FD: What does skiing mean to you?
Mogul: My parents hate the cold weather so until college I discovered skiing by way of a few trips on rental skis with school ski clubs and friends. In college I became heavily involved with the student run ski club and my casual interest quickly evolved into an obsession of sorts.
Two months after graduating college I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and underwent 6 months of chemotherapy shortly thereafter. Side effects included heavy nausea, loss of appetite and an extreme sensitivity to cold temperatures – including breathing in cold air. This made it impossible for me to ski that winter, taking away what was my true passion and emotional outlet.
Soon after hitting remission and having a lot of my chemo symptoms subside, I applied to a single job in Colorado as a ski instructor in Vail. I realized quickly that I had found something I would not let go of. What was meant to be one season has evolved into what is now my 9th, and I have been entrenched in my own personal development and the professional development of my peers in this industry. I am now the main alpine freestyle trainer at Vail and average over 2 million vertical feet a season, 10 years into remission.
FD: Favorite type of ski run? I’m assuming, Moguls?
Mogul: So my nickname origin is fairly simple actually. I was in my third season as a ski instructor and it was honestly the first ski related nickname thrown at me during my FD experience. I like moguls a lot, but believe it or not they don’t take the cake as my consistent favorite. I love anything that has to do with freestyle and how to connect it with alpine skiing. In terms of terrain park I am especially fond of rails and halfpipe, and when it comes to all mountain riding I love cornices, cliffs, natural features, steep powder and tree runs. I am in love with the creativity and personalization that skiing has to offer and truly believe that you can find a way to have fun on any type of run. Catwalks make for a great chance to work on your ski ballet.
FD: How was this event special for you? Any highlights?
Mogul: To be able to represent what this organization stands for and reconnect with my fellow past FD participants in one of the coolest places ever would have been worth it in its own right, but to go heli-skiing has always been a dream that I didn’t actually think would be achievable for me. On top of all that, having conversations and skiing with personal heroes like Chris Davenport and industry leaders like Charlie Johnson (4FRNT Skis) that are, and forever will be, crazy for me to reflect on.
FD: Describe your best turns of the event.
Mogul: On the last run of our first day, we had a long runout through a gully-like natural halfpipe filled with variable snow and powder all the way to a creek bed at the bottom. Our guide told us whoever planned on going fastest should go first and we should go down in descending intensity from there to keep good spacing between each other. Naturally Chris Davenport drops in first, then our guide asks the group “Who wants to chase Dav?” Without hesitation I dropped in immediately after him and tried my best to keep up. Not too surprising he already had both skis off by the time I had made it down, but it was crazy to just have an opportunity to put my own skiing to the test and follow someone down as accomplished as he.
FD: Wow. That sounds epic! We’re so glad that you could come shred Silverton with us, and so glad you had a killer time. Before we let you go, let’s talk a little bit more about your cancer experience. You clearly have taken adventure to a new level since your cancer diagnosis. How has FD helped you with the physical side of cancer? How about the mental health side of things?
Mogul: After learning how to whitewater kayak with FD in 2014, whitewater grew into a passion quite similar to skiing. Shortly after that initial river experience, I became a whitewater stand up paddleboarding (SUP) guide on the upper Colorado River. Eventually I became a multi-day whitewater raft and SUP guide in Dinosaur National Monument where I have spent the last two seasons. First Descents has had a major hand in not only growing my comfort in the outdoors but also finding others that I can open up about my past experiences both involving cancer and not, with the comfort of knowing that these peers come from a place of understanding that is only acquired through shared experiences.
FD: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about cancer?
Mogul: Cancer is more than just a physical battle. When you go through something tough like dealing with cancer, your family and loved ones are going through it too. They don’t want to see you in pain, sad, angry or scared about your situation. It makes it so you want to talk to your loved ones but you may feel like opening up will put more of an emotional burden on their shoulders- so you hold it in and feel more alone about things. Finding others that have had a similar experience to you may serve as a solution for this scenario and I think connecting with those that can relate to our most challenging moments can be cathartic.
FD: What’s next for you?
Mogul: To wrap up this winter, I plan on taking my PSIA Alpine Level III certification in April so the short term goal is to stay healthy and prepare for that while also leading as many freestyle clinics as I can. This summer I plan on spending my 3rd season at Dinosaur National Monument as a multi-day raft and SUP guide and mixing in time to work as a lead staff for FD. I have a few private whitewater trips with friends planned, and hopefully will build experience in preparation for a June 2022 launch of the Grand Canyon, where I plan on stand-up paddleboarding the entire time.
The 2021 Silverton Mountain Takeover raised over $75,000 in support of young adults impacted by cancer and other serious health conditions. We couldn’t be more grateful to all the attendees, partners and supporters who made this event so safe and successful!
Special thanks to…
Co-Pilots Mike “chiZZle” Arzt, Marc “Hollywood” Gutman and The Public Works for your vision and inspiration.
The incredible Silverton guides and pilots who kept us safe and provided a next level experience for all…
And of course, to our gracious hosts – Jen & Aaron Brill at Silverton Mountain!