Traveling the world in search of snow, never losing sight of what matters most.
It’s a dark and snowy winter evening. Colter Hinchliffe arrives at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, wearing ski pants and covered with snow. With a well cared for golden retriever in tow, he chooses a seat near the warmth of a large fireplace, and a group of nearby women stop their conversation about caviar to admire the dog resting his head sweetly on the arm of Colter’s cushy chair.
It’s a lively scene. Colter orders a jalapeno ginger margarita, his extremely polite manner with the server perhaps a result of his own service industry experience.
His demeanor is thoughtful, his words observant and deliberate.
Colter spends winter skiing, both in his hometown of Aspen and following snow across the globe, and summers rock climbing. He seems at home, clearly in his environment. Not specifically the Little Nell - but the mountains, and mountain town life.
“Today was cold, gnarly and snowy,” Colter says with a smile. “Those are my favorite days. It’s nice to be home.”
Colter, what is your job?
I create content.
Interesting - I expected you to say pro skier.
I shy away from calling myself a pro skier. I don’t like the way it comes off, I think it sounds narcissistic.
Also, it’s more than skiing, it’s the lifestyle. The thing that is valuable is the creating of the content.
How did your career evolve? How did you go this route rather than something more mainstream?
I always wanted to film with TGR (Teton Gravity Research)… being a kid, you see ski movies and want to be in them.
As I got older and better at skiing, I followed any opportunity to get myself onto the sickest terrain, eventually ending up in Alaska with my friends. TGR was there, and I ended up catching a break and getting in a helicopter with them. A lucky break developed into an almost 10 year career at this point.
What’s a typical day, or week, like for you? Is there such a thing as ‘typical’ in your life?
Not really! I won’t make a plan, or buy a plane ticket, more than a week in advance.
I like to be super agile and able to change my direction at any time. It’s all about information, and you have the most information at the last second before you do something.
I’m constantly looking at the weather everywhere. If it’s not snowing at home, I hop on the road with my sled, or hop on a plane and fly over to Europe if that’s what it takes. I try to maximize the winter, it’s short and sweet, so I try to make it as sweet as I can.
What would surprise people about your life and what you’re doing?
How much logistical thought goes into every one of my ideas. I’m always thinking ahead, getting the pieces to line up.
The missions I go on… it’s long days, big days, crazy failures, getting yourself deeper in the mountains than you meant to, and coming out in the dark. There are always challenges. But I love that stuff. It would scare the shit out of a lot of people! Right now, it’s been dark for an hour and I just got done skiing in a snowstorm. Trying to ski down in the dark when it’s snowing, you can’t have your goggles on because it’s dark, but without your goggles the snow is blowing in your eyes. It adds to the adventure.
A lot of people just follow tracks… do what other people have done. I like to do things a little bit different.
I like that concept - creating your own path.
If you can just think a little bit differently, your experience is unique. My ski partners and I bounce crazy ideas off of each other. You dance with that line, is this absurd, or brilliant?
I always ask myself, is the juice gonna be worth the squeeze? You don’t know until you go.
It seems that a part of you is very relaxed, fun, carefree… but there’s also a lot of thought behind your life and your choices.
TGR has always had a saying or motto, they even named a movie after it, tight loose. The balance, of having fun with the sport, but making good decisions. They coined that phrase, and I love it, it’s always been how I live.
At times, you really have to take things very seriously. In big mountains and dangerous situations, if you’re not on point when you need to be, bad things happen.
What do you think of sharing your adventures, and part of yourself, online?
I’m always authentic. Creating content can add to the experience for me. When there’s a cool view, taking time to take a picture of it - it slows you down. I’ve always liked that.
I keep it light hearted with what I share. My social media personality doesn’t reflect my whole life, personal relationships or hardships.
In real life settings, I am very open with my close friends, but reserved around people I don’t know well. I don’t love small talk.
Anything in particular you’re most proud of, or most glad you did?
A Moab project I worked on with Tim Durtschi, called Sandstone and Snow. I was really involved in the production, putting together logistics, the vision, and the camera crew. I am so proud of that piece.
It’s got a lot of different elements of the lifestyle I try to embody, showing a lot of different ways you can use the outdoor environment on any given day. Climbing, skiing, exploring a new mountain range.
Do you have any regrets, in life?
It’s hard to regret stupid things I’ve done, because those are the things that have helped change me and mold me more than anything.
Do you have role models or mentors in your life?
There’s not one person - it’s a little bit of every single person I meet.
I try to be very receptive of what I love about other people. Find something that’s awesome, that I want to incorporate in my life, off of everybody.
Anyone I meet, I will try to pick up anything that I think is a really great quality or skill they have.
I DO THAT TOO!!! You find what you want to emulate or avoid!
I’m happy with where I’m at, but as time goes on I always want to be learning.
I have so much respect for people who have great mountain and outdoor skills. Things like kayaking, paragliding, BASE jumping, kiting, pack rafting, and sailing, these are things I don’t have experience with… YET! Gaining more skills opens up the world that much more.
Any big life choices that you’re particularly happy with?
Dropping out of college! Society pushes kids to go to college. I dropped out and never looked back, that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes, because experience wise, I’m super rich.
My lifestyle is more important to me than money. I think the goal of life is experiences, to have the most incredible experiences possible.
This lifestyle has made this period in my life really, really incredible.
Is it the journey, or the destination?
Definitely the journey!
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Continuing to dig into the mountains in as many ways as I can, whether it’s skiing, climbing, pow surfing, full moon camping, fishing…and getting experiences you only have with a high level of dedication.