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Thicker Than Water

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After several rescheduled interviews (first there was that little TGR premiere, and then John was hungover, and then John drove eight hours home on his motorcycle, and then John’s phone broke), we finally caught up with Angel, 26, and John, 24, when they were back at their home in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. Well, Angel was home anyway, sitting on the sunny deck. John picked up from the parking lot of the liquor store in Cottonwood Heights.

John Collinson doing what he does best, on Kahiltna Glacier, Denali National Park, Alaska.Photo Credit: Adam Clark / Sherpas

SKIING: John, you got your phone fixed?

JOHN: [Laughs.] Eight hours in the mall later. Had to drop in and buy a new phone.

SKIING: First, John, your picture in Powder’s Ski Town Hair Down contest was epic, but I think your sister would have crushed it. I mean WTF? Angel, why you weren’t included in the lineup?

ANGEL: I appreciate that. Girls try so hard and then they nominate all the guys. But seriously I thought teasing men about being sex symbols was awesome.

SKIING: You both occupy a pretty specific niche within a pretty niche industry. Has having a sibling—nearly the same age, doing similar things—made it harder or easier to make your way professionally?

JOHN: I think it’s helped us a lot. We’re sounding boards for each other and team- mates a lot of times. There aren’t that many jobs in our industry, but we can be totally real and help each other with every aspect: ski coaching, business coaching, or living life. Having someone who understands the industry and each other is awesome.

ANGEL: Being the opposite sex helps. If we were the same gender it would be tougher, but we fulfill the masculine and feminine roles that sponsors want. We help each other. There’s enough differences that it works out really well.

SKIING: Angel, I know a lot of female skiers who were motivated to get better because they had older brothers to keep up with. You’re older than John, so what were your sibling dynamics as kids?

ANGEL: We were just two kids. Our parents didn’t instill a “you’re a girl and you’re a boy” thing, it was just like, “you’re our kids and this is what we’re doing.” There was no differentiation between us. I was just a person that likes to do these sports. I think that opened up so many potentials for me. We were just on the team. My parents would always say, “Other people will always set limits on you. Don’t set limits on yourself.” And one thing we could never say is “can’t.” It was like a swear word. You always had to say, “I’ll try.”

JOHN: Everything we did—chores, sports— it was all team-building.

Angel and John CollinsonPhoto Credit: Adam Clark / Sherpas

SKIING: Your TNF teammate Ian McIntosh was recently quoted in a TGR interview saying he’ll never use a heli to film skiing again. What do you think about this movement away from the traditional way of ski filming? Where do you see the sport—and ski films—moving?

JOHN: I haven’t done a lot of heli stuff. I’ve always been on foot-powered trips, so I just see it as the natural progression to be using your own body. It’s exciting to see other people wanting to do that too. It’s such a more intimate way to be in the mountains. It’s a pretty unique way to tell a story in the film, but it’s also hard to make it just as good as the heli-filming style. TGR did a really good job with that this year, crafting a story that’s foot-powered and had a lot of good action. There’s a lot of room to work within that space, and it’s exciting to see where it’s going.

ANGEL: I’m torn because I have made my name and my brand on my heli trips. And I’ve always been better at going down than going up. John is really exceptional at both. [She pauses, and then laughs, explaining that she’s watching two squirrels in the driveway chase each other, “and one has cheeks that are so full.”] Anyway, I think there are certain zones where you can’t match the volume or intensity of footage from helicopter. But at the same time, I want to move as much as possible away from fossil fuels, so I love the idea of the foot-powered segment. This year’s TGR segment was just next-level as far as the foot-powered skiing went. It’s hard to describe the consequences and how intense it is and how much more difficult it is to step up the level of performing—they don’t have a heli for rescue or first aid. And they did it in a storm that was dumping a foot an hour. They stayed up all night in shifts to unbury the tent. A huge component of that was aerial footage from a drone. The game is changing with drones, and as much as I don’t like the idea of tech and artificial intelligence, I think drones are going to make human-powered raw missions even higher caliber.

SKIING: Skiing is your job. A rad job, may- be, but still a job. What do you do to keep it fun? Are there days you just don’t want to put your boots on?

JOHN: For me, the hardest part is the business aspect and having to deal with contracts and sponsors. We’ve been really lucky in that we work with great companies. But it gets overwhelming trying to be your own brand. I just want to go skiing. I find joy every time I click into my skis. I haven’t burned out on that at all.

ANGEL: John has an uncommon ability to really maintain skiing as his passion. When he gets home from a long trip, he just wants to go shred. For me, it’s almost the opposite. I feel a lot more compelled to put the busi- ness first. Always at my computer, 10 hours a day. It’s hard for me to step away from that and just go ski. And when I do, there’s a large part of me that’s like, I need to go work on my skiing so I’m better at it. I need to train. Not, I need to go get the wind in my face and take a few laps. I struggle with keeping the fun in my skiing, and I think John struggles with putting the business in his passion.

SKIING: What’s it like being a pro in the age of social-media madness?

ANGEL: I have an extreme dislike for social media. I think it’s the number-one cause of modern depression, and it comes from our ability to falsely portray our lives and our happiness. I remember when Myspace was on the rise, and it was so disconcerting and demoralizing. Seeing people who portrayed certain parts of themselves made me feel like I wasn’t enough, or that I was missing out on something. On one hand people are inspired and live vicariously through our accounts, but I never want to put something out there that makes them feel worse about themselves. Like, “Hey check out me. I’m ripping.” I have the same struggles that everyone else does. It’s an interesting balance that I play with. Social media is a great connector, but it can be a massive divider.

JOHN: For me at least it comes more naturally than with Angel. I don’t mind Instagramming and it seems like an easy, fun way to make sponsors happy. I’ve never had a normal job. I graduated from high school and went straight into skiing, and this is how it is. I’ve never really known anything else.

SKIING: Dating a non-skier. Discuss.

ANGEL: John, have you ever dated a skier?

JOHN: Yeah, one time. But I definitely prefer to date a non-skier. I’m a social butterfly but also a hermit at the same time. I enjoy having my own time, and skiing is the greatest form of that for me. It’s my time to be selfish.

ANGEL: I dated a skier who competed on the Freeride World Tour for a few years [Ryan Hawks, who died from internal injuries sustained during a competition in 2011]. It was awesome to date someone who understood the industry, but at the same time, John and I get that from each other. So for me it’s the same thing. Meaning, I really don’t give a shit if they ski or not. Personality traits are more important. They need to be motivated and love being outdoors.