Ever-searching for adrenaline, international skier Cody Townsend can be found where most will not dare to travel — high upon the world’s tallest mountains ready to drop in. Townsend undoubtedly possesses the adventure gene, as he’s an avid surfer, fisherman and an all-around outdoors man, in addition to his skiing. One of his many career highlights was taking home POWDER Magazine’s 2014 “Best Line” award at their annual Powder Awards, after an insane straight-line run through one of Alaska’s gnarliest chutes. Check out the video embedded below.
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Chris Remmers: We’re going to talk about the places you have been, the things you’ve seen and how that’s shaped your professional skiing career. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about where you are from?
Cody Townsend: I’m originally from Santa Cruz, California, which was originally a beach town for surf and definitely not skiing. We started out as weekend worriers driving to places like Lake Tahoe, which is pretty traditional for a lot of Northern Californians. We would pack all of our stuff, made sure we were good to go for at least 48 hours and then just shred our faces off.
CR: That sounds like a lot of fun! At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a life as a professional skier? Did the culture of the surrounding area have any impact on your career?
CT: Yeah, I kind of always knew that I wanted to be a professional skier, I just was not quite sure how it was going to unfold. I would say at the age of about six and on I really started to take skiing seriously. It just kind of stuck with me. Some people don’t know what they want to do with their life almost their whole life, but I was fortunately blessed to know what I wanted from a young age.
I think growing up in a place where everyone was into surfing, skiing, boarding or skating made me realize you could make a career out of being an athlete. I grew up with professional surfers — watched them out of my back yard. Growing up skiing — same thing. So many professional skiers have come out of my area. It’s nice to grow up and surround yourself with such talent.
CR: What was your first memory of being on the mountain? How do you remember that experience going? I recently started snowboarding and took some hard spills. Was it more of a natural thing for you?
CT: I can’t really recall when I first started, because I was around two years old. I can’t really even think of my earliest memory of skiing, it’s more just that I remember the feeling it gave me. I remember being very, very young and the only thing I wanted to base my schedule around was skiing. I remember being five and just thinking, “Oh my god! This is the coolest thing world. I hope I can do this forever.” I would say that I definitely took to it naturally. Like I said I was so young when I started that being on skiis was almost like second nature.
CR: That sounds incredible to be able to know what you want to do with your life from such a young age. Skiing, Snowboarding and extreme sports in general have really been growing over the past several years. Where are some of your favorite mountains to ride? How do some of those differ from ones internationally?
CT: For a lot of skiers like myself the true mecca is really Alaska. The mountains are just incredibly huge, so steep and they get a kind of snow that you just don’t really see anywhere else in the world. It just sticks to the steepest of slopes and it just makes for absolutely amazing riding conditions. Of course, this isn’t the same for everybody. Europe has some really incredible mountains, they are super steep and really technical. I actually just got back from a trip there and have a new found passion for the Alps and Europe in general. The biggest thing is the mountains in the continental United States are by nature a bit smaller than a lot of other places in the world. The mountains in Alaska and parts of Europe are just on a different scale.
CR: When did you first get into competitive skiing?
CT: I first started skiing with this junior program called the Mighty Mites. At first, you start skiing against other kids in your clubhouse and that was when I was like nine-10 years old. I really started getting competitive with it when I was about 13. I started to go to the Junior Olympics and competing on a national level then. So yeah, I would say that my early teens was when I really started to break out into the competitions.
CR: Now, transitioning into more of a vacation sense of traveling, when you are looking to get away do you look to relax on a beach, hit the mountains or do something different all together?
CT: These days honestly I’m all about the beach. I was lucky enough to grow up in Santa Cruz, so I grew up surfing. I spend so much of the year gone in the winter months, so when I get done with my skiing tours my wife and I like to go to Mexico, Central America or even Indonesia to just defrost and feel the sun again.
CR: Do you have a recent vacation that sticks out to you?
CT: I would say one of the most impactful vacations as of late was when I went to Indonesia for about two months with wife. It was absolutely incredible! It’s really cool, because the thing with skiing is that we travel a lot, but mostly to similar cultures. Being in Indonesia for that long kind of allows you to embed yourself into that culture for a little period of time. It was a special experience because I’ve never really experienced anything like that before. You can’t really get a sense for a culture in a week or two. You kind of have to immerse yourself over the course of months. So yeah, those two months in Bali and Indonesia were just absolutely incredible.
CR: I think I may have a new destination on my bucket list! Given your current state of traveling, how do you feel skiing and travel fit best in your life?
CT: Skiing has taken me to such incredible places. I’ve really been fortunate over the years. I’ve been almost as north as the North Pole, and all across Russia, India, Europe and South America. There are mountains all across the world, so I’ve been extremely lucky to get to visit and see all of these places. I just think traveling is amazing. You get to go to all these places, see new cultures and realize people everywhere are fundamentally the same. We’re all looking for love, compassion and comfort.
CR: Have you ever landed in a new location that gave you a culture shock you weren’t expecting?
CT: I would have to say that shock happened for me when I touched down in New Delhi, India. That place is honestly just bananas! It’s a city so culturally different than anything you’ll ever find in North America — ever. It’s population density is incredible. The way the people eat, live and just about everything else was completely eye opening. We ended up staying in a hotel right in the thick of it all. I had a friend that was saying if we were going to go don’t stay in a fancy airport hotel, go down into the thick of it and experience as much of the culture as you can. So, that’s essentially what I did.
There were cows walking across the street. There were people making fires in the middle of the road to stay warm. It was just absolutely wild. I can’t even lie, some of the things I saw were painful to see and really make you appreciate what you have back home. I think it’s really important to see it though, because if you can take away something from that experience and help as many people as you can, even if it’s only just one, it still makes a difference. It’s important to make people aware of whats going on around the world.
CR: I’m sure that was a very intense introduction to a new a place, and must have been hard seeing people struggling. It really does make you appreciate the things you have so much more. Being well traveled and cultured, are there any places you haven’t been to yet that you would like to go see?
CT: I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky over the course of my life. I’ve gotten to see some really amazing places. South Africa is one of the places I really want to go to though. Being a surfer and knowing the rich history of South Africa just really makes me want to go. Tibet and Nepal are also places I’d really like to visit. Really that entire Himalayan chain. I’ve heard such great things, and I’d really love to go there one day.
CR: When you touch down in a new location what are some of the first things you like to do?
CT: First, I would say I definitely like to walk around and just kind of get quasi-lost into the city and just start seeing it. It’s really the best way to observe whats going on. It’s not being in a car or taxi, it’s just being out there on foot and experiencing everything first hand. Traveling is really a special thing. You learn a lot about yourself and other people. More people should get out and travel.
CR: In your realm of work traveling definitely comes with the territory. What affect has seeing and experiencing different cultures had on you? How has it broadened your perspective on the world?
CT: I think I had one of my most impactful moments being in Kashmir, the northwestern corner of India. It’s a place that has had a lot of struggles over the past several years. It was considered to be a dangerous place to travel to for a while. I ended up being invited into one of the most holy mosques there and I kind of felt out of place. There was me, this white guy, in this really holy Islamic place, but one of the elders showed me around and told me the history. It was just an amazing experience to see what was going on, especially because people in the west are almost scared of Islam. So, it was amazing to see first hand how kind, generous and welcoming everyone was there. They really treated me like I was part of the family.
CR: Lastly, to wrap this up, where is your next big trip and what’s it for?
CT: I’m going to be going down to Mexico with my wife in a few weeks just to get a little bit of sun and surf. After that I’m heading to Alaska to do some hiking with three buddies of mine. I’m very excited for that.