Snowboarder Chris Klug on Staying Active After Retirement
A Q&A with an Outside in Aspen participant
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Chris Klug is a retired professional snowboarder and former Olympian from Aspen and was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame last November. He started the Chris Klug Foundation, which advocates organ donation awareness, after undergoing a liver transplant in 2000. Klug will participate in various events at Outside in Aspen this year.
You were recently inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. What does that mean to you?
That was a super cool honor that I got to share with my family. I was pretty blown away. I’ve been snowboarding for 30 years. I got into the sport because I was an avid skateboarder and thought, “Oh, it’s like skateboarding on snow. I’ve got to try it.” I was hooked, and that’s about all I’ve been doing in the last 30 years. I didn’t enter it envisioning the Olympics or Hall of Fame, but it’s been an awesome ride. I think it’s a testament to my old team and 30 years of doing what I love to do.
Where are the best places to snowboard?
Alaska, Aspen, and Chamonix. I do a lot of backcountry stuff now. I’ve always been really passionate about that. I retired after the 2010 Olympics, my third, and just absolutely love being home in Aspen in the Elk mountains and exploring a lot more on my split board, getting out into the backcountry and loving it.
I did a few hardcore backcountry ski and snowboard races this winter. I did the Power of Four, which took me from Snowmass 12,000 vertical feet to Aspen on my split board. Then I did the Grand Traverse for the third time. That’s such a cool race. I love doing these different athletic endeavors that keep me fit and keep me out there doing what I love to do.
What are your other favorite outdoor sports?
Mountaineering is one of my real passions—climbing 14ers around Aspen Snowmass. I’m an avid mountain biker. I’m doing the Leadville Trail 100 again this summer. I usually race here locally for fun. Living in the mountains, one of my favorite things to do is escape in the spring and fall and get on my kiteboards and my surfboards and my stand-up paddleboards. I love pretty much any board sport.
What’s your main focus these days?
I retired after 2010, so I’m super dedicated to promoting organ-donation awareness through the Chris Klug Foundation. I had a life-saving liver transplant 11 years ago. I’m also pushing myself in different athletic challenges, whether it be Leadville or Elk Mountain Traverse or Power of Four, just getting out to explore. I do all these things selfishly because I love being in the outdoors in the high country. But it’s also pretty cool to be able to demonstrate what’s possible after a transplant, a major medical adversity.
A lot of people are going through some pretty tough stuff in their lives, whether medical challenges or something else. To let people know that you can bounce back strong from that stuff is pretty cool. I was on a transplant waiting list for six years and was scared shitless. It’s certainly a compromised lifestyle facing a liver transplant. So I like disproving that and showing people that I’m healthier and stronger than before my transplant, and they can be, too.
Are you training for any big events aside from the Leadville 100?
Normally this is my biggest mountaineering season, but we didn’t have the hugest winter in Colorado, so mountaineering conditions haven’t been ideal. So I’ve gotten on my bikes a little earlier. I’m going to be at the Elephant Rock ride, which is the road ride in Castle Rock. I just got back from North Carolina, where I was kiteboarding for a week. Just working and playing here in Aspen and volunteering for our foundation and riding my bikes and climbing as much as I can and getting up on the rivers and lakes on my stand-up board.
One of my long-term goals is to be the first organ transplant recipient to climb the Seven Summits. I‘ve climbed around the northwest in the Cascades and climbed quite a bit locally—Maroon Bells, Pyramid, Capitol. So a big goal of mine is to take that up to Denali for my next big climb. We may do Aconcagua in the fall, and then Denali next June.
What do you have planned for Outside in Aspen?
I think I’m going to lead a climb or a hike. And then Charlie MacArthur and I are going to do something on stand-up paddleboards. It should be fun. We’ve got some great rivers and alpine lakes up here. Lots of options for SUP-ing and obviously no shortage of epic trails for mountain biking and hiking.
Outside in Aspen, June 8-10, is a weekend filled with outfitter-led adventure, including mountain and road biking, kayaking, rafting, trail running, fly-fishing, hiking, stand-up river paddling, and rock climbing for all skill levels. The weekend also includes parties, a base camp featuring Outside’s Gear of the Year, a symposium with professional adventure athletes and Outside personalities.