Forward and interview by Andrew Somps
Photos by Eric Dyer
I first met Harrison at a Crossfit class in Park City. It was 8am and frigid cold and I was in no mood to be awake let alone exercise. But his energy was contagious. There was a warmth to him that lifted the veil of my early morning grog. I was glad to be around him, and we had just met. Born and raised in Park City, UT Harrison naturally grew up a product of his environment. A man of the mountains. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, you name it. A jack of all trades when it comes to alpine sports. I recently had the opportunity to accompany him and 11 others on a 100 mile bike ride through the Moab desert. Harrison was the grand organizer and a big reason behind the success of the trip. I sat down with him to learn about his life as an outdoorsman, and how that’s shaped who he is today.
AS| 100 miles on a bike is no small feat, through the desert nonetheless. But this is the kind of thing you live for. Could you start by giving a little more background on who you are, where you grew up?
HH| So, name’s Harrison. Hogan Holly. Triple H. I grew up right here in Park City, UT where skiing is just part of your life. In high school we had a class called Adventure PE where in the winter we’d get to go skiing and in the summer we’d get to go biking. The outdoors becomes such a huge part of your life when you grow up like that. I had parents who introduced me to skiing, river rafting, biking, this that and the other, so I feel very fortunate as well to have had them put me in the places where I could take those opportunities and really use them to my advantage. My interests were in the outdoors and outdoor adventure so growing up with that encouragement and background was huge.
In high school we had a class called Adventure PE where in the winter we’d get to go skiing and in the summer we’d get to go biking. The outdoors becomes such a huge part of your life when you grow up like that.
The bike ride we went on was planned to perfection. From the food to all the camp sites, everything went smoothly. There’s a rumor you’re trying to get an app off the ground that helps others prepare for trips like this?
Yeah, whether it’s an app, program – whatever it is. It started out as a personal interest because as you can probably tell there’s a lot of preparation that goes into planning for these big trips. You need the right amount of water and food and gear and it’s not like you can just be like ‘oh, we don’t have this or that, let’s stop by the nearest store.’ There are no stores. You’re out in the middle of nowhere. So it all started out with wanting to make my life easier and because I’m an engineer and love numbers and spread sheets, I thought it would be nice to have some kind of program where I could just go in, enter how many people, how many nights, dietary restrictions, and have it provide me with a list of food, recipes, gear, essentially anything and everything that I would need for that specific trip. I want it to be simple, most of all.
You have a master’s in civil engineering. What led to your decision to pursue that field? How has it shaped or enhanced your relationship with the outdoors?
I would say my undergrad was really where it all started. UNR had a great civil engineering program and in my mind it was just the right thing to do. My grandfather was a civil engineer. I like to ski. It made sense. Within civil engineering, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go because it’s very broad but I fell in love with water based on the fact I love to ski on frozen water and white water raft and things like that. And then after my undergrad, I moved back to Utah and I remember we were down in Salt Lake watching this documentary sponsored by Patagonia called Damnation, and it was about how the age of damns is over and how today there are way better forms of energy, less damaging to our environment and eco systems. After the film I turned to my buddies and said ‘I’m going back to grad school.’ I don’t think they believed me but the next day I applied. I went into the water resources program at the University of Utah. In the movie they talked about how people are always saying ‘don’t leave a footprint, reduce your footprint,’ but it’s like no, leave a footprint just make it a good one. That’s what I want to do. That’s what’s pushing me.
People are always saying ‘don’t leave a footprint, reduce your footprint,’ but it’s like no, leave a footprint just make it a good one. That’s what I want to do. That’s what’s pushing me.
How has your experience in competitive skiing helped you in other areas of your life? What was your biggest take away from all those years competing?
I guess once I quit competitive skiing in high school, I really missed that competitive aspect. But I wouldn’t say I’m this ultra competitive person – it’s more with myself that I’m competitive. I just want to get better. Which is why I fell in love with big mountain competitive skiing after high school. You don’t win by a half second. You’re out there competing with yourself and your buddies. If your buddy has a sick line, you’re stoked for him. You think ‘wow that’s probably gonna beat me but that was awesome he did that.’ And it’s a judged sport too, so sometimes it sucks, ya know, you get your score sheet back and you do way worse than you thought and you look at some of the people above you and think there’s no way they beat me. But that’s part of it. It’s a judged sport. When I was younger I used to get really angry with the judges but at some point I stopped worrying and realized I’m out here skiing with some of my best friends who are pushing the level of the sport every day, pushing me to get better every day. And that’s what competition is really all about.
A lot of your hobbies are extreme by nature – back country skiing, mountain biking, river rafting – how do you prepare for and handle adversity when things don’t go as expected?
You have to plan for the worst, really. ‘Cause, who knows, things change quickly out there so you have to be as prepared as you possibly can. But at the same time, a lot of those shitty situations turn into the best stories. I remember one river trip that was so buggy we had to sit in our tents and pass this platter of cheese from tent to tent so we could eat without being attacked by these bugs. Eat a little bit, drink a little wine, and then pass it on to the next tent. And that sucked but, ya know what, I can tell you that story, I’ll remember that story, but I probably can’t tell you too many stories from other nights I spent out on the river. It might not be the most enjoyable but you know the next day you’ll be laughing about it. The challenges that arise are half the fun.
You have to plan for the worst, really. ‘Cause, who knows, things change quickly out there so you have to be as prepared as you possibly can
What do you feel is the next chapter in your story?
I think the next chapter is going to be balancing a full-time engineering job and all the other stuff I love to do. I want to have my powder days but also make a difference, leave a good footprint. I think there would be a huge void in me if I didn’t at least attempt to create that positive impact.
The first word that pops into my head is Utah. I love it here. How diverse it is. I live in Park City where I’m five minutes away from a world class resort and yet in three hours I can be down in Moab riding my bike down slick rock. I can be in a complete opposite eco-system in a matter of hours. And people travel from all over the world to see our national parks and ski our resorts but to live here and have the opportunity to explore and really become familiar with some of these places. It’s huge. I don’t need a roof over my head. A physical structure doesn’t symbolize home, it’s much more about the people, the experiences, the feelings, really. No matter where that may be.