Chason Russell spends all of his time skiing, boating, hiking, and biking. And when he’s not working, he does that stuff too.
When you grow up in Telluride, Colorado, there’s more opportunity for outdoor recreation than you can shake a hippie’s dreadlock at. For native son Chason Russell, childhood adventures in the box canyon were not hobbies, they were an integral part of his identity. As a kid, Russell spent all of his time outside, exploring the San Juan Mountains by skiing Telluride’s resort and backcountry in Bear Creek, biking the valley floor, and boating the San Miguel River. His personal distinction came from being a well-versed and accomplished mountain explorer, and helping others to do the same.
From the time he could see over a steering wheel, Russell began a professional guiding and instructing career. As a teenager, he joined the staff of the Telluride Academy, an outdoor education program, and later began coaching freeskiing for the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club. At 18, Russell needed to get out of the “Telluride bubble,” so he enrolled at Montana State in Bozeman because “there was good skiing and kayaking there and they had a photography program.” For the next four years, Russell majored in skiing new lines at Bridger Bowl and minored in photography. He became the local ski tech, tuning skis in the keg storage room of the Grizzly Ridge Bar. After graduation, he moved home to ski big lines, ski tech, coach little rippers, and lead trips with friends all over Colorado. In 2011, Russell moved to Aspen for more of the same, except now he would act as a family’s personal chauffeur of all things rad. At 36, Russell still holds the same childhood luster for mountain-based adventure and instruction. “I am just a skier, passionate about being outside and adventure. It has always been an important aspect of my life.”
If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asks what you do for work, what do you tell them?
Well, I generally tell people I do property management, and some ski coaching on the side. They generally ask what company I work for. Well, I don’t. I work for one family in Aspen, but it’s more than just keeping an eye on their property. It’s more like I’m their go-to guy for everything, daily and multi-day adventures, usually skiing, biking, hiking, or kayaking. I like to call it ‘adventure coordinating.’
What’s a typical day like for you?
That depends on the season. In the winter months, the day can start early with snow removal, then getting all the gear loaded and organized for a day on the slopes, or fueling up and preparing the snowmobiles for an outing. I generally return with just enough time to fix whatever needs fixing, drive people into town, shop groceries, and return to the house to help prepare the evening’s meal.
The summer months are similar–just substitute summer activities for winter activities.
When the family is not in town, much of my time is spent on property upkeep, coordinating contractors, planning for upcoming multi-day adventures like raft trips and backcountry excursions. When I’m not busy with all of that, I can be found coaching the Big Mountain team for Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club or training for rescues with Mountain Rescue Aspen. I’m also a photographer so I snap pictures here and there.
How does your job affect someone’s day?
I’m just here to make sure everyone has a successful day doing whatever the daily activity is. I keep it as loose as possible while focusing on safety. And I make sure everything is in working order back at the house.
What was your first job in the outdoor industry?
I was an outdoor instructor for the Telluride Academy, a summer outdoor education program. It gave me a solid foundation in guiding and trip logistics. Part of the reason I joined the Academy staff was to make my work focused on things I am passionate about personally. I’ve always wanted a quality experience rather than a huge paycheck.
How does someone get your job?
There’s really no answer for that. I was referred to my clients through a mutual friend and we started developing a working relationship. Things just got better from there. It’s all about who you know.
What are the pros of your job?
It’s a dynamic job. Every day is a new adventure. Once I ended up tail guiding on a heli-ski trip for my clients. That was unexpected perk. I love to encourage my clients to get outside and push themselves, to experience new activities in new places. It has been rewarding to see them become so passionate about the outdoors. I suppose the salary and benefits are a plus, too.
When the family isn’t in town, there’s a lot of flexibility to pursue my own adventurous activities.
What are the cons?
Being on call 24-7 when the family is in town. It can be a challenge to put my personal desires aside and focus on theirs. And sometimes the snow shoveling can take a toll, as well. I shovel a lot.