photo by Nick Kalisz
photo by KGB Productions
pho­to by KGB Productions

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.

photo by Nick Kalisz
pho­to by Nick Kalisz

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.

photo by Masatoshi Yamashiro
pho­to by Masatoshi Yamashiro

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.