When you get the chance to go split-boarding in Mammoth for some fresh powder with Mizu advocates (and snow power-couple) Kimmy Fasani (Snowboarder) and Chris Benchetler (Skier), you don't turn it down.
Sitting at the top of their food chain, Kimmy and Chris push the limits of what's possible in the mountains for their day jobs. Being Mizu, we wanted to dig even deeper and find out just what keeps them pushing forward day after day, despite the odds, and what drives them to take care of this beautiful planet and the playgrounds it provides.
How would you describe your day job?
Kimmy: I am a passionate outdoor enthusiast with a major focus in snowboarding. I love learning and growing by spending time in the mountains . Even though I am a professional snowboarder, I would say I am a professional mountain lover. I feel so at peace and so in tune mentally when I am in nature.
Chris: Professional skier. But I try my best to spend my life in the outdoors and live in the present moment as best I can.
What does a "day in the life" of Chris and Kimmy look like pre-season?
Kimmy: The day in the life of Chris and Kimmy in the pre-season looks like a very packed calendar of outdoor activities. We are both happiest when we are moving our bodies outside; climbing, hiking and biking have become our staples as we prep for the winter. By doing this our minds are connected to the terrain we will ride in the winter and our bodies are strong and ready to rally.
This is first time you met Mizu Advocate and artist Skye Walker - How was bringing him along for his first split boarding trip?
Chris: It was awesome. He’s passionate about being outside and seems very psyched on trying new things. He also rides mountain bikes a lot so keeping up was no issue at all.
What are you plans for this season?
Kimmy: My plans for the season are to film with Absinthe Films again. I am hoping to get back to Japan in January and Alaska in the Spring.
Chris: I am creating a new series for GoPro. It will be a 4 part series of skiing, surfing, and climbing my way up to Alaska with individuals that have inspired me along the way, all while simplifying my life and living out of a van. My hope is to connect the dots and draw the parallels to these individuals and sports, and show how they have shaped me into the person I am today.
You spent some time in Alaska this winter which comes with a unique set of risks and you've had some serious injuries. What inspires you to keep driving forward in spite of it all?
Kimmy: Snowboarding is fun and makes me feel alive and so connected to my mind, body, and nature, and progression feels the same. Progression can lend itself to injuries...and they are just part of it. But I am inspired to continue pushing myself and my riding because I love spending time in the mountains and I love that feeling of growth and mind expansion. To me, Alaska has some of the most intense and challenging mountains to ride. Last year was my first time riding in Haines and I fell in love with the terrain. The options are endless up there and I love living at the edge of my comfort zone, while being mindful of what my limits are each day. There's always new ways to grow and Alaska is my new happy place.
Do you think being married to someone in the same industry pushes you even harder?
Kimmy: Completely. Being married to Chris has definitely helped me think 'bigger' and more out of the box. He is so creative and pushes himself in all that he does, so I see what's possible because of his progression. He pushes me and believes in what I am capable of doing, even when I doubt my abilities. He understands what it takes mentally and physically to be strong in the mountains so together we are able to bring mindfulness and balance to our skills in all our activities. Having a partner that 100% understands what this lifestyle takes is a very unique and special thing, and I feel very fortunate to have Chris guiding me through this beautiful life.
What’s the inspiration to your art? How did you get started?
Chris: My main inspiration is the outdoors and my surroundings. I just really enjoyed doodling as a kid, but never pursued it too seriously as I was always happier outside. However, as I got older I was presented with the opportunity to create ski graphics for Atomic, and it snowballed from there, presenting more opportunity with additional companies and projects.
Is Mammoth your all time favorite hub - do you guys think you will stay here?
Kimmy: Each year that we stay in Mammoth we realize how special it is for all the activities we love to do and we absolutely adore our community. The snowboarding and skiing is incredible and then there's the climbing... unbelievable access to so many routes and peaks. We have really laid down our roots in Mammoth and I think we will stay there for a long time.
What’s the story with Reese the Explorer?
Kimmy: What’s her favorite adventure like? Reese is our 8 year old 4 lb. Yorkshire Terrier. She is cute and so tough. She can trail run with me and climb with us all day as long as we have little stashes of food for her. She's a big dog in a little dogs body and she brings a smile to our face every time we look at her.
What’s your relationship with Climbing?
Chris: Climbing pushes me both mentally and physically, and has taught me a lot about myself. There is also a very spiritual connection to the rocks and it is a great way to stay in the mountains year round.
You’ve been doing this a long time... Have you seen many changes in the environment since you began?
Kimmy: The weather patterns have changed drastically over my 32 years of being alive. When I was a little girl growing up in Tahoe, I swear every winter was massive, consistently snowy and cold. But, that could have been partly due to my size and imagination. But in my adult life, I have seen the weather shift in huge swings. Warm, to bitter cold, raining when it should be snowing, droughts that have haunted our snowpack, which then leads to massive forest fires. I have seen glaciers receding and some have disappeared. Our climate is changing and, after spending so much time in the mountains, it's apparent it's not changing in a positive way.
Chris: Definitely. Temperatures are much more sporadic. The spikes in weather are very prevalent. Around my home in California we see a lot more rain when it should be snowing. We see a lot more heat waves in the summer. We’ve seen more consistent droughts. In addition, my travels to a lot of the same backcountry spots in BC have had very apparent change as well. Glacier melting, new sink holes popping up, ice caves collapsing, etc…
What efforts do you make personally to reduce your impact on the planet?
Kimmy: Personally we speak up, we have teamed up with POW, we host Hot Planet Cool Athletes assemblies at schools around the state. We have adjusted our house to be on an eco thermostat, we recycle, buy local and organic, we use reusable Mizu water bottles, and I am a big believer in picking up trash so that we leave our environment cleaner than we found it.
Chris: My job and lifestyle heavily contradict preservation, but by being aware; recycling, reducing my electricity usage, water usage, eliminating single-use plastics as much as possible, buying local and organic, riding my bike more in the summer, etc… I feel that enough of those small changes will help make a difference.
What does "enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind" mean to you?
Kimmy: Enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind means to get outside, take advantage of all the beautiful places this world has to offer but leave those places intact, and cleaner than you found them. Nature gives us so much - mentally and physically, and we need to make sure to give back to it.
Chris: It means to spend as much time outdoors expanding your horizons, all while leaving this earth better than you found it. Leave no trace, and enjoy the process of exploring new places, and learning new things both mentally and physically.