Sierra Quitiquit is a pro skier who also happens to be a model. She even made it into “America’s Next Top Model,” although she left the show early on because the lifestyle didn’t appeal to her. Since then, she has landed contracts with some of the biggest apparel brands out there, including American Eagle and Nike.
We talked to Quitiquit to get a first hand account of what it’s like to balance these two worlds.
THE CLYMB: You’ve participated in several films. Can you tell us about some of them and what the experience like?
SIERRA QUITIQUIT: My first ski film was Valhalla by Sweetgrass Production. It was such a special time filming with those guys. They rented this house in Nelson, BC where all the filmmakers, athletes, and photographers lived communally for weeks or months at a time. The house mimicked the feel of the film. We’d cook organic meals, do yoga, ski during the day, dance and create.
The CLYMB: For Warren Miller’s latest film, Ticket to Ride, you ended up skiing 4,000-foot lines. Can you tell our readers about that experience and what made it so special?
SQ: My first Warren Miller film shot in Iceland. I was in shock the entire time. I grew up watching Warren Miller films and it all just felt like a dream come true. Julia Mancuso was also on that shoot and we instantly became best buds. I got to surf the Arctic, ski big lines down to the ocean and fly around in the helicopter. At that time in my life I was going through a lot of personal challenges with my brother’s drug addiction. I was really scared and getting to experience all the beauty of Iceland and being able to ski the best lines of my life felt very rewarding. Sometimes when I’m on skis I feel like all the challenges of life are worth it because at the end of the day I get to ski.
The Clymb: Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and how your love for skiing (and snow) was born?
SQ: My Dad was a former pro ski racer so he raised my three brothers and I on snow. We had a really modest upbringing, living in a van or tiny condo, so being in the mountains was a great escape. My Dad traveled a lot, my mom was sick, and my brother passed away when I was 15 so I had a lot on my plate as a kid, but skiing always made everything good. Skiing just has that way of centering you, demanding you to be present in nature and it’s just so fun. I’m super grateful for what skiing provided for me as a kid, and continues to.
The Clymb: When did you decide to make a jump into modeling?
SQ: Modeling sort of just happened. My mom talked me into trying out for America’s Next Model. I didn’t think I had a chance. When I looked in the mirror I saw a tomboy, not the girls in the magazine. But somehow I made it on to the show and shortly after that landed a major campaign with American Eagle and it’s been on since then. I take the winter’s off from modeling so I can focus on skiing.
The Clymb: What was it like to marry those two worlds into one?
SQ: To me they’re not really married, maybe just the occasional flirt. I find myself saying “I’m a skier” but when I talk about modeling it’s more “I do modeling.” I don’t really relate to the industry in the same way that I relate to everything about skiing. When I’m in NYC doing rounds of casting or go-sees no one knows that I’m a skier and no one cares. They just want to see how I fit the samples and how I move and photo. If some one on set finds out I’m a skier, their response is like, “OMG can you do the black diamond?” It’s hilarious. The media tends to mesh them together but they’re very different worlds I’m living in.
The Clymb: What’s Fat Bastard and why is it famous among skiers? What was it like to ride it for the first time?
SQ: Fat Bastard is a line in Jackson that ends in a mandatory 40 foot cliff. I skied it I think six years ago. At the time I didn’t know it was a big deal. My friend linked me up with some local filmmakers and the snow was soft so we decided to go hit some lines. I was like, “Ya, that one looks fun, landing looks good. I’ll hit it!!” It was scary hiking up because some local on the tram told me some guy had died trying to hit it a few years back. But I felt good in my gut about it. It was fun. I’d hit it again if conditions were ripe.
The Clymb: You went through some very difficult personal/family times growing up. Has that helped shape you as an athlete and as a person?
SQ: I never take anything for granted. I am so grateful for all of my opportunities, especially being able to ski. I think all of the hard things that my family and I went through made me a really compassionate, empathetic person. Life is such a gift, but it can be so challenging too, and that’s why it’s so important to be strongly rooted so that when the waves come, you can keep your footing. I know the struggle, the process, and I know what it takes to work hard for what you want.
The Clymb: Do you think it’s more difficult to be taken seriously as a skier because you’re also a model?
SQ: Of course. I mean I can’t possibly be a model AND athletically talented, or smart, or thoughtful… the list goes on and on. The world is full of judgments. I think the biggest issue is with the media. Sites are desperate for a quick tick of the hit meter so they publish modeling photos and run them in context of me being an athlete and refuse to buy action photos. If I had it my way the media would run photos of me skiing and eating pie and the bikini shots would stay where they belong—in the catalog. It’s truly a complicated issue and it can’t be boiled down. But at the end of the day, I feel confident about my intentions, my talent as an athlete, and my work ethic.
The Clymb: What has been your biggest professional challenge?
SQ: Injuries, by far. Throughout my professional career, I’ve managed a blown out shoulder, separated AC joint, multiple shoulder dislocations, bulging discs, a torn disc and an incredibly painful pinched nerve. I’m getting fixed up this spring and I’ve never been so excited!
The Clymb: You have a new film (How Did I Get Here) coming out. What can you tell us about it?
SQ: It’s the story of my life as a professional skier and model and all of the ups and downs.. It’s really open and vulnerable. My family and I really opened up to share the heartbreak and growth of losing a child/sibling to drug addiction and illness. I hope that this story will give others who face personal hardship a feeling that they’re not alone and that no matter what happens you can still reach your dreams.