Coen Bennie-Faull: the never ending winter

From the Australian Alps to the Rockies, the crow Coen Bennie-Faull migrates to back-to-back winters every year.

Australia isn’t necessarily the best place to be from when it comes to dedicating your life to skiing. Of course, it has beautiful mountain ranges that look out over its vast lands but any true snow sports aficionado is bound to hear the call of the colder climes sooner or later. Such is the wrenching life of a skier from the south. You can only resist leaving home for so long before committing to the days of uncomfortable flights to America or Europe. But this inconvenience may just provide the key to unlocking the never-ending winter, a skier’s dream that Coen Bennie-Faull lives out each year… in one way or another.

Tim Clark

Growing up in Melbourne provides few advantages to becoming a skier, even more so if your family aren’t super well off. Nevertheless, passion has a way of making things happen, of bringing people closer to the mountains. “My family didn’t really ski until I came along, we were lucky enough to meet another family when I was around the age of 2 who invited us to their house at Mt Hotham, a 5-hour drive north east of Melbourne. My first experience skiing was on some plastic skis with velcro straps for bindings getting pushed down classic cross-country ski tracks by my parents. Luckily enough Mum and Dad saw that I loved it, we couldn’t really afford to ski as a family but we managed to get a few days in each season until I was 14 or 15 when I got my first seasons pass, I guess it was all down hill from there.”

Skiing became his main focus and it didn’t take long before he set his sights on the north, Jackson Hole in the heart of the American Rockies to be precise. “The very first ski film I was ever given was ‘The Big One’ from TGR back when I was 13 or 14 and ever since then I’ve had Jackson on my pin board of places to go. My first trip out there was back in 2015, I arrived in Jackson after a month or so in Japan filming, it didn’t snow for the 2 months I was there but managed to meet some incredible people and got the chance to travel and compete in Telluride and spend some time in Silverton but knew I had to come back to Jackson and see it turn on. Haven’t regretted the decision yet, I’ve now spent the last 4 winters out here in Jackson and have plans to continue that trend, this place is the Chamonix of North America.”

To break into Freeride skiing, Coen first took to the competition circuit. He ran in the Freeride World Qualifiers in Taos and Crested Butte amongst others but skiing with a bib didn’t sit too well with him and he quickly decided to change tack. “After competing for 2 years and shaking in my boots in every start gate I pushed out of I decided I have more fun in front of a camera than I do in front of the judges eyes. I enjoy the creative process a lot more and find myself in a better headspace in front of the lens be it shooting stills or film. Getting to choose your own destinations and waiting for conditions to align rather than skiing in less than ideal conditions just to stand on a podium is way more fun and rewarding in my eyes.”

So it was thanks to the people he met and through his unfaltering enthusiasm that Coen built a solid reputation, especially through his relationship with one of the big names in ski photography, fellow antipodean Tony Harrington. “I have been shooting with photographer Tony Harrington here in Jackson the last 3 winters producing content for Mountainwatch and Chillfactor magazine back home in Australia and last season the opportunity came up while Harro was working with TGR to spend a few days out with Hadley Hammer and Johnny Collinson to shoot a few days here in Jackson. A few weeks later another Australian skier Mitch Reeves came out to try and put together a segment with TGR as well so Harro called me to see if I wanted to be a part of it and help show Mitch around Jackson.”

So that’s how Coen first got his foot in the door at the big American production house but the rest was down to competition success. Despite being disgruntled by the judging system on the Freeride World Tour, Coen allowed himself to be coaxed into more relaxed contests that were judged by other competitors like the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s in Jackson Hole and the Buller X in Mt Buller, Australia.“A rider judged competition feels more like filming to me and has a much more relaxed atmosphere, all the athletes stoking and pushing each other.”

Tim Clark

Even though he faltered at the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, last year on home turf he took home the Buller X and the prize was to have his own segment filmed by…TGR! Given that it was Tony Harrington who organized it, it was just like he’d been crowned king of his own land by his pals from Jackson Hole. “Conditions lined up for an all-time week of shooting in the Jackson backcountry and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to get in front of the lens of one of the biggest film companies in the action sports industry. I learnt a lot from both experiences and it has given me more motivation than ever to keep chasing the dream..”

To pursue this dream, Coen lives through back-to-back winters, returning home to coach the Hotham free skiing team, working behind the counter in the local grocery store at the same time as studying for a commerce degree online. This set up allows him to head off for the northerly winters free from financial constraints. It’s a real vagabond skier’s life with no pressure and it’s one that he’s pretty fond of. “I really enjoy creating content with photographers and cinematographers, I enjoy the process behind it and it really pushes me to test my own boundaries, however I don’t feel the need to turn my skiing into anything too serious. My motivation behind skiing is to have as much fun as possible, explore as many different corners of the globe and meet as many rad people I can while doing it, so in my eye’s I’m already a professional skier hahaha. I get to ski close on 200 days a year when I remain un-injured and I couldn’t really ask for anything more, maybe a little bit of budget to help projects tick along…”

With one foot in each winter, it’s the northern one that he concentrates most energy towards, which doesn’t leave much time to hang out on the beach. “I try as hard as I can to find time for a few winter camping trips throughout the winter (Southern one, ed) but the main goal is to set myself up for the Northern Hemisphere winter. If I’m not skiing and find time away from study and work I’d like to say I’m chasing a wave somewhere but the world’s not perfect I suppose. My goal this year is to find more time for other sporting pursuits and take myself on more surf trips. As I write this I’m also packing my bags for 3 weeks in Mexico to thaw the toes out for a bit before heading back to winter in Australia so I guess I’m on the right track.”

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