During a busy competition season, Atomic's Griffin Dunne manages to still squeeze in a ton of this. Andreas Hasselbeck photo.
In big mountain skiing, competing on the Freeride World Tour carries about the same weight as dropping into a race run on the Hahnenkamm Downhill. To Jackson local Griffin Dunne, stepping up to compete on the highest international level came with its own set of challenges, especially after a disastrous ’16-’17 season that ended in numerous crashes in competition. He did not finish the season with enough points to re-qualify for the FWT, but is determined to come back with a vengeance this year. A recent switch to the Atomic team has him stoked to push the limits more than ever.
Dunne did not grow up in big mountains, instead learning to ski race and subsequently huck himself off cliffs in Vermont. He soon caught the same bug that motivates the best in the world to test themselves not just against one another, but against the mountains themselves.
TGR caught up with Dunne for a ski on an early-season pow day in our collective backyard, Teton Pass, and we chatted about everything from traveling, competition, and a new web series that is in the works.
You grew up skiing competitively back on the East Coast, what was the real start of your big-mountain career?
The fledgling stages of my big mountain career were competing on STEFT (Ski The East Freeride Tour) where I grew up in Vermont. Throughout the following couple of years I dabbled with the big mountain scene, traveling from Vermont to compete in Colorado, British Columbia, and Chile. At the time, competing on these big mountain venues was WAY above my ability level and I was crashing in all of my comps, man did that hurt. I knew I had the athletic ability to compete at that level, I just needed the skills and the training to do it safely. To me, that meant I was going to need to be skiing every day in big mountains in order to do well, which prompted my move to Jackson.
Vying for that top spot against the best skiers in the world puts you in some pretty incredible places. Dominique Daher photo.
How did that morph into a spot on the FWT?
In 2015 I committed to a full season of qualifier events. I was one of three to qualify throughout the North America region. That winter, I drove over ten thousand miles going from event to event living out of my Toyota Tacoma with my girlfriend and our dog. Living the dream!
Outside of competition, what’s your dream day on skis?
My dream day on skis would be spent at a cat operation in Interior BC. Lapping huge pillow lines, anybody?
Tell me a little about your favorite place to ride in Jackson!
We have such incredible sidecountry access at Jackson. My favorite lap would be a true classic, out of the south gates into the Rock Springs drainage. After a 20-minute boot back from the top of the tram to the top of Cody Peak, you can ski over four thousand vertical feet and end up back in bounds with minimal physical effort, which means more laps! Oh yeah, and the terrain is some of the best in the world!
Stoked to be riding for a new team this year, Dunne has been making the most of the conditions at home in Jackson. Max Ritter photo.
Competitions and your career in general have brought you all over the world, what are your impressions of skiing and experiencing ski culture in places Austria or South America?
I have the best parents in the world. They gave me the travel bug at a young age. By the time I graduated from high school, and I use the word “graduated” lightly, I had already been to Europe and South America a handful of times. I am very appreciative that skiing continues to force me to travel and see new parts of the world. The après scene in Austria is second to none! Can’t wait to get back to the hazelnut schnapps. I will be also be competing in Slovakia this season, so that’s cool. Eastern Europe is a trip!
Living in Jackson, bikes seem to be a big part of your life as well. Seeing your competitive side from skiing, have you ever considered racing bikes?
I love biking, but I am truly still a novice. I have only had three summers on a bike now. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep up with my roommates, who happen to be some of the fastest enduro racers in the country. I do have a competitive personality so If I gain some speed in the next couple of years racing enduro would not be out of the question.
A series of frustrating crashes may have left Dunne feeling like this, but he is back with a vengeance, determined to re-qualify for the FWT this season. Dominique Daher photo.
After crashing out of the series last year, Dunne did not have enough points to qualify for this year’s event. Now in the process of re-qualifying, he plans on telling the story of what it takes in a three-part web video series.
What’s going on with your new web series?
I met Andreas Hasselback, who’s shooting it for me, four or five years ago in a hostel in Revelstoke. We’ve kept in contact since! He actually put me up in Austria most of last winter when I was over there competing. Andreas is an aspiring cinematographer who will be volunteering a lot of time for the project.
We’re calling it The Road Back. Andreas and I are taking this project on together, telling the story of what takes to get back on the Tour. It will the first time either of us have tried to produce content like this. Its a big undertaking but I am stoked to see what we can come up with. It will be a three part web-series document the re-qualification process. It will be difficult, emotional, and a shit load of fun. Who knows what will happen? I could get qualification wrapped up in three competitions and go home happen, but I could also compete six times and not re-qualify. There will be partying also… That’s the really the good content!
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