I begged my parents to let me skip a semester of college in Minnesota to ski Squaw for a winter. I wrote a contract and everything. My parents didn't ski, I learned from my uncle. They knew how much I loved it but didn’t know what it was all about. I had met all of my closest friends on a chairlift at Wilmot Mountain, a tiny bump in the fields of Southern Wisconsin. Once high school was over, they all moved to Tahoe to chase their dreams. I made the decision to attend college, but my head was always out West. They would send me letters and pictures, which I posted on the backside of my dorm room door. I was completely obsessed. When my parents finally agreed, this sealed the deal for me to make skiing my life, and that life was to start at Squaw Valley.
In Truckee, with a spot on the floor to sleep, next to a pool table in this small A-Frame house where I now called home. Everyday at 5:30, one of my roommates would leave the house for Squaw and would return at 6. I now had a ride, and found the best job. Turns out, if you liked to ski a lot working in the parking lot was the gig to have. My boss at the time, Fly, told me that, and he backed it up with skiing everyday. The best part is, when a customer pulls up and shifts their rig into park, your job is done. Also, at that very moment, everyone else’s job at the hill has just begun. Basically, once the lot was full, we stripped our stripes and ski’d till close. It was the best.
As soon as I officially graduated, I drove myself out west, rented my own cabin in town and got my old job back. With a degree in my back pocket, I now made skiing my number 1. With a few local sponsors at the time paying my way to get to comps, I ski'd dawn till dusk, day in day out. In the summer I built homes and bussed tables to build up enough travel budget, and hit repeat, season after season. A few years in and I was on a good roll, winning big air comps and learning the ways to compete in Slopestyle, a distant resemblance to my early mogul comps back in the USSA Central Division. Surrounded by inspiration at every turn, I grew anxious for more, and one day in the parking lot, on the back window of a San Francisco Bay Area SUV, I scribed the mark: 4FRNT.
At first I thought this would become nothing more than a name for our ski crew, a tag we used to leave our mark, get some stickers and try out making some skis. Then my friend DT called from Powder and said he heard the news, that I was starting a ski company, and so I did. I was naive to the ways a ski company would need to survive; I drank the Kool-Aid of my peers and launched the company with my first ski, the MSP. It was an all around Squaw Valley shape that made the mountain ever more playful, and meaningful.
For the next 10 years I put it all on the line to keep the company in check. We moved to Salt Lake City, started a family and ski’d everyday if not on the hill, from my desk. I surrounded myself with skiers of the same mindset and we built it up, pair by pair, and 4FRNT grew into its teens. Through it all, my love for Squaw Valley never wavered. So when we were closing in on our 15-year anniversary this year, I knew the only way to ring it in, was to reshape the model that started it all, and bring it back to the 4FRNT crew at Squaw to give it a go.
I wanted a ski that was playful, but crisp on edge so I shaped this version to be more directional, with a quicker sidecut and rockered tip and low-rise tail. I knew it had to have some mass so I added metal to the semi cap construction so it could handle the chop at high speeds but still pop on and off edge with ease. My main focus was versatility, like it was back in the day, from top to bottom; it needs to do it all.
Last April, I called up the Squaw Valley parking lot crew to see if we could bring our Utah family out to test our latest creation. They obliged and even reprinted an old nametag for me to shoot our parking lot scene. For 5 days during a wet and windy midweek storm, we had the mountain to ourselves. Squaw had more snow than I had ever seen and the local vibe was all time. With MSP’s on my feet, I was home again. Here’s to 15 years with the MSP and Squaw Valley, and to the lifestyle and people who inspired it all!
Check out the all new MSP ski HERE
Photo : Sam Watson
James “Cliffy” Clifford
Rob “Fly” Kronkhyte
Colin “Omar” Otte