Peter Kray of Santa Fe has taken his love of writing and skiing and turned them into a career that has taken him to three Winter Olympics, across Europe and Canada, to Chile and even to Greenland. It has placed him in helicopters, in snow cats, on trams above high peaks in the Alps, and across the U.S. on hairball winter road trips.
“My dad used to read to us a lot as kids. And, he took us skiing,” said the 46-year-old Kray. “Those two things were always linked in my mind, and I always wanted to be in the industry, in some fashion. I felt I was there when my first story ran in Powder in 1994. It was titled “The Couch” and was about living in Jackson Hole and all the people who slept on our couch. My closing line was, ‘Mi sofa es su sofa.’ ”
Kray’s father, who grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., moved to Denver to attend law school.
“He and some buddies were volunteer patrolmen at Vail every weekend. I don’t remember ever being asked what I wanted to do on the weekends in the winter. There was a big lodge up in Minturn that has since burned down — Peeper’s Palace — and we’d be there with all the other patroller families. There would be a dozen or more kids out together terrorizing the mountain. It was fantastic. I can’t thank him enough for that. Mom was a great skier too — a super athlete, very strong and determined.”
After graduating with a degree in English from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., Kray headed to Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“I guided and taught there, working for the great Pepi Stiegler. At the time, Doug Coombs, Theo Meiners and the Jackson Air Force were there, and many other people who had a lot of influence on me as a skier and person.”
Cray ended up in Santa Fe when he “fell in love with a Denver girl” who was employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He spent a year working for Harvey Chalker and Alpine Sports, and three years at the Santa Fe-based trade magazine Wintersport Business working under Doug McClellan and Marc Sani.
His next big step was going to work for Ski Press, which began in Montreal as a French language magazine. “At the time we were the world’s largest circulation skiing magazine, with a U.S. circulation alone of more than a half a million. I got to cover three Olympics for them, which was an incredible experience.” This began with Salt Lake City Games. “It was kind of Bode Miller’s coming out party, as he took the combined silver at Snow Basin.”
These days Kray is focused on providing online and print articles for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors, plus growing a website he launched with three other partners called GearInstitute.com. “Our long-term goal is to have something like Consumer Reports for outdoor gear. We had a soft launch last August and have gotten a lot of good press. We’d hoped to get to 25,000 unique visitors by this May and we already hit 40,000. And, we’re growing at about 10 percent a week. We have more than 50 testers, each one an expert in their field.”
Island Lake Lodge, a cat-skiing operation in British Columbia was one of his all-time favorite experiences. He has local favorites, too.
“I’ve had some great days around here,” he said. “I remember a three-foot day at Taos that still blows my mind. And I’ve had a lot of phenomenal days at Ski Santa Fe. We are blessed in Santa Fe to have such a good ski mountain right out our door.”
But his calling is not without occupational hazards. One time, skiing in the Nambé Chutes off the backside of Ski Santa Fe, he almost skied into a bear, and another time he broke a binding there when skiing solo and had to hike down-canyon to Nambé Pueblo, arriving at 10 p.m. or so on his last legs.
He has skied the Hahnenkamm in Austria, the world’s most dangerous downhill course.
“I’ve been hurt a lot,” he said. “I’ve also lost a lot of friends in this sport, so much so that I’m superstitious talking about it.”
Still, Kray finds skiing compelling.
“It’s almost as if you are levitating through this nature walk. There’s the sensation of what we imagine flight to be like. And it’s a different experience every run,” he said. “It’s also about community. And, it’s a sport of optimists. You always think each run is going to be better, each day is going to be better.”
He continues to remain optimistic, despite the obvious effects of climate change.
“I am worried that we won’t be skiing here in the future but in the larger picture, that’s a small concern. Someone has described mountains as our water towers. Whether you ski or not, you want snow up there, because it’s your water storage system. All of us in Santa Fe depend on this. I’m hopeful it will continue.”
Daniel Gibson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.