Colt[er] 45

How big mountain skier Colter Hinchliffe’s cavalier approach to life landed him in the spotlight

This interview originally appeared in the December 2015 (44.4) issue of POWDER.
PHOTO: Tom Zuccareno.

For Colter Hinchliffe, tips earned bartending at an Aspen cantina paid off in a big way on a 2012 trip to Haines, Alaska. It landed Hinchliffe some of the best lines of his life. The adventure also earned him an unexpected seat in a helicopter alongside the Teton Gravity Research crew and later a spot on their athlete roster.

Now, the 28-year-old Aspenite is the epitome of TGR’s “tight, loose” philosophy—putting serious work in front of the camera while indulging when away from the lens.

“His story is skiing,” says Josh Malczyk, brand director of Line Skis. Malczyk says Hinchliffe’s ability to create his own content originally attracted the company to eventually sign him. “Opportunities present themselves in the weirdest ways.”
In Hinchliffe’s case, slinging drinks led to starring in ski films years ago. His easy-going attitude has kept him there since. —MIKE ROGGE

I tend bar to keep myself afloat in the summers. I get enough through sponsors to barely scrape through in the winter and pay regular bills. It’s great. When summer hits, I usually have a little bit of debt from the winter to pay off.

I quit bartending right around Christmas. I do it in the summers right up until the holidays at El Rincon, formally known as The Cantina, in Aspen. I used to bartend at The Red Onion. I’ll probably be back there next season.

I go to tequila and soda. Not a lot of people drink that. When someone orders it, I’m surprised. I enjoy the buzz and pace of tequila and it’s light on the sugar so you don’t feel like shit the next day.

My bartending is fast paced. I don’t know a ton of specialty drinks. I want to be fun, have a few drinks, and be someone who’s good to talk to. Sometimes I get carried away.

The social aspect and night schedule work well for me. I climb all day in the summer and bartend all night.

I meet the local drunks and out-of-town partiers. I try to attract girls to the bar. The more chicks in the bar, the more guys who are in the bar, the more guys we can sell drinks to.

Some patrons recognize me from TGR films. This one guy from Salt Lake contacted me through Instagram. He asked where I was bartending and came in for margaritas.

I like Instagram. I’m not trying to prove that I’m better than anybody else. Skinning to the top of the mountain at sunrise takes work, framing up a nice shot does, too. That’s art.

I was reading 50 Shades of Gray. Some friends thought I would like it. I don’t like it. He’s a weirdo. She makes me a little sick to my stomach. Her firsthand accounts of giving…but you should read it, though!

The stigma of Aspen does exist. There are rich people. There is that snooty atmosphere, but it’s only a small part of what I see in Aspen. We’re the bottom feeders. Those rich people come in on their expensive jets, they sprinkle money all over town and into our pockets as bartenders. There is room for all of us to coexist.

My parents got us on the hill at the age of 3. It was a good way to get us out of their hair. They still ski a little bit.

We were doing it low budget. I was in Alaska in 2012 with [photographer] Will Wissman, Leo Ahrens, and Lexi DuPont. We were filming each other, taking turns, while Reggie Crist was guiding. We were trying to get footage of ourselves.

TGR was up there and I met those guys. I met [TGR producer] Greg Epstein, Tim Durtschi, and Chris Benchetler. Benchetler twisted his ankle and there was an open seat in their heli.

I was bugging them to let me go with them. They basically said, “Whatever, you can come and we’ll see how it goes, but we’re not going to use your footage, because your sponsors don’t pay.” You know, they’ve got all their politics.

I skied that classic line Sage [Cattabriga-Alosa] and Jeremy Jones rode called Dr. Seuss. I got lucky. I got going a little faster than I wanted to and somehow stomped it anyway.

It’s cheesy, but skiing is the ultimate freedom for me. “The ultimate freedom” thing is said so much, but it’s true. The last thing I would want to do is ski instruct. My ski days are mine.

It’s a throwback to the ’80s and ’90s of skiing—having fun and a few drinks, skiing, and living this dream that we’re lucky to live. That’s what life is all about. This is what skiing is supposed to be like.