Interview: Conor Davis
A much-anticipated addition to the SVSEF program lineup, the IFSA Big Mountain Team has formally been added for the 2017-2018 season. The program has already seen vested interest, with a waiting list that extends beyond the 22-athlete cap. As outlined in the program directives, the team is geared towards top-level skiers and riders who have demonstrated skill and capacity, as well as interest in exploring the backcountry. With growing popularity of backcountry skiing, this team fills an ever-growing niche. Athletes will be introduced to mountaineering concepts, including snow safety, backcountry travel and avalanche awareness. They will have the opportunity to compete at Big Mountain events throughout the season, and will develop competition strategy and execution for performance success.
At the helm of the inaugural team is Conor Davis. Calm and collected, yet engaging and jovial, Davis, 28, is an ideal fit for the role. His roots are here – he grew up in the Wood River Valley, participating in SVSEF cross country and alpine programs. His interest and experience in big mountain skiing have been supported by the core skills and lessons learned growing up with SVSEF, as well as those developed of his own accord. Adeptness in the sport has taken him all over the world, and spending seven seasons on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour has given him valuable competition experience. Davis comes to this position with a wealth of knowledge and an enthusiasm to share it, creativity in his approach to training, and respect for the sport and the mountains that provide the space to explore, learn and grow in skiing.
Get to know more about Conor here.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH BIG MOUNTAIN SKIING:
I grew up in the Wood River Valley, ski racing for both SVSEF and for the Hailey Ski Team. In high school I decided that alpine ski racing wasn’t for me and I joined the cross country program. I believe that the alpine racing program helped me to develop a very solid turn and skiing technique for alpine skiing, and my time with the cross country program really developed my fitness and helped me learn to enjoy skiing/touring over long distances. I found big mountain skiing my junior year of high school and instantly fell in love with the discipline. I competed well in the junior competitions, and by the time I finished up high school I had attracted sponsors, which allowed me to spend seven winters traveling thousands of miles skiing big lines on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour (now called the Swatch Freeride World Tour). I decided to take a semi-permanent break from competitive skiing when I started coaching for SVSEF, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to share my competitive freeriding experience with this new team.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU GET OUT OF BIG MOUNTAIN SKIING PERSONALLY?
Skiing has taken me all around North America and Europe and allowed me to make some amazing connections with people. Within skiing culture is a brother/sisterhood of the most positive people, who have not only influenced my skiing/riding but also helped to develop my personal growth.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WITH THE PROGRAM’S INITIAL SEASON?
My main goal is to have a safe and fun-filled season. This is a completely new program, and I’m thrilled to have such an amazing group of athletes to work with. I am hoping that the athletes will learn how to compete well in the IFSA events, and I would like to see all of the athletes get their Avalanche Level 1 Certification.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH THIS TEAM?
I’m really looking forward to the off-resort backcountry day trips and the overnight hut/yurt trips.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR ATHLETES?
Tai Barrymore once said something to me that has always stuck with me: “Do something every day that scares you.” I like this idea because it’s about facing fears and trying new things.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” To me this means that success isn’t actually achieving your goals. Success is making the decision that you’re going to achieve a goal and taking the initiative to move towards reaching it.
(A little more about you)
Skiing is definitely the sport that I’ve put the most time into so far, but I lead a very active outdoor lifestyle. This past summer I was lucky enough to ski “The Sickle” on the longest day of the year, view a total solar eclipse from the top of the tallest peak in the Sawtooth range, learn how to kayak (kind of), backpack throughout Idaho’s amazing terrain with my dogs and great friends, and catch lots of beautiful fish. I am also an avid mountain biker, and enjoy everything ranging from yoga and dance to speed flying/paragliding, surfing, SCUBA diving, rock climbing, etc. I also like to read and draw, and there are a few video games that I like.
A SONG FOR THE BACKCOUNTRY:
When I’m in the backcountry I want all of my senses in sync to alert me to any type of danger. That being said, I believe that it’s a good practice to not listen to music while moving through avalanche terrain in the backcountry. I love the chilling quiet of the forest on a winter morning and the sound of my skis compacting fresh snow as I march in a new skin track.
FAVORITE POST-SKI MEAL:
WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING:
My two husky dogs, Misha and Avalanche, usually wake me up every day at 6 a.m. to take them on their morning walk/run/ski/bike and feed them.
BEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN:
Deciding to buy my cabin in Stanley was a scary choice, but I love living in the Sawtooth Valley. Driving along the Sawtooth, Whitecloud, and Boulder ranges each day on my commute is inspiring.
WHAT OTHER JOB WOULD YOU BE DOING IF IT WASN’T WHAT YOU DO NOW:
One job that I think that I would enjoy a lot would be a whitewater rafting guide. Also I love to scuba dive and have often dreamed of becoming a divemaster, dive instructor or rescue diver.
A SKIER OR PERSON WHO HEAVILY INFLUENCED YOU/MADE YOU WANT TO BE A COACH:
Rick Kapala coached me on the cross country team when I was growing up and he was definitely a big influence on me. Also, chatting with Scotty Mcgrew helped me to decide that I was ready to take on the responsibilities of developing a new program and becoming a head coach.