Text by Jess Oundijan
Finding a winter job that compliments your desire to ski is just one way to fund a ski bum lifestyle. However, big mountain skier and filmer, Axel Peterson, takes a more ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to his work/ski balance. Based out of Bozeman, MT during ski season, he spends his summers working a gruelling schedule on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska, which allows him to keep his winters work-free for travel and adventure.
Having spent years as a competitor on the big mountain circuit, Axel has recently swung his focus to bigger mountains and deep backcountry missions. This winter alone he has spent almost half his time on the road, travelling to ski in Utah, Colorado, Idaho and British Columbia. With no job to restrict his movements, he is free to pursue larger, challenging objectives that require patience and planning in order to nail them in the right conditions. He then films and documents these pursuits via his ski film production company, Bridger Brigade Productions.
To the casual observer Axel is living the skier’s dream, but his life isn’t all pow turns and rainbows. Once the snow melts, fishing season begins, and every summer for the past 8 years he has set up residence on his father’s 58 foot salmon fishing boat, alongside his two sisters. The family proceeds to spend four to five months working 20 hour days, setting nets, hauling nets and unloading thousands of pounds of salmon with little time for rest and relaxation.
The lack of sleep and intensely long days take their toll after a while, but Axel is fully aware of how this work translates to make him a better skier in the winter. Such gruelling work makes you tough, physically but especially mentally, and is great training for keeping sharp and safe during long days in the mountains.
The brutal 4am starts and sleep-starved schedule might be off-putting, but it comes with some wild and rewarding experiences. For one, it’s Alaska. This is the home of monumental mountains and breathtaking scenery, and they are immersed in it 24/7. Axel will be the first to tell you that he has seen some of the most amazing things of his life working up there. Now add to the equation the issue of some unexpected bycatch and you’ve got a recipe for tactfully freeing the occasional 10ft shark that might make his way into the nets.
Axel’s father has set a strong example for his kids, having fished all summer in order to ski all winter since he left high school at 18. Being able to follow in those footsteps is an opportunity Axel is grateful for, and he embraces the creed of ‘work hard, ski harder’. It’s not easy to balance a passion for adventure with the necessity of work but Axel gives it a good nudge, making sure to take life one day at a time and to eat plenty of carrots.