Professional skier and year-round mountain athlete Drew Petersen lives in Salt Lake, and he deeply loves the Wasatch Mountains. He enjoys all aspects of skiing, from deep powder and multi-day missions in the backcountry, all the way to ripping hardpack right up until last chair. Year-round, the mountains are where he is most at home, scoring turns in the winter and running and exploring ridgelines in the summer. Drew is also known for his abilities as a storyteller, through photography, film, and writing, with publication in Powder Magazine, The Ski Journal, SKI Magazine, Freeskier Magazine, and more. Visit Salt Lake caught up with Drew to find out more about him through a little Q&A.
1. When and where did you learn to ski?
I learned to ski at the age of 2 in Colorado, where I grew up in Silverthorne. My parents made a lot of decisions in order to raise my brother and I on skis, and I’m super appreciative of that fact in hindsight. They always made sure to keep skiing fun for us as we were learning, and clearly it grew into a lifelong passion. I think that emphasis on fun is still what keeps my passion burning strong.
2. What motivated you to pursue a career in skiing instead of it just being a hobby?
I think there are a lot of different routes to keep skiing as a priority in one’s life, but for me, the right track was to chase my dream of being a professional skier. Ever since being a kid, I’ve been the biggest fan of skiing. I remember when the teacher asked what we wanted to be when we grew up in elementary school, I always wanted to be a professional skier. As I’ve grown up, it evolved from a dream to the path that made my heart sing the loudest. I realized over the years, that I needed to fully commit to pursuing my dreams and skiing has been the vehicle to do so.
3. What originally brought you to Salt Lake?
I moved to Salt Lake in 2012 to attend the University of Utah, where I later graduated with a degree in marketing. I had developed an affinity for the skiing here on family ski trips and in junior freeride competitions at Snowbird, so I already knew I loved the skiing. The opportunity to pursue a quality education at the U and have the incredible access to the Wasatch Mountains is what made my decision for me.
4. Was Salt Lake the first choice for your new home base?
At the time I graduated high school, I was 17 and unsure of what the next step was, like a lot of people at that age, really. So I narrowed it down to a few options for school, but the combination of a quality school and access to the mountains was unmatched elsewhere. Coming to Salt Lake ended up being the perfect move for combining education and recreation. And now, I can see it was the right move for me personally.
5. Building off of that, what aspects have kept you here?
I’m still in Salt Lake for similar reasons, the greatest of which being the access to the mountains. The access to great skiing is obviously important to me, but I also relish the proximity of the mountains in other times of the year too. The mountains are my life force. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the aspect of also living in the city more and more. I love connecting with people, going to my local coffee shop to write on my computer, eating at great restaurants, and occasionally going out to see some live music.
6. How long have you lived in Salt Lake?
I’ve been here for seven, almost eight years now. Wow, time sure does fly.
7. What makes Salt Lake “Ski City” to you?
Salt Lake is Ski City to me for all the reasons I live here. The access to the mountains is truly unparalleled, compared to any other city in the world. On top of that, the skiing is some of the best anywhere in the world too. That combination is pretty unreal.
8. What is your favorite thing to do in Salt Lake other than ski?
Run! Trail running and exploring the mountains with my own two feet in the offseason is my favorite activity outside of skiing. And of course, that access to the mountains works out well for me in the summer too.
9. Favorite Salt Lake mountain resort and why?
My favorite is definitely Alta. The community at Alta is part of what brought me here. I can show up on any day of the week and connect with friends in the lift line. The snow is phenomenal and High Boy might just be my favorite inbounds run anywhere in the world.
10. Why do you think so many athletes pick Salt Lake as their home base?
Well, number one is the skiing of course: both quality resort and backcountry skiing. On top of that, a lot of the North American ski industry is centered here in Salt Lake, so there are lots of opportunities. It goes beyond business opportunities too though, because Salt Lake is a nucleus of some of the best ski photographers in the world. If you open any ski magazine there is a photo from here. The international airport and ease of access is a major plus when we have busy travel schedules in the winter. Overall, Salt Lake is just a hub; it’s perfect for what we do.
11. What is your involvement in Protect Our Winters? How do your views on battling climate change align with Visit Salt Lake?
I’m partnered with Protect Our Winters (POW) as a member of their athlete alliance. I work with them on connecting my own passion, and the passion of others who enjoy the outdoors, to create purpose and change to solve the climate crisis. One major way we do this is by lobbying with our elected officials. I ended up not being able to make the trip to DC last year, so I’m hoping to have the opportunity this year. Along those lines, I appreciate Visit Salt Lake’s advocacy for transportation solutions and options, both to locals and visitors. At Protect Our Winters we advocate and work on large-scale solutions to the climate crisis, one of which is to shift the future of transportation. While taking the bus isn’t going to solve the climate crisis, I personally believe that those small actions are what motivate us as individuals and members of society to contribute to and press for societal, governmental, and large-scale actions that will truly have an impact.
12. Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
Why fight? I’d saddle up on the horse-sized duck and ride off into the sunset.
To find out more about Drew, visit his website at drew-petersen.com.