Blending the lines between impossible and possible, Julian Carr doesn’t do things lightly. You would never guess based on the calm demeanor and relaxed attitude of Julian that he goes bigger and charges harder than anyone out there. He is well known for hitting 100 foot plus cliffs and globe-trotting in search of his next adventure. Julian has been skiing with Spyder for over a decade and has created quite a name for himself within the ski community. Julian’s calculated and meditative approach to skiing has helped him get to where he is now.
As much as we love to talk skiing with Julian, we caught up with him to talk about a new area of his life, running. However, we also talked about well…skiing.
How has your summer and fall been?
The past six months have been incredible. Four years ago, I founded the Cirque Series mountain running races. Now we have six races in four states. We sold out the races and we have an amazing community that comes around for the whole tour. I try to bring the same vibes to the races as I would a fun day of skiing. We go out and have fun in the mountains and then come down, hangout and après with everyone. It has been super fun for me being a Race Director for this series, it has certainly put me at capacity for the summer.
We design the courses similar to how you would boot pack or skin up the mountain. They are designed up the ridges of the mountain. Ours are a bit different and unique from other series in this way, as they are made for runners to go straight up the mountain and up ridges and get runners to the high alpine quicker. Summers are super fun and I’m in the mountains almost every day. It is incredible to be able to create something like this that challenges people to get into the high alpine in the summer months.
Was your winter passion for the mountains the catalyst for starting the Cirque Series in your mind?
It all started during the summer about six years ago. Usually, I would be mountain biking or wake surfing. I was honestly mostly mountain biking and then I got this really cool dog. Her name is Lexi and she is this unique breed called an Argentinian Dogo. She was bred to group hunt boars and pumas. When she was a puppy, I took her on quite a few mountain bike rides and she loved it. But then I thought, if I keep doing this to this dog taking her on these big mountain bike rides she could have issues as she gets older. At the time I lived right next to Mt. Olympus, which is pretty straight up and I started taking her hiking around there. I had never really considered myself a runner before Lexi. I started hiking MT. Olympus often and had tried to invite my friends but they were not runners either. I had to explain that this is different, it tests your agility, you get a beautiful view and all of these things and it was so much fun and I was like this is really cool.
Some of my buddies at the time were forest fire fighters. I remember them asking me how fast I could get up to a stream about halfway up on Mt. Olympus. You can’t be a forest fire fighter in the area if you can’t do it in under 30 minutes. I was in good shape, or so I thought, and was up for the challenge. So the next time I went up there, I set out to do it. I did it in 31 minutes. That got me addicted to the idea of doing it as fast as I could. That spring, summer and fall I chipped my way down to 22 minutes and 51 seconds and in the process I fell in love with mountain running.
There isn’t really a ton of running involved, it is a lot of redline hiking and some grandpa jogging and that in and of itself is heroic when you are going up 1,000 vertical feet per mile. Getting addicted to this process and trying to get my time down put me in the best shape of my life. The next fall came and I started the ski conditioning class I always did and I entered the class in better shape than I ever exited it. Strenuous vertical mountain running is one of the best things you can do for ski conditioning. This was one of the best things for me because it put me in better shape for my ski season and it helped kick of the Cirque Series.
All the Cirque Series races are under 10 miles. The average race is 7 miles with about 3,000 vertical feet. Our biggest vert race is 3,800, in Alyeska Alaska. That course is only 5.9 miles with 3,800 vert.
There are apparent overlaps with fitness and the physical aspects of mountain running and skiing, are there overlaps with your mental state when it comes to running and skiing?
It is really all about being in the wilderness and paying attention to what the mountains are saying. I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel like you can gain so much fluency and comfort in the high alpine simply by spending a lot of time in. When winter comes around you aren’t thrust back into those intense high alpine environments, you have been there all year.
Where are some of your most favorite places to run?
I did a trip to the alps a month or so ago and it was the first time going for running and not skiing. The alps are high on the list. The Wasatch, Colorado is also always a fun place to run. That’s the best part is, you can easily bag a peak in a day and that is kind of my style. Any high alpine peak to me is what I enjoy. Just like skiing, you need interesting dynamic features.
Did you get in any skiing this summer?
No, my summers are pretty focused on running now and the Cirque Series. But it is hard to let go because for 8 years in a row I went down to South America. Even two years ago I fit in a Portello trip in between the races, though it was tricky to pull that off logistically. I don’t seek it out like I used to. It is interesting because now come October/November, I’m super ready to go ski, which is exciting. It literally feels like I haven’t skied in years even though it has only been four or five months and I’m chomping at the bit.
Going into Skiing more, what are some of your goals for the upcoming season? What does the goal creation process look like for you?
Again it is a little cheesy, but it truly is to be happy and healthy. My goals are to seek out the opportunities to ski the most powder and to produce trips quickly once we figure out where the snow is falling. Then to make the trips happen.
Another thing I’m passionate about is working with other stoked individuals who are incredibly creative. I really enjoy the artistic process of communicating with a photographer, whether it is in my backyard at Alta with a photographer I have shot with a ton or new photographers. Amazing photographer like Adam Clark, Lee Cohen, Will Wissman or Adam Barker are always a blast to shoot with. Traveling and shooting with new photographers in remote mountains and learning a whole new system of how they communicate is such a fun and rewarding process. The last few years I have found myself traveling more than I’m home, which is really cool because I have met new photographers and it is just a pleasure to see these creatives in their backyard and in their element to get out and create art with them.
So those are my goals, happy and healthy, ski as much pow as possible and connect with as many creatives as I can.
When you are getting into the season or looking to set yourself up for the types of cliffs you want to hit for the first few times of the year, how do you prepare mentally?
Honestly having spent so much time in that high alpine throughout the summer keeps me connected with the mountain when winter hits. That patient process of finding that confidence is hugely important. Usually early season is all about excitement. For me, I’m not even going to touch a huge cliff unless the conditions are beyond obvious that it is good to go. It is important to allow yourself the patience to go study the landing and allow that bit of fear to be converted into confidence. Whether it is early in the season or not, I really take pride in being a professional and I have my mental process that I can apply at any point in the season. I have my equations on what I deem to be the appropriate number of safe parameters. When I find that, no matter if it is the beginning of the year, middle of the year or the end of the year, it all kind of feels at home.
Does your cliff studying process happen in the summer much?
You know back about 8 or 9 years ago when I first started getting into big cliffs, I did go study one cliff in particular that is in Wolverine Cirque. Depending on the snow year, it could be anywhere between a 130- and 170-foot cliff. I really wanted to wrap my head around how you could do it. At the time, Jamie Pierre was the guy who was routinely hitting cliffs over 100 feet and he had cracked the code. I knew it was not impossible and it should be something I could accomplish. It was part of my process to go look at cliffs in the summer that I wanted to hit for the coming season. That particular time I spent hours just sitting there cross legged looking at the cliff. It is pretty amazing to be able to fall over a hundred feet and land without getting hurt. It really shouldn’t be possible. Snow is truly magical and we as skiers are lucky to be able to coexist with nature in such a way.
From there my level of comfort has grown and grown and I wouldn’t say scoping cliffs in the summer is necessarily a cornerstone of my process anymore.
If you had any other career besides a pro skier, what would it be?
I think it would be amazing to be a musician of some sort. It is so incredible being in nature and being connected with nature as a skier. I think it would be cool to have a connection with an audience based on the music you are performing and feeling that energy.
Photo Credit: Jana Rogers