to „how did you get there“: your very own movie „How did I get here“ premieres in autumn. What awaits us in the movie?
The film chronicles the story of my life from childhood to now. The director, Chris Kitchen at KGB Productions is really interested in telling the human side of my life, the very real, raw side. The movie shows the highs of skiing big lines around the word, major modeling campaigns, traveling to beautiful places around the world and also the lows of loosing my brother, coping with drug addiction of a sibling, the pressures of being a model and an athlete; all while growing up and trying to stay true to who I am.
How did it happen that you made a movie about your life?
I received a call from a film distributor from Netflix & iTunes. He told me that they were seeing immense success with female athlete inspirational stories and that is I made a film he would distribute it. I don’t think I knew what I was getting in to at the time but it’s been an incredible journey of self reflection and I’ve learned a lot through the process.
Your parents took you and your brothers out for a ski bum life when you were a kid. How was it as a kid and teenager to have a life on the road, to be a real storm chaser?
We absolutely loved it. I just remember wanting nothing more than to be on skis. I have incredibly fond memories of van life.
Is this why you are such a freedom-loving person and you have an insatiable spirit of adventure?
I think my unique bringing taught me to live a life outside the box. Also when my older brother died at 16, I was 15, I really became aware of the short and precious nature of life. It almost instilled an urgency inside of me to live the best life I could possible live. I read a lot of transcendental literature as a kid, especially the works of Henry David Thoreou. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you’ve imagined.” I guess I’ve always been a dreamer and a non conformist.
In the last year, you went climbing in Patagonia, skiing in Japan and surfing in Fiji. You also surfed and skied Alaska together with Julia Mancuso and travelled the world for modeling jobs. What was your awe-inspiring moment?
My trip to Patagonia with my little brother, Alex was so humbling and inspiring. Alex is an incredible skier but his true talent and passion has become climbing. We went to a zone with both world class skiing and climbing. On our first day he led me up a challenging 6 pitch route overlooking one of the most incredible scenics I’ve ever seen. We had a rough couple years as a family as our youngest brother battled with a serious drug addiction. He had checked in to rehab shortly before this trip and Alex and I were very much in a state of shedding the emotional layers and celebrating the good in life. It was really special to have such an intimate experience in the mountains with him.
You ski steep big mountain lines and surf arctic oceans. In these situations, how do you manage to stay calm and focused? Aren´t you afraid sometimes before dropping in?
I started doing yoga when I was 18 years old to help me with anxiety. Over the years I’ve cultivated a strong awareness of the mind. Sometimes I’m scared but I choose to not let those emotions overwhelm me. And in the end the joy, fun and excitement always overwhelms the fear.
Are your other passions like skateboarding, surfing and yoga help you to ski like you are doing?
Rollerblading has become one of my favorite trainings for skiing. The movement is so similar. It’s so fun to put in headphones and go cruising for miles. Yoga is always amazing for not only the mind but for strength, flexibility and balance. My favorite trainings always involve being outside and playing but I also train more than I let on. I work with an incredible team of trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and yoga teachers. I am always facing minor injuries and am so grateful for the team that keeps me going.
But besides your modeling career and your life as a professional freeskier, you are also an ambassador for I AM PRO SNOW, an initiative of the climate reality project. Can you just tell us, what is I AM PRO SNOW and what are you doing there?
I AM PRO SNOW is the snow focused initiative of The Climate Reality Project which is an organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore. The main mission of Climate Reality is to create action to address the climate crisis. An an I AM PRO SNOW ambassador I advocate for policy change and education around the issue. My main focus is on a grass roots level. I volunteer with Recycle Utah and advocate against single use plastic consumption. Simple efforts such as carrying a reusable water bottle, packing a fork along your travels and looking for unpackaged food in the grocery stores can help to eliminate plastic waste from landfills which protects water sources.
Are environmental protection values also important in your private life?
Yes, very. I advocate that everyone can do one thing. Maybe that’s one thing a day, a week or a year. It’s about committing to small changes that have a residual effect.
What´s up next on your schedule? Do you already have any plans for the winter season 15/16?
I just moved to Southern California to surf and model. So I’m loving life. I’m also looking forward to premiering my film this Fall. In September I’ll travel down to Chile for a ski trip. Next winter I want to develop my alpine skills and do a bunch of cool backcountry trips.
And last but not least: do you have a personal credo you live up to?
Follow your heart. Be kind. Be loving. Laugh often. Ride the wave.
This interview was recently published in German in planetSNOW Yearbook 2015/16, November 2015…