Exploring the Intersection of Art and Skiing

Piper Ski
Piper Kunst in the white room [photo by Chloe Jimenez]

The 23/24 ski season has come to an end, but the spirit of skiing lives on through its many forms, including art. This offseason gives us the perfect opportunity to appreciate and explore the intersection of art and skiing.

The skier is the paintbrush and the mountain is its canvas. This concept is cliche, but sometimes cliches exist because they can’t be refuted. The convergence of art and skiing is undeniable. From film and photography to painting and digital mediums, skiing can be the subject of any art form imaginable. The physical act of skiing is an art within itself — a striking form of self-expression and creativity. This interchangeable nature between the two entities is beautiful and complex. 

A digital media piece by Piper Kunst

A vibrant art culture persists in Denver and expands to the surrounding mountain towns where the ski culture has dominated for years. The mountains exuberate creativity, giving us a place to be free and create art through movement. Ski photography and ski-based paintings fill up art galleries and cafes throughout the state. 

Colorado is a central space for ski-based storytelling. Major film and media production companies started and continue to function here; including Matchstick Productions, Level 1 Productions, Freeskier Magazine, Blister Review and Warren Miller Entertainment. You can consume most of their creative media online, but they also host events throughout the city, with the fall season as prime time for ski film premieres in Denver. Going to these premieres is a great way to watch the creativity in action and support athletes trying to make a career out of their passion.

Colorado Artists & Skiers 

I went on a mission to seek out Colorado locals who embodied this spirit of art and skiing and found the two perfect candidates. I had the pleasure of talking with artists and skiers, Piper Kunst and Luke Penton about their perspectives on this intersection. 

Piper Kunst is an up-and-coming professional freeride skier out of Alma, Colorado. At 10,500 feet, Alma is the highest incorporated town in America. “There’s not a lot of oxygen up there, so most of the kids out there have some screws loose,” says Kunst with a chuckle, knowing she fits the part. She grew up skiing Breckenridge and moved out to Utah for college, all while making a big name for herself in the ski community. In 2022, she was crowned Queen of Corbet’s Couloir, showing the world she was one of the top in the game. 

Her delightful and funky personality shines through in her skiing in a way that is impossible to miss. She’s a risk-taker, she’s unpredictable and she’s fast. Her skiing style translates to her art. Kunst doesn’t have a concrete label for the type of art she makes, but it’s abstract and it’s fabulous, just like her. 

A Piece by Piper Kunst

Lately, she’s been messing around with creative suites and implementing that into the creative side of skiing. “Whether it’s altering photos or videos, it’s about keeping my creative mind alive and implementing my artistic abilities into things that are very traditional in the ski world already,” says Kunst. For her, skiing and art are interchangeable entities.

“Skiing is a lot like dancing to me,” says Kunst. She views skiing and dancing as forms of moving meditation. “You put yourself in an exact moment, gather all the information around you, and just stay present in that moment. Letting your body move freely down a mountain can be exhilarating, and ultimately, liberating—a feeling I think art sparks in many people.”  

Piper Ski
Piper Kunst at Alta [photo by Chloe Jimenez]
Skiing can be an escape and an avenue to find flow. There’s no room to dwell on the current stressors in your life, for the physical environment is forcing you to hone in on the present moment. It’s just you and the mountain, and for that specific moment in time, that’s the only thing that stands true. 

As a skier trying to make a career for herself, Kunst often finds herself amongst the chaos of the industry and uses art as an escape. “Being able to sit back, dive into my mind and create a bit of art is pretty refreshing,” says Kunst. 

Luke Penton, an Aspen local, views skiing with a similar perspective. His breezy and creative personality translates into his skiing in a multitude of ways.  He grew up in Ohio messing around in the park at Holiday Valley then moved to Aspen in high school, where he started competing in freeride and advancing his skiing rapidly. All the while, he was morphing into the talented, multifaceted artist he is today.  

Luke Penton at Crested Butte [photo courtesy of Alex Coosia]
Penton has no limits when it comes to defining his art because he does it all. “I consider my art to be very fluid and I push myself to try new techniques all the time,” he says. In his art, you’ll see a multitude of colors, textures and different materials all within the same piece. Recently, he’s been working on creating three-dimensional forms using ceramics, steel, or any mixed media component.  

At the intersection of art and skiing, Penton expresses himself through his gear and skiing style. In 2021, he started skiing for Folsom Skis, a custom ski company out of Denver. At Folsom, all the different elements of the ski can be customized, whether that’s the top sheet graphic, the flex pattern, or other materials within the ski. As a sponsored athlete on their team, Penton personally creates the colorful art work on his skis and designs them to cater to his ski style. He also draws on his helmet and buys most of his gear second-hand or at local street-wear type outerwear companies. 

Photo courtesy of Luke Penton.

Penton views skiing as both a visual art and a performance art. “When you’re making turns in untouched powder, you get to look up and see perfectly carved S-turns,” he says. “Now you have an experience associated with that place and a visual of the beautiful line you just skied.” Essentially, you get the gratification from both the act of skiing and seeing the physical craft you’ve carved into the mountain. “That reaction is very similar to how an artist might feel in the studio after seeing their work,” claims Penton.

Penton gets a similar sense of serenity and fulfillment when he’s creating art as he does when he’s skiing. Last spring, he made an interactive ski art sculpture that he installed on Loveland Pass. This project embodied art and skiing and all its glory. Check out the final result in the video below. 

Different skiing styles certainly come up when discussing the intersection of art and skiing. Every person can express creativity through their skiing style. Kunst, Penton and I agreed that once a skier ascends to a high enough level, their personality will inevitably come through in their skiing style. It’s a fun phenomenon to observe and to be a part of. 

“I think the most artistic part about skiing is body language and the way people move their skis through the snow,” says Penton. “The way people manipulate different parts of their body to turn a specific way or to fly through the air on their skis, it’s all very expressive.” 

No one person is the same, and no one person skis the same. There’s something freeing about that concept because, at the end of the day, it’s all self-expression. It’s all movement. It’s all art.

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