Tuesday Rider Spotlight - John Gaynes (Rep)

For this week's spotlight we posed some questions to avid backcountry skier and Ltd. Optics Rep John Gaynes.

Ltd. Optics:

Originally you are from New York, what brought you out here and what would you change about Utah if you could?

John Gaynes:

I grew up in Vestal, NY in the Binghamton area which is upstate about 75 miles south of Syracuse. I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for graduate school at the University of Utah. But, the close proximity of the world class Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City had a strong influence on my decision to move here.

The "outdoor community" in Utah is full of people who really want to support each other by sharing knowledge and experience with each other and also receive support with gratitude and humility. I wish that I could change the total population of Utah to have a similar sense of community, with individuals offering support to others they encounter, as opportunities are presented, and accepting with enthusiasm assistance and advice offered by others. It would be great to feel the genuine community intent that is a fundamental characteristic of the outdoor community all the time, not just while recreating in the mountains. This might sound idealistic and unrealistic, but it would make life in Utah better.

Ltd. Optics:

You have been skiing for a long time, how long exactly? What would you say the biggest problem with skiing is today?

John Gaynes:

I began cross-country skiing at age 6. My primary interest was pursuing downhills. At age 12 I started alpine skiing at Greek Peak, a resort in upstate NY. From then until age 26 I held a season pass and skied as often as I could. I would also frequent other resorts such as Whiteface, Elk Mountain, Hunter, Stowe, and my favorite Killington. The conditions were almost always as icy as an ice skating rink with huge moguls and deep ruts. Like many skiers from the east, finally experiencing Utah powder felt like arriving at a destination that I had dreamed of my whole life. Yes there was a bit of a learning curve to adapt to the "two-footed" freeride style that works best in pow. What I found most exhilarating was that the soft snow allows for big steep lines and stunts that would have been foolish and too risky to try in the ice of the northeast. So I would say I have been skiing seriously for 21 years, but 8 years in the Wasatch mountains.

I think the biggest problem with the ski industry is that it is driven by profit. Sadly, this limits accessibility to those who have the financial means to pay for gear, lift tickets, and lodging. Whether it is skiing in a resort or backcountry skiing, the expense is just not attainable for a lot of people. The sad consequence is that people who can't afford to ski never experience the joy and bliss that is felt when you are in the moment where you are focused on shredding the perfect run and your mind is freed from the captivity of the worries and stresses of life. I just want to add that I believe every thing I have said applies to snowboarding as well.

Ltd. Optics:

Many people may not know, but you are working on a PhD at The University of Utah. Tell us about what you are doing.

John Gaynes:

I am a PhD candidate in the interdepartmental program in neuroscience, which is a graduate program designed to train students to learn to become independent researchers. I am a graduate research assistant in the department of neurobiology and anatomy in the University of Utah School of Medicine. I will complete my degree when I defend my dissertation on May 8th. My research project is a study of the molecular, cellular, and genetic processes that are critical for axon guidance during nervous system development. Specifically, I am studying a gene whose function is required for correct growth of retinal ganglion cell axons, which form the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain. This project is intended to increase the knowledge o the fundamentals of developmental neurobiology, which are important for the development of other types of neurons in addition to retinal ganglion cells.

Ltd. Optics:

Brooke recently had the opportunity to write about how you met in a blog for Alta. How would you describe the way you two got together?

John Gaynes:

Well, Brooke dropped in the lab on occasion to chat with her friend. When I saw her I was like, "she is so gorgeous and also carries herself in a very professional manner...she must be some sort of hospital administrator or something along those lines". When she joined the lab I had a raging crush that was pretty serious. I was always nervous to talk to her, but fortunately she was very engaging (as is her nature in interacting with people in general). We became "friends" immediately and there was a lot of romantic vibes between us. At one point she set me up on a blind date with one of her friends and she came along as a third wheel. As it turned out, her friend ended up being the third wheel as Brooke and I really hit it off. Pretty soon some serious magic happened between us and we decided to get married. Most would say we rushed the relationship, but after over 6 years of marriage we both know that we really stomped that YOLO move!

Ltd. Optics:

Tell us about where you want to go in skiing and in a professional career.

John Gaynes:

There is no doubt that skiing is my thing, I seem to have a nack for it and a strong drive to always increase my abilities and repertoire of big lines and more advanced stunts. While I am happy to represent products and be an ambassador for brands and companies that I love, I really just want to shred. I like to encourage others, help others improve, and raise stoke for not just skiing but for snowboarding as well. I also feel very fortunate to have friends and aquantainces that share this mentality and offer me advice and encouragement that helps my improve. So for skiing, I want to keep on improving my skills and to do what I can to help others do the same. My professional career will be in biomedical research and I really hope that I can make discoveries that benefit thousands if not millions of people. I really want a career that feels rewarding, and what better motivation than to improve the quality of life of mankind. Specifically,I will do a postdoctoral fellowship in research after I graduate and then pursue a career as a research scientist. Whether it is in academia or private industry I don't know yet but I will be able to figure out which is a better environment for me to thrive and accomplish my goal to progress health care and treatments for mankind.

Ltd. Optics:

What is the number one thing on your bucket list?

John Gaynes:

I have a lot of things on my bucket list and feel fortunate to have already crossed some of them off. Right now I thinks the number one thing on my bucket list is to ski Mount Superior with Brooke this season. We have made a few attempts, but being the powder hounds that we are we have always bailed for softer turns. But mark my words, it will happen this season. And it would be way rad if some of you LTD optics shredders joined us..just throwing that out there!