Within the insular community that is the ski industry, Tanner Hall is a giant. He’s logged some of the most memorable movie segments, produced a bevy of well-received ski films, launched one of the most influential ski brands of our time and firmly cemented his legacy in the emerging sport known as freeskiing. He’s stood atop podiums of the largest scale and, from the onset of his career, has been the focal point and mouth piece of a rebellious movement that, over the past 15 years, has grown into a viable, self-sustaining industry.
Born and raised in Kalispell, Montana – a remote town in an already remote state – Hall showed freakish talent in the mogul community at a young age. He was quickly thrust into a scene dominated by older, wilder skiers that took him under his wing. He was exposed to the party mountain lifestyle at a young age, and if you look back at early footage and interviews, it was a lifestyle that agreed with the developing adolescent.
Tanner became the wild kid from the backwoods of the Northern Rockies: a great talent with behavioral problems – the kid who could do anything, learn anything if you could only get him to spit out that spliff that seemed to always be pressed to his lips. Tanner carried himself under the banner of THC (Tanner Hall Connection), sporting pot-themed gloves and embracing Caribbean and Reggae culture and affects.
What the public didn’t understand was the medicinal component of Tanner’s consumption. Tanner freely admits to struggling with ADD tendencies. He was an off-the-wall, rambunctious teenager and through cannabis, he found a balance that allowed the emerging star to stay focused and grounded. It allowed him to excel in a developing sport and reach new heights previously unimagined by skiers within the sport of freeskiing.
This past season, Tanner focused his energy on creating a segment for Poor Boyz Productions’ latest film “Twenty.” He has the ender, which is always reserved for the film’s star, the standout performance. Amidst nostalgic flashbacks to his younger years, Tanner put down one of the strongest performances of any skier in recent memory set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Kind of Man.” The song choice was obviously a deliberate one. Casting aside the distractions, Tanner’s segment becomes his manifesto: despite the setbacks, the injuries, and friends lost along the way, Tanner is a skier through and through.
Now, Tanner stands on the precipice. He’s no longer the rambunctious kid struggling with stardom, he’s the veteran. He’s been around the block. He’s endured tragedy, loss and a debilitating injury. He’s made a life for himself through skiing but has also ensured financial security in a notoriously ruthless industry. It seems as though his image off the slopes is blending with that image his skiing portrays. People will wonder what has changed. They will make presumptions of lifestyle changes. And Tanner freely admits the one thing that has not changed – and probably won’t – is his relationship with cannabis.
Cannabis Now Magazine [CNM]: You probably travel a lot for your job — where do you currently live?
Tanner Hall [TH]: Well I’m originally from Kalispell, Montana and I lived in Park City, Utah for a while, but now I recently just moved up to Lake Tahoe, California and reside in Alpine Meadows. And I actually just got a place down in Nicaragua.
CNM: How long have you been skiing competitively?
TH: I started competing at like 9 or 10 years old and now I’m 29 — so like 20 years.
CNM: You had an interesting childhood, moving away from Montana at a young age. What was that like?
TH: Well, when I was 15 years old I went to Park City, Utah and moved in with a couple of guys who were like 22 or 23 years old, these older skiers. One was a skier and one was just filming the other kid all the time. I saw where our sport was going and decided to move in with those guys.
CNM: How did your parents feel about that?
TH: It was kind of a funky move with my parents, because, ya know, it was a party lifestyle I was getting into.
CNM: How was it being so young yet free to make a move like that?
TH: It was pretty wicked to be able to move away so young into a more free environment where I got to ski a lot, but also experience life in a different way from most other 15 year olds. It was great for the ski part, because those guys were always charging really hard and making me want to ski harder. But hanging with an older crowd also comes all that kind of party mountain lifestyle too. I got introduced to partying then. It all comes with skiing, ya know, being that kind of free spirit.
CNM: You’re pretty candid about cannabis being an integral part of your life.
TH: Yes, I am. Being a skier I’ve, of course, had some injuries and marijuana is what’s helped me through a lot of the pain and keeping my head sane instead of going the pain pill, chemical route. I blew out my knee and ankles some years ago and I knew I wasn’t going to be skiing for a long time during that period. Back then I didn’t know much about pain pills and I found out real quick what it was like to be addicted to chemicals — it sucked!
CNM: A lot of people get addicted to pills that way. So, you find cannabis works better for you?
TH: Out of everything I’ve done in my whole life, I’m still smoking weed on the daily. It’s the only thing that keeps me focused and keeps me on task in a way. I find smoking weed doesn’t detour my brain — it actually makes the ultimate goal that much more visible and you can walk the path to it every day. Compared to drinking alcohol, you’re generally not doing anything positive, not really contributing to society in a way. For me, when I’m smoking I can be skiing or just chillin’ watching TV — some pretty far extremes.
CNM: There’s a stigma still with cannabis smokers, but you’re kind of the opposite of the cliché lazy pothead. You’re ambitious and successful.
TH:I think it’s all a mind state. If you set your mind to something, you can pretty much do anything you want. The human body is pretty incredible and the human brain is a pretty powerful muscle. I’m not gonna sit here and say weed doesn’t make you lazy. It does different things to different people. Like me with alcohol, I just go bananas. Other people can drink it. But for me, when I smoke I have so much energy and motivation, instead of being all ADD-brained out where you don’t know which way to start.
CNM: Do you have a favorite go-to strain?
TH: I’m kinda old school. I really like Afgoo. Lately I’ve been smoking some Girl Scout Cookies, they’re really nice… and then when I’m down in Southern California, it’s always Sweet Dream.
CNM:What’s your favorite mountain?
TH: I like Revelstoke Mountain Resort up in Canada. It’s around six or seven hours east of Whistler in the interior of British Columbia. It’s got the best snow, the best terrain, and just the best people.
CNM: What’s your favorite trick?
TH: As I’m getting older, it’s more about skiing big mountain lines. I’d have to say the trick is finding the way from top to bottom and not making a wrong turn and flying off of something that could kill you.
CNM: I read you traveled to Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown by police.
TH: Yeah, I was out there when all the protests were going down. I wanted to see it for myself. I’m actually, right now, standing next to one of the kids from the Lost Voices Foundation, an organization that deals with families affected by police brutality. He’s a kid that I met when I was out there and got to know a little bit and became close with.
CNM: And you invited him to stay with you in Lake Tahoe?
TH: Yeah, we brought him out for the week, getting him away from the madness for a little bit. Just trying to get some downtime. We’re on our way this afternoon hiking up to a lake. So, it’s funny you ask about Ferguson, ‘cause here we are chillin’ right now.
CNM: You’re involved with producing music. Can you tell me more about that?
TH: I used to produce reggae music in Jamaica, but I don’t really do so much of that anymore. Reggae music has been a really big passion of mine. We got a couple of really good artists. One is Randy Valentine and another is Cali P. Now we’re doing a lot of work with this cat Gary Burke from Switzerland, who owns a company called Hemp Higher Production. He’s a producer — he’s making all the beats and Cali’s done a lot of music for a lot of the ski movies that we’ve made.
CNM: You also have a ski company called Armada, right?
TH: Yeah, we started that back in 2003. Me and a bunch of other skiers got together because we thought that skiing needed something new. We wanted gear that fit our style of skiing. We all knew the kind of punishment we put our skis through so we were actually able to tell the engineers what we wanted. It was pretty wild to see how fast that caught on. I won the X Games three years in a row with the skis and got really prime coverage. A lot of people around the world got to see what we were about right away.
CNM: What’s going on with you now?
TH: Well, contests are going to take a backseat for a while because I’m going into a two-year film project. I’m going to do one year at Revelstoke in Canada and the next year up in Alaska for two months. Basically, just kinda get the biggest lines possible and show people where my skiing was at one point and where it is now. It’ll take two years to get that done to make sure it’s as crisp and polished as possible. Everything is planned, now we just need to film the footage.
CNM: Your good friend and cofounder of Armada, JP Auclair, and skier Andreas Fransson, died this summer on a mountain in Chile. We were sorry to hear about that.
TH: Yeah, thanks. What those guys were doing mountaineering is so next level, such high risk. It could happen to anyone. It sucks that it happened to the two biggest legends in our sport. They were good friends.
CNM: Do you worry about the dangerous nature of your sport?
TH: It’s a really dangerous sport. But at least you’re dying on the mountain and not getting hit by some drunk driver. As I get older I realize that skiing is the thing for me. At this time of the year, when I can already see snow in the mountains, my brain just switches to this mode where I’m ready to get it done. The older I get, the more I want to seize the day in skiing and seize the moment and go out on these trips that I’ve always wanted to do and put out some of the best skiing of my career after going through so much.
CNM: Anything you’d like to say to Cannabis Now readers?
TH: Thanks for reading this! The world can be full of negativity and the more you raise up the positivity, the better we’ll all be. It sounds so cliché, but be nice out there and put in the energy that you want to get back and we’ll be all good.
Intro text by H.W. Wallingford | Photos by Alex O’Brien