Jersey Design Interview with Local Big-Mountain Extreme Skier, Chris Benchetler - Mammoth High Sierra Fall Century & Gran Fondo: A Top-Ten Rated Century Bike Ride
Stephen Krcmar visits with local big-mountain extreme skier, Chris Benchetler, about the design on the back of the 2013 Mammoth High Sierra Fall Century Jersey
Chris Benchetler knows the Eastern Sierra. The pro skier was born in Bishop and now lives in Mammoth Lakes, with his wife, the pro snowboarder, Kimmy Fasani. Most skiers know him from his on-camera work: he’s appeared in films by Poorboyz Productions, Nimbus Independent, Teton Gravity Research, Warren Miller, and Matchstick Productions.
But if you’ve visited a ski shop, you may know his artwork: he’s designed the graphics for his Atomic pro model – the Bent Chetler - for the last five years. And if you’re on Instagram, you may know him from his work behind the camera: he has a great eye for composition, a life that’s worth tagging along for, and more than 13,000 followers.
Named one of Skiing Magazine’s 2010 Skiers of The Year, the High Sierra Fall Century collaborated with Chris on the 2013 jersey. We chatted with him about how the collab came to be, his love of the Minarets, and his background in the arts. -- Stephen Krcmar
SK: How did you end up designing the 2013 High Sierra Fall Century Jersey?
CB: [Fall Century organizer] John Armstrong saw an art piece of the Minarets that I had used for a portion of my previous Atomic ski, and mentioned his interest in using the art somewhere. After a few conversations we landed on the Fall Century jersey.
SK: Out of all the peaks in and around Mammoth, why did you choose the jagged rock-stars of the Ritter Range – the Minarets?
CB: Simply because of their visual appeal. They are one of the most stunning and iconic mountain ranges in the world.
SK: Did you create the graphic digitally?
CB: I actually did that specific piece all digitally. I have a Wacom Tablet that allows me to use a brush, freehand style, through the computer. The program and tablet doesn't force me to do all my art at home, with paints drying, etc. It has opened a lot of doors and allowed me to be more creative because I can work on the road.
SK: Are you going to participate in Kamikaze Bike Games or Fall Century? If so, what event[s]?
CB: Yes. Most likely both, if I'm around. I love spending time on my bike. It's great cross training for skiing.
SK: This isn’t your first rodeo – you also designed the graphics for your signature Atomic ski, the Bent Chetler. How many models have you designed?
CB: Yeah. I'm very fortunate to be in the position I'm in. Atomic gives me complete creative freedom, which is great. This fall retail stores will receive the 5th year/model of the Bent Chetler, but I've actually already designed the next generation as well, so I guess that would make 6 years of graphics. I have to stay ahead of the curve,
SK: Can you give us a brief background of your artistic background?
CB: Believe it or not my art background is pretty spastic and limited. I have taken a few classes throughout my school years, but I've just always been fortunate in the sense that I could draw. I used to draw a lot as a younger kid, but I've always been such a perfectionist I never really kept my work or stuck with it. Never quite satisfied, you know. Now, at this point in my life, I am constantly learning new things about art and different mediums. I’m mostly self-taught when it comes to paints, etc. And in terms of the tablet and art program for graphics, it's definitely all trial and error.
Interview Follow-Up: A day after writer, Stephen Krcmar, completed his interview with Chris Benchetler, long-time Mammoth Mountain ski racing coach, John Armstrong, had these comments as a follow-up to Chris’ interview above:
Coaching at Mammoth, I often look over to the Minarets on chair 23 in particular, and when I am down the Paranoids end of the mountain. They remind me of some of the peaks and aiguilles in Chamonix, and a lot of the time it’s like checking in with old friends. When they disappear we know it’s going to snow, and when they are out in a blue sky we know it’s going to be a great day on the mountain. Early in the morning, when we go up to set courses for special race training it is always dramatic to see the Minarets in the dawn light. They take on very dramatic appearances and the colors of orange and red plays well with their Ansel Adams black and white starkness. Chris’ image makes me think of how the Minarets look just before a big storm.
About writer, Stephen Krcmar:
Stephen Krcmar splits his time between Mammoth Lakes and Los Angeles. He's regularly writes about skiing, snowboarding, and cycling and his work has appeared in Men's Journal, Los Angeles Times,Bicycling, and The New York Times.