By Susan Schnier
September 2005

A shy kid from rural Vermont, 22-year-old Jesse Bushey’s skiing speaks far louder than his words. And that’s exactly how he likes it. You’ll never hear Jesse talking smack in the lift line at Squaw Valley’s KT-22, but in the four winters he’s skied at Squaw, he’s probably had first chair more than anyone else—quite a statement for the chair known as a breeding ground for the past and current legends of freeskiing.

In a line that regularly draws Shane McConkey, Kent Kreitler, Aaron McGovern and more, everyone at Squaw knows Jesse as the blond dreadlocked telemarker who’s out everyday screaming down the gnarliest lines on an oversized ski like Volant’s Spatula, or his new favorite, Volkl’s 193 split tail Sanouk.

What inspires Jesse to be at the head of the line every day? “Fresh tracks,” he says. “And because I like beating everyone else,” he adds with a smile. “It just feels very special when you get the first chair, and there are 100 people behind you. You can go anywhere you want.”

Home-schooled by his parents in Cabot, Vermont since 2nd grade, Jesse moved to Squaw as soon as he finished his last year of high school. Jesse’s dad, a “cool woodsy dude who likes to build houses,” taught him how to telemark on Nordic skis and leather boots. Jesse got his first taste of lift served skiing in those same boots at Smuggler’s Notch when he was 14. “I jumped my first 20-footer there in those boots,” he says nodding and smiling with a nostalgic look.

“There was a fenced-off cliff,” he adds. “We got last chair at 4 p.m., jumped it, and sped off before patrol did their sweep.” From then on, Jesse was hooked on the turn and the speed. Now Jesse is one of the most dedicated telemarkers on the hill. Missing only 14 days over the season, Jesse spent over 140 days last year focusing on Squaw’s most technical lines.

“Turns and fluidity are my priority,” says Jesse. “This year I was focused on turning because I wanted to ski spines. I like to ski fast, but I don’t like sacrificing control and fluidity for speed.”

A list of Jesse’s idols includes many of the names that wind up just behind in line for KT-22, including big-name alpine freeskiers like Shane McConkey and Scott Gaffney and lesser known heroes like Sheryl Varner, a Squaw legend known for setting the pace for getting in line at KT, as well as Hansi and Toni Standteiner.

Though most of his ski heroes lock their heels, Jesse doesn’t plan to switch over to alpine until he knees force him. “I don’t see myself as having lesser goals or expectations because I telemark,” he explains. “I do it because it’s harder.”

In the off-season, Jesse works as an apprentice blacksmith, crafting handrails and decorative ironwork. When Jesse’s not forging iron, he rides his road bike around 200 miles each week and just finished California’s 129-mile, 15,000-veritcal-foot Death Ride near the front of the pack. Next year he wants to win.

If you want to spot Jesse this year, look for the fastest and smoothest telemarker on the hill, but the telltale dreads of six years are gone. Now Jesse has a mohawk, and his dreads hang in a bundle from the wind chime outside his door. “I grew them because my dad didn’t like them,” Jesse says. “But I shaved them because people kept asking me for pot.”