Growing up in Lake Tahoe, Brad Holmes' ski career spans multiple decades, a feat few can speak to. He strapped on his first pair of twigs at age 4, and started ski racing at age 7, becoming the youngest person at the time to join the U.S. Ski Team at 15. In 1985, he won the World Junior Championships in France at 16. His fundamentals on the slopes were evident as he crashed through mogul fields with speed and strength, and his outspoken personality and punk-rock style only added to his aura. In 1996, POWDER coined Holmes and his cohorts—Seth Morrison, Shane McConkey, and Glen Plake, among others—a group of "planetary snow bohemians." They gave a here-and-now energy back into a sport once thought to be dying. High-flying and hard-charging, but with a lighthearted attitude, Holmes and his posse tore apart the backcountry and couloirs for the cameras in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Holmes, now 46, no longer dyes his hair unnatural shades of purple, blue, or blonde. And he has stopped calling himself a professional skier. So long are the days of crazy neon costumes and rap-rock music videos with Matchstick Productions. But a continued interest in filming, directing scenes, and capturing shots, have led Holmes to Chainsaw Productions, his Tahoe-based action sports film company. POWDER caught up with Holmes to hear about his latest projects, the progression of skiing over the years, filming with Sammy Carlson, and embracing change.
POWDER: Did you fit in as a teenager on the U.S. Ski Team?
Holmes: No, not at all. I was a punk rocker and I had a mohawk. I was a little bit different. I got along with everyone, but it was weird because I was so young. I was thrown into this mix, and I had never really traveled the world. All of a sudden I was on the road, straight into the mix of the World Cup.
When did you shift focus to freestyle skiing and filmmaking?
I've always been into making movies and being a part of it. Glen [Plake] and I did this movie, Natural Born Skier,  and we didn't give a shit about anything but having a good time. What we did was incorporate skits and did some stupid stuff in there. Before that, in the ski industry, you never saw that.
The goofy skits, the rap videos, the costumes, the antics—how did it start?
The first time I did a rap was in High Society [Matchstick Productions, 2001]. It was just fun, straight up. We thought, We have to fill this movie up and this is what we want to do. We were just having a good time, and the thing that's funny about it is how seriously people took it…[saying things] like: He sucks at rapping! The flamboyant stuff back then was [part of] my job… to ski and cruise around, have a good time with people.
What made you decide it was time to start making your own movies?
I was always throwing ideas out there. I've always just been a creative person in that aspect. That's what happened when I jumped into doing my own movies. I made my first movie, People v. Brad Holmes, because I was still pissed at [an old] segment with Matchstick… it was a funny name, we got the 16-millimeter cameras, and I was taking [the sponsor's] money, learning how to use the cameras, edit, and put shit together. Not everyone has the chance to get a budget to burn 16-millimeter film. It was a learning experience, and the plan was to be where I'm right now—with their money teaching me how to do it.
What's the focus of Chainsaw right now? Any ski-centric projects on the way?
I've taken a 100 percent turn to make high-end media and also work with the best athletes in the world.
The last project I worked on was with Teton Gravity Research. We went out for a couple of weeks with Sammy Carlson, and he's the most amazing skier that I see on the hill today. Right now, I'm doing some stuff for Flow Snowboards. Yesterday, I interviewed Jeremy Jones about avalanche awareness.
Any snags or difficulties moving from on-camera to being behind the scenes?
I think the whole process of changing my identity. When I switched over [to filmmaking], all I had ever done my entire life was ski. I think I have it a lot easier than other filmmakers do, in the sense that I know a lot of people, and have my foot in the door in a lot of industries. It's been incredibly difficult, but I've come a long way in a short period of time.
What's been the biggest change to your identity?
The hardest part was just walking away from the ski industry. That's all I've ever known. I was sad for a while—heartbroken, because I knew that part of my career was done. Skiing will always be there for me… I still ski as often as I can at Squaw Valley, but most times I’m on the mountain working for various clients. It will always be a huge part of my life, but it's not what I do on a day-to-day basis anymore.
What are your favorite parts about skiing?
Just getting out on the hill. It's still the best sport in the world—especially in deep powder. You get out there, forget about the real world, and just enjoy. There's nothing quite like it.
Is there anything you'd like to see happen to the ski industry in the future?
It's great where the ski industry's gone since I started. From the time when we used to build jumps in Park City, Utah, and they'd pull your pass…to where it is right now, it's a huge accomplishment. Seeing kids do what they do now, it's just incredible. I'm old school. It's weird seeing people without poles, but whatever! I'm not talking shit, these kids are incredible.