Oakley's Suzanne Graham Lands Cover of Freeskier Magazine
Oakley’s Suzanne Graham hucks a massive backflip in the Utah backcountry and lands the cover of Freeskier Magazine.
Erik Seo took the photo and wrote this about Suzanne, “Count the number of women skiers out there who will do tricks off of big cliffs in the backcountry. Are you done yet? You probably didn’t get past four, did you? Suzanne Graham is one of those women. So good, yet nobody knows who she is, except those in the Utah scene. Suz is hands down the best big-mountain female skier I shoot with, and unfortunately it doesn’t happen often enough.”
We caught up with Suzanne, a professional skier and BASE jumper, to find out more about this incredible shot and jump.
Congratulations again on landing the cover of Freeskier Magazine! You are doing a massive backflip off a cliff in Utah’s backcountry. Tell me the details of that jump.
Erik Seo, Jen Hudak, and I headed up to Alta for an early morning chair hoping we could make it out to this specific area before the chairs open. The goal of the day was to get some good shots of us sending it off some cliffs. When we got out there we weren’t totally sure how soft the landings were so we spent some time assessing the situation and throwing lots of snowballs, nobody had been out there since it snowed and with a cliff that big the snow really needs to be deep and soft enough- after throwing a lot of snowballs into the landing and building a small lip off the cliff I decided to give it a shot first. The photo on the cover was from the first hit of the day, where I decided to go for it off the bat and do my favorite, a big laid out backflip. Both of us got fantastic shots (huge thanks to Seo) and called it a day early to go ski some pow.
When and where was your first big jump?
The first big cliff I hit was in my first big mountain competition I entered- I was in the finals at the US Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird and it had just snowed a LOT. Unfortunately I fell at the top of my run so I just decided to go hit a cliff at the bottom of the venue I had been scoping out for a while- I will always remember my heart pounding in my head as I was skiing up to it and the crowd cheering. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty but I felt amazing afterwords- I had wanted to hit that cliff for so long, I guess the extra pressure of competition was what I needed to finally do it.
Is that one of the riskier jumps you have done? If not what was?
That one was pretty straight forward with a nice landing. It was just scary because it was so big. The whole “competition pushing you” aspect that I mentioned before can be a negative thing too though. I was in a competition in Crested Butte a couple years ago and got off my planned line a little bit. So I found myself on top of a big cliff with a tiny, sketchy landing. I knew I would lose points if I stopped and changed directions and went somewhere else so I went for it. I ended up punching a rock and breaking my thumb really bad. It easily could have ended up worse too. I learned my lesson on that one!
How did you get into BASE jumping?
I had always dreamed of skiing off a cliff with a parachute and just thought BASE jumping in general was awesome. I met Jesse Hall and Max Kuszaj skiing and watched them do a ski-BASE for a warren miller movie. I couldn’t get that out of my head and started hanging out with them and coming to watch whenever they jumped- I learned as much as I could about the sport and got certified skydiving so I could start jumping with them and learning more about BASE. We all took a trip to a bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho where jumping is legal and I made my first few jumps there. I was immediately obsessed and shortly afterward I made a down payment on my first parachute. Now, 2 and a half years later I have over 300 BASE jumps and it hasn’t gotten old yet.
How does it help your skiing?
I have noticed that since I have started BASE jumping I am much more calculated in my skiing. I analyze things more and am able to make smart decisions when it comes to skiing a technical line or hitting bigger cliffs. It also has given me more confidence.
How do you mentally prepare for a big jump? How do you overcome fear?
What helps me the most is to just think about it logically. Lots of fear is sometimes irrational so the best thing for me to do is to separate the irrational fear from the rational. I try to block out all that irrational stuff and just concentrate on what I need to make what I am going to do as safe as possible.
Who has been your biggest influence?
Growing up my two older brothers are who inspired me to be a skier in the first place, all I wanted to do was to keep up with them and be able to ski where they did. Nowadays I would say its my boyfriend, Jesse, who is also my BASE mentor and one of the most talented skiers and BASE jumpers in the world.
What are your plans for this season?
No concrete plans as of yet other than traveling around to places like British Columbia and Jackson (both some of my favorite places to ski) and just work hard shooting photos and doing some filming! I’m really excited.
What is the best advice you’ve heard?
Find something you love and never, ever, let go of it.
What is the best advice you’ve heard on improving in your sport?
Something along the lines that being current in what you do is the best way to stay on top of it. Push yourself often and what you are comfortable with will increase.
Do you have any other hobbies/interests?
I really love rock climbing, mountain biking, traveling, and just generally spending time in the outdoors. I’m also really interested in medicine and plan to get my second bachelors degree in nursing sometime soon. I’d also REALLY like to learn how to surf (but honestly who doesn’t?) so that’s on the checklist too.