Stian Hagen - Jaeger Couloir - Mount Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix, France

Stian Hagen on Steep Skiing and Family Life

The evolution of a Chamonix veteran

Stian Hagen, who was born in Norway but has lived in Chamonix since he was 18, made a name for himself as a professional skier back in the 1990s. At that time, he was one of only a handful of people who were skiing the classic routes in the area, like the Mallory off the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi.

Now Hagen is 40, and he’s still out skiing nearly every day in the winter, but with age, comes change—and kids. On any given day, Hagen drops his four-year-old son, Aksel, off at school before he heads to the mountains to ski around for a while. In the afternoon, he comes back to the house to watch his young daughter, Camilia, so his wife, former pro skier Andrea Binning, can get out and make a couple turns as well. When Binning comes back, Hagen picks his son up and takes him to the local bunny hill or bike park for a while before dinner. Balancing family with skiing is a schedule far from the norm of your typical pro skier, but for Hagen, that’s a good thing.

“For a lot of [other skiers in Chamonix] nothing has changed, but I feel like my life is moving forward in a positive way,” he says about his family. “I look at some of the people my age who are still just skiing and drinking and I’m like ‘How long are you going to be able to do this? Are you really finding as much pleasure as you pretend you are?’”

stian hagen- Jaeger Couloir - Mount Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix, France
You won’t find many 18-year-olds skiing lines like this off Mont Blanc either. PHOTO: Christian Pondella

Because he’s nearly two decades older than a lot of other pro skiers, some may easily dismiss Hagen as irrelevant in the industry nowadays. But that’s not the case. Hagen joins other pro skiers like Mike Douglas and Chris Davenport who are part of a more “mature” crowd that’s continued to make a name for themselves. Part of their ongoing relevance is based on the fact they’re still incredible skiers. Plus, all their experience in the mountains helps them continue to successfully chase new adventures.

“[Stian] is always sharing insights on better or different ways to do things,” says Davenport, who’s skied with Hagen for years. “Whether it’s a new knot or belay/rappel system, a new method for a compression test, a safer way to approach ski terrain, or new ways to look at lines in the mountains, Stian always has his senses open to the possibilities.”

“People are lining up to ski the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi nowadays in the spring. It wasn’t like that 10 years ago,” says Hagen. “I had it perfect for myself back in the day and I know it’s never going to be that good again. And, I’m not willing to take the risk of someone dropping in on top of me.”

Skiers like Hagen and Davenport are also being recruited by brands because with age they’ve become more articulate spokespeople and companies realize that the 40-something crowd is a large part of the market.

“I think the industry is…seeing the value of the older guys who know the business, the products and who can talk to the customer,” says Hagen, who’s sponsored by Arc’teryx, Marker, Völkl, Dalbello, and Swix. “And not many 18-year-olds are going to be buying Völkl V-Werks Katana skis and a set of new Arc’teryx clothing.”

When Marker recently released their Kingpin binding, for example, they featured Hagen in the product video because he helped develop the binding and knew how to articulate why it’s important. He’s been with some of his sponsors for more than a decade and brings an institutional knowledge that a younger pro can’t.

“Stian always has a thoughtful way of articulating what’s working and what’s not,” says Carl Moriarty, the design director for apparel at Arc’teryx. “And that’s because he has a lot of context.”

Out in the mountains, Hagen still loves a steep line, of course, but he’s not motivated to go out and ski the Mallory every time it gets good these days. Chamonix’s classic routes are more crowded than ever, he says, and the sheen is gone.

“People are lining up to ski the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi nowadays in the spring. It wasn’t like that 10 years ago,” says Hagen. “I had it perfect for myself back in the day and I know it’s never going to be that good again. And, I’m not willing to take the risk of someone dropping in on top of me.”

Stian Hagen's new challenge: his four-year-old son. PHOTO: Adam Clark
Stian Hagen’s new challenge: his four-year-old son, Aksel. PHOTO: Adam Clark

Instead, Hagen is finding new ways to challenge himself. He recently designed a multi-day hut trip through Norway, an endeavor that forced him to beef up his route finding skills and turned him from a skier into a guide. The route links six existing huts and Hagen designed it so each day skiers cross about 15 kilometers of terrain and get somewhere around 1,500 feet of vert.

“I like the idea of building something for other skiers. It’s less about my own ego and more about creating something new for other people,” he says.

Although his interests often pull him away from Chamonix, Hagen says he and Binning don’t plan to leave this community any time soon. He still loves to ski there and appreciates the group of friends and ski partners he’s developed. He also loves the summers in the area because he climbs and has recently taken up competitive trail running.

Going forward, Hagen hopes things remain pretty much the same. He likes the family/ski life juggle and appreciates that he gets to have the best of both worlds where he can ride the tram up and ski world-class terrain and then come back down and mess around in the snow with his son. Plus, after decades of making a life in the mountains, he can’t see changing his lifestyle now.

“My biggest fear is actually getting a real job,” he says. “It would be tough to go from living the life I’m living to going to an office job. I’ve chosen freedom over money and I’d like to think I can do that in the future too.”