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Nov 11, 2023 by Gordy Megroz

Meet a Creative: Chris Benchetler

PRO SKIER | ARTIST | FILMMAKER ​

Home Base / Mammoth, California.

Activities / Skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing.

Why Chris

Raised in Bishop, California, Chris Benchetler spent much of his childhood skiing at Mammoth Mountain, the place he’s called home for 20 years now. He briefly competed in freeski events, where he caught the attention of film production companies after breaking his femur at Freeze magazine’s Parkasaurus. His footage from that event showed up in the films the next year. He spent the next five years filming for other production companies, especially Poor Boys, but also including Teton Gravity Research (TGR), before starting his own production company, Nimbus Independent, in 2008. The move ushered in a new way to consume media. “To my knowledge, we were the first production group to create free, online content,” says Chris.

Chris frequently fields calls from brands looking to assign him artwork or capitalize off his following, but he's steadfast about only working with companies that he believes in and, in turn, believe in him as a partner and collaborator for the long term.

All the while, he was honing his passion for producing original art. In 2008, his ski sponsor, Atomic, gave him the chance to meld his two loves when they developed a signature Bent Chetler ski (now it’s a full line of “Bent” skis) with Chris’s artwork on the topsheets. In the years since he’s created designs for Dragon goggles, Dakine packs and gloves, Liquid Force wakesurfers,  several outdoor brands, as well as artwork for a Grateful Dead album and a book about his film Fire On The Mountain.

Photograph Christian Pondella

As an athlete, Chris is clearly on the top of his sport. But he’s also a super talented artist that’s fun to work with. It’s rare that somebody comes from outside the Grateful Dead and really gets it. His artwork captures Grateful Dead iconography, which is rare.​

David Lemieux Head archivist for the Grateful Dead.
Photograph Christian Pondella
Chris gained fame as an athlete who was more of a Venn diagram than a box. He brought freeskiing to the backcountry and blurred the lines between skiing and snowboarding with his surfy approach. Today, as an artist, filmmaker, and athlete, he continues to be more than a label.

Specialized Skills

He’s famous in the ski world as an athlete and an artist, but Chris is also a producer and director. He worked with Flagship Independent to make the movie Fire On The Mountain in 2019 (distributed by Teton Gravity Research). “I like having creative and artistic control over projects,” he says. “I really enjoyed the process of making a film that transcends action sports.”

Even in his art, Chris crosses mediums.

What’s Next:

“There might be a sequel to Fire On The Mountain,” says Chris. “It’s several years down the road, but we are having conversations. Everybody from athletes, to filmers, to sponsors are on board with the concept.”