“What’s the wi-fi password again?”
It’s May 13, and pro skiers Chris Davenport and Jess McMillan sit staring at MacBooks through sun-reddened, sleep-deprived eyes. They’ve been up since 3:30 a.m. Three hours ago they skied off the summit of Mt. Hood, their 11th volcano in nine days.
Welcome to après-ski during the Ring of Fire Tour, Chris Davenport’s latest ambitious expedition, which involves climbing and skiing 15 of the Northwest’s volcanoes in two weeks. Blogging and tweeting isn’t as glamorous as ripping super-G turns down steep corn, but when sponsors, including high-profile ones like Whole Foods, foot the bill, it’s part of the job.
“It’s not like the old days,” Davenport says. “Companies are analyzing their return on sponsored athletes and doing a huge amount of due diligence before investing in a trip.
I recognized early on that I needed to treat myself as a brand and find a diversity of ways to maximize the impact of each journey.”
He’s meticulous about creating compelling content and sticking to a distribution strategy he plans months before a given trip. During the Ring of Fire, fans could follow POV shots, social-media posts, and frequent blog updates.
Now 41, Davenport has managed to stay on top for two decades largely because he’s figured out that success in his business depends on more than being at his athletic best. “Being a pro athlete has three main parts,” he says. “The first is what everyone thinks of: being a top athlete. The second is coming up with fun projects that will be inspirational to consumers. And the third is storytelling.”
And though he has clearly become a sought-after brand—he writes books, makes films, teaches camps, consults with travel agents and insurance companies, speaks at schools and corporate events and even to the Royal Geographic Society in London—he’s retained a ski bum’s heart, understanding that one successful adventure begets the next.
“I’m doing my best to keep the dream alive,” says Davenport.