John Shocklee: A Fairy Tale
Photos by Ryan Heffernan
When John Shocklee was a kid in Akron, Ohio, he got his hands on some ski magazines. Images of Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake—not to mention the laughs, the sunshine, the lifestyle— stuck in his head. He found his way to the nearest place to ski: Boston Mills. It had six lifts that climbed 264 vertical feet. They all went to about the same place. His dad, always supportive—he didn’t miss a football practice—would sit in the lodge while drinking hot chocolate and watching his son ski. Eventually, Shocklee ended up in Telluride, Colorado, where friends taught him to ski powder. After that first season, he knew his life would revolve around skiing.
Now 52, Shocklee is a guide at Silverton Mountain. [In the summer, Shocklee is a dory guide in the Grand Canyon]. He is also the star of a new short film, called John Shocklee: A Fairy Tale, which recently won Best Short at the 17th Annual Powder Awards. The film is a beautifully shot portrait of a man who knows one thing for sure: He loves skiing more than anything. —John Clary Davies
It’s snowing really hard. The flakes are huge. It’s incredible.
I would say within that first couple of years in Telluride, I knew it for sure. I learned that skiing is a lifestyle. And it stuck in my head. I even had a conversation with a best friend from high school, and he was asking me, ‘When are you coming back to Ohio?’ and, it was like, ‘You know, I’m not, man.’
People can be in their prime from their 30s to their 60s. Seventies, maybe. We have the power of determining how young we feel.
You know, skiing is a real life-long commitment.
What kind of relationship do you want to have with the mountains? What kind of relationship do you want to have with the rivers? One you want to nurture and have throughout your whole life?
It’s hard to have a steady love life. You have to live with that.
My parents were pretty exceptional, man.
[Winning Best Short at the 17th Annual Powder Awards] was unreal. I don’t know what to think of that whole experience still. It was a totally bizarre feeling. Just arriving there and there’s this big crowd, and I knew the film was entered and nominated and so, I really didn’t think it stood a chance. I don’t know. My own story doesn’t seem that exciting to me. I watched Sammy Carlson win like 10 different awards or something like that.
You have to have your hands, ski poles, and skis in the snow all winter long to really know the snowpack. You’ve got to be out there every day.
Today I shovel. I don’t have my skis on today. It’s really gnarly out there right now.
I feel guilty if I’m not on skis. It’s probably once a month.
I telemark ski, so I often tell people that if you see me drop my knee on the slope, it means it’s good to go. Let it rip. If you see me making alpine turns, it means the snow could trip you up.
You get your job task the night before—you’re going to go control these runs. It’s intense. You get your route complete, and you take your clients there, and it’s like… there’s no words to describe how good the run is. There’s no way. That’s how good the conditions are right now. Creamy, cold smoke over the head. You need a snorkel.
In the future, maybe more skiing, less work overall in the winter.
This is a big storm we’re getting right now.