The Stealthy Marmot - Chris Benchetler's Four Month #VanLife Journey North
The saying, “Less is more” seems to make more sense as you age, as life gets more complex. Forcing simplicity upon oneself sometimes is the only way to get rid of the clutter that distracts from one of the simplest goals of life, to have fun. Such is the case with Chris Benchetler. A career professional skier, Chris took it upon himself to ditch the excess, move into a van and travel the coast, from southern California to the northern reaches of Alaska. We recently caught up with Chris to talk about his move into his custom van dubbed, “The Stealthy Marmot”
Hey Chris, tell us about the Stealthy Marmot.
Chris: The Stealthy Marmot is a Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 2500 van that was retrofitted by the very talented carpenter, Scotty Smith. It took 45 days, from 8:00 am to nearly 2:00 am, 7 days a week to build out the van. It’s got a bed, kitchen, diesel heater, surfboard racks, ski and boot locker, charging stations, solar panels and my favorite piece, a table built out of reclaimed wood that was stylized to look like my “Old Man Winter” painting.
That van sounds like it might be the ultimate travel rig but why do you choose Van Life? I would assume as a professional skier you get to travel around the world, staying in fancy lodges and generally living a pretty amazing life?
My wife, Kimmy Fasani and I had been marinating on the idea for a few years now. We spend a lot of time climbing, surfing and skiing all around California. Living out of a van meant that if we could simplify our life, we might get to spend even more time in the mountains and at the ocean. So this year, after doing a series last year with GoPro, I pitched the idea to travel up the coast, from San Diego to Alaska, filming my life as I go. The last GoPro project was successful and all of my sponsors could not have been more stoked on the idea.
With 4 months of time on your hands it seems like you probably have a lot of goals and objectives ahead of you. Can you tell us where your journey will take you?
Climbing, surfing and skiing are all very important in my life so I wanted to showcase all the sports through the travels. Along the way I want to film, climb, surf and ski with the people I look up to and are world class in their sports.
Can you tell us about some of those people?
I’ve been lucky enough to surf and go ride in the mountains with Rob Machado and moving north, I’m going to climb with Emily Harrington at Smith Rocks in Oregon, ski with Eric Pollard and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa and snowboarders Austin Smith and Curtis Cisek near Mount Bachelor, head to British Columbia to ski with Seat Pettit and snowboarder Bryan Fox, surf with Pete DeVries on the Canadian coast, climb with Matt Segal in Squamish and then hopefully surf with Rob again in Alaska and ride with Travis Rice their too. Well, that’s the ultimate dream, let’s see if it works out.
That is a big list of heavy hitting athletes, but why involve climbing and surfing when you’ve become such an iconic professional skier?
I just think that I’ve lived my life trying not to be one-dimensional. People may call it the Jack of All Trades, Master of None… I love skiing so much but I don’t need to be so committed to it that I don’t enjoy anything else. I see it as a natural thing for anyone that loves to be outside. Plus, people love being inspired just to get out there, no matter what sport you’re doing. In mind it just makes sense.
Ok so you often say your skiing is influenced by sports like climbing and surfing, but how do they truly influence you?
Climbing is newer to me but it’s something that has inspired me through the mental aspects of it. Trying something over and over and over is common with climbing. You have to push yourself so much to get to your mental and physical limits. But luckily it’s easy to do because you have a rope. With climbing, I’ve gotten more confident in the mountains because of how much time I spend in them in the offseason now.
For surfing, there is the obvious connection between the turn and how you can draw a line on the wave, but mainly because it’s so unpredictable and in the moment. A wave is different every time so it forces you to just go with it, turning and cutting back as the wave presents itself. I try to take that open-minded, unpredictable, in-the-moment approach to my skiing.
Last question, so what can we look for in your upcoming Stealthy Marmot travels?
Well, I will have four webisodes launching with GoPro. Episode one is based in California, episode two in Oregon, episode three in British Columbia and the fourth in Alaska. As I said the goals are to spend as much time doing what I love with friends. We will just have to see where exactly the Marmot takes me….
Safe travels Chris!