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EpicSki Interview with Jess McMillan

Jess McMillan is a Freeride World Tour champion and the winningest Freeride skier of all time. She's been featured in various ski films, most recently in Warren Miller's 2016 Film "Here, There & Everywhere". The following is my interview with her on November 21, 2016. 


If you could only ski one place for the rest of your life where would it be?

Oh wow, that's tough! I would probably say Chamonix. 


In your most recent appearance in Warren Miller's "Here, There & Everywhere" you have to cross some crazy walking bridges in Switzerland. How common are they and are they as scary as they look?

I think they are common in some parts of Switzerland, and yes they are absolutely terrifying. We were probably 1,000 vertical feet up and there was no safety and nothing to clip on. You just had to hang on, watch your step, and make sure you don't slip off. In Andermatt that is pretty common. 


Why do you choose what ski and boot you use?

In general the Volkl 100eight because it's light, really snappy and playful, and it skis great in all conditions. I like a ski that will ski great from top to bottom in Jackson because we'll have different conditions, at the top there might be powder and it might be softer or slushier near the bottom; and the changes throughout the day I like that I don't have to go in and change skis. The 100eight is one of my favorites because it's great in everything. 


I'm in a Dalbello 130 plug boot. The reason I'm in that is because they don't make boots in my size except for a plug boot. I think that boot companies should hop on board. I wear a women's size 8 and nobody is making a decent boot in that size. Lange not to pressure you, but long story short the plug boot from Dalbello is what fits me and its stiff and it's great. 


If I'm touring its the BMT by Volkl; it's carbon fiber, super light, and great for touring. And then I'm in the Dalbello touring boot which is awesome.


What's your favorite country to ski in?

Well in the summer it's Argentina. In the winter, well I love skiing in the US. Jackson Hole is my home town and I love skiing there. If I had to pick something else I'd have to go Switzerland. 


What's your favorite resort?

My favorite is Jackson Hole. I live here for a reason, I absolutely love the mountain. 


What's your favorite run?

Gosh, that's a loaded question, that's hard. If I'm skiing in-bounds my favorite run is Alta One at Jackson Hole. One of my favorite runs I've ever skied in my life was skiing off the top of the Grand Tetons. 



What's your favorite type of snow?

Oh deep powder, like AK style power. It's light and fluffy, but set up so you're not too worried about avalanches. For me the deeper the better. 


What was your first experience with skiing?

Neither of my parents skied. I was very lucky that my school had a winter sports program. On Friday's you could choose between hockey, ice-skating, cross country skiing, and alpine skiing. In Kindergarten I started the winter sports program with Alpine Skiing and fell in love with it. My parents started to enroll me in ski racing, and I guess the rest is history. It all started from the school system which is cool. I actually got to teach my mom to ski about five years ago which was really cool. 


What would you say is your greatest achievement thus far? 

Oh my goodness, um. There were a lot of accolades, winning the Freeride World Tour was amazing. I've won more Freeride competitions than any other male or female, but I think for me it's that I'm still pushing myself and challenging myself and finding new descents and still learning and pushing others to challenge themselves. 


What's been your scariest moment skiing?

Alaska. I was up there filming for Warren Miller with Ingrid Backstrom and we'd evaluated the slope and said ok there's a slight potential it could slide. We'd had a lot of active snow during the day, but no avalanches. I dropped in and on my third turn the whole slope fractured. Luckily I had a safety zone and I was able to ski right to my safety zone and everything was fine. Had I not had that safety zone or hesitated a second I would've been in a lot of trouble in that avalanche. 


If you could ski with any person past or present in their prime who would it be?

Ummm, probably my husband. 


Is he a professional skier?

No he's actually a professional kayaker, that's how we met. I took him up to Jackson and taught him the quick and dirty of how to ski. Then we spent a season up in Alaska and later in South America so he's pretty accomplished. 


How many different countries have you skied in?

Oh wow! I'm going to have to count on my fingers. I think probably about 12, maybe more. It's easy to lose track in Europe. 


What is your favorite mode of transportation for skiing (lifts, cat skiing, heli, etc.)?

Oh, I'm kinda at the extremes. I love a helicopter, who doesn't? I also love ski touring, under my own power. 


What plans do you have for the future?

I'm psyched for this upcoming winter. There's a lot of lines I want to ski in the Tetons that I haven't skied yet. I'm filming with Warren Miller again so that will be fun. I have an objective up in Alaska. There's a few peaks up there that no female has ever skied. We tried to do it last year, but conditions weren't great. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that conditions are great and I can ski some first female descents. 


If there's one place you haven't gotten to ski yet that you'd like to go, where would it be?

Gosh, I'd like to ski in South Georgia in the Caucus Mountains. I've skied in Russia in the Caucuses, but there are some lines in South Georgia that are amazing. I'd like to explore a bit more around that area. Oh man, there's so much. Antarctica would be so incredible, I'd like to go to Greenland. I loved Iceland so Greenland would be the next step. The list goes on forever really. 


How many of the continents have you hit other than Antarctica then?

All of them except for Africa and Antarctica. I've been super lucky, super lucky. 


By Tyler Wenzel





Comments (1)

What is your favorite mode of transportation for skiing (lifts, cat skiing, heli, etc.)?
Oh, I'm kinda at the extremes. I love a helicopter, who doesn't? I also love ski touring, under my own power. 
EpicSki › Interview and Experiences Articles › Epicski Interview With Jess Mcmillan