Age is just a number
The ski mountaineer takes a no-frills approach to prepare for the world’s hardest descents
There might not be a mountain on this planet that 48-year-old Chris Davenport can’t ski. Following a dominant competitive big mountain circuit in the early 2000s, Davenport shifted to mountaineering, launching a pro career that’s enabled him to ski six continents. He’s bagged numerous first descents all over the globe and is part of a select group of people who have skied Mount Everest, ripping 2,000 vertical feet off the Lhotse Face. After becoming the first person to ski all 54 fourteeners in Colorado in one winter in 2007, he later decided to thoroughly exhaust the Centennial State by tackling its 100 highest peaks. He’s explored Antarctica by boat and on skis, climbed and skied 15 volcanoes in 14 days in the Pacific Northwest, and spent days in a dome tent in British Columbia, waiting for the weather to break so he could scout remote couloirs.
“I don’t think I’m slowing down that much,” Davenport says. After he finishes guiding clients all over the world this winter, he’s going to knock out a couple of “mild” ski mountaineering projects in Alaska and Canada. Think: miles of hiking and skinning up Mount Rainier, or ice climbing vertical walls in Denali with all his equipment strapped to his back. I get sore just scrolling through his Instagram feed.
“It’s nothing groundbreaking. I’m just trying to do some cool trips with friends and create some fun content around that,” Davenport says. “I wouldn’t say the ‘big project’ mountaineering ship has sailed, but I’ve made it this far, so I’m trying to reduce my risk profile. I’ve run the gauntlet of risk, and I feel like I was lucky and I don’t want to blow it.” Davenport has lost friends to avalanches and ski accidents, and has had a number of narrow escapes himself, including the time he triggered an avalanche in Alaska and was swept 1,000 feet by a moving slab of snow.
When I talk to Davenport on his 48th birthday, he’s prepping for a three-day trip to Jackson Hole, where he’ll teach an avalanche safety course for Team Red Bull. After that, he’s off to Japan for five weeks to guide clients through the world’s deepest powder. It’s a physically demanding lifestyle that Davenport has managed to sustain into middle age. But maybe the most inspiring detail of Davenport’s already bombastic career? He rarely sets foot in the gym. “I work hard to keep up with the fitness side of things,” Davenport says, “but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less interested in being inside gyms and more interested in being outside and doing things that make me feel good.”
Davenport says the established training regimen of ski racing—he grew up competing in New Hampshire and continued while attending the University of Colorado, Boulder—served him well during freeskiing competitions in his 20s. “I had the fundamentals of dryland training and gym training under my belt. People call it CrossFit today, but that’s the stuff we were doing to prepare for ski races,” Davenport says.
But as Davenport moved from strength-forward ski racing to aerobic-focused mountaineering, his training evolved. “As a ski mountaineer, I don’t need to be able to squat 300 pounds. I need to be able to skin or climb mountains all day,” he says. Instead of plyometrics and squats (the meat and potatoes for ski racers), Davenport spends his off season on a bike, putting in 100-mile road rides along Aspen’s steep mountain passes. During the fall, he mixes in gravity-based workouts, where he’ll load a backpack with 40-pounds of rocks or water jugs and hike up a mountain, drop the weight at the peak and then run back down. He repeats the same process in the winter between trips, but with skis and skins.
Beyond having the lean muscle mass of an endurance athlete, Davenport also tries to stay as limber as possible. But forget downward dog and crow pose. “I’m not a big yoga guy,” he says. “But I recognize that maintaining a certain amount of flexibility keeps me from getting injured, and helps keep me looking and feeling youthful on the mountain.” For 10 to 15 minutes a day, he uses a foam roller on his legs and lower back, mixed in with isolated stretches for his quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Davenport says he’s not doing anything out of the ordinary, but the consistency of his routine—stretching and getting into the mountains for serious cardio every day—gives him baseline mobility that prevents injuries.
It’s a multi-faceted approach to general fitness that he believes translates well to weekend warriors looking to stay in shape for their annual ski trip (and not get hurt). “I consider myself an all-around athlete, not just a skier, and I think that approach has helped prolong my career,” Davenport says. “It’s not rocket science. Do what feels good and makes you happy, and stay away from the things that feel like a grind.”