Exploring the world with Zack Giffin

Zack GZack Giffin is a fresh addition to the long and decorated line of Matchstick athletes over the years. Zack joined us for two very contrasting trips this year on polar opposite ends of the world. Established as a big mountain skier, Zack found himself traveling to a fascinating part of the world where skiing isn’t very prevalent. However, it’s trips like these that Zack really lives for; skis are just the tool, exploring is the motive. With his bona fide passion for adventure, Zack has also found himself in the epicenter of the growing Tiny House movement. As an advocate for this community, Zack believes this is a viable solution to return some “flavor” back to ski towns during a time of growing housing issues.


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Zack’s first MSP trip of the season took place on a glacier in the Tordrillo Mountains in Alaska. He teamed up with some of the sport’s best big mountain skiers: Cody Townsend and Zack’s longtime idol Mark Abma. “For me, the amount of respect that I have for both of those athletes means that it was a true honor to be involved, and even partake in the trip,” recalls Zack. “The experience of pursuing something… finding yourself in a position where you’re treated as another athlete with people you completely looked up to for years and years as innovators of the sport, and then find out you’re to gain respect from those same people is a very profound feeling. It’s something I would recommend to anyone who ever has the opportunity to befriend one of their idols. It’s something else.”

And actually, skiing on sand is no substitute for skiing on powder – haha.

Fast forward a few months and roughly 10,000 miles away across the equator, because Zack’s next adventure took place on the west coast of Namibia. We asked him what it was like to travel to Africa for a ski movie shoot, and his response reinforced his desire for exploration. “For me, and for a lot of people, once you start traveling and using skiing as a way to explore the planet, skiing kind of functions in a whole new capacity. I think that’s part of the reason why going to ski in Namibia is great. It’s a brand new experience and you’re using this love of this sport to motivate you to go to some far flung place and do something you would have never done otherwise.”

The motive for traveling to Africa was to capture breathtaking expanses of desert to imagine a world without water. We were curious if Zack’s time there lead him to imagine what that would actually be like. “It’s a scary thing, like ‘Wow, if our world ever turned into that, a big piece of my identity and how I’ve used this tool (skiing) is no longer going to be available.’ And actually, skiing on sand is no substitute for skiing on powder – haha.”

No reason to wait until something really bad happens…live life now!

After hearing Zack’s travel stories, we asked him for some words of wisdom for those dreaming of living the adventure lifestyle. As most would imagine, fear is the most limiting factor in making a significant life decision, but it is necessary to block that out. Zack says, “We have these feelings, these notions, and these ambitions, and a lot of times it takes this final straw to happen to trigger us to say ‘You know what, I’m going to do this. I know what I want to do, I’ve just been frightened to do it.’ I think it comes from a place where we are a little frightened, and something happens in our lives where it puts that fear into perspective. In my case, it was the death of a close friend. Then all of a sudden we are more frightened of not going for it than we are of the consequences of potentially going for it. No reason to wait until something really bad happens…live life now!”

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We followed up on Zack’s outlook on overcoming fear with a segue into another passion of his, tiny homes. Zack’s home is a masterpiece named the Outdoor Research Tiny Home and has traveled around 30,000 miles – most likely a world record, Giffin claims. He has built 52 homes since then, but his first still remains unchanged and in great shape. He attributes much of the success to his experimental wall design. “I was trying to look at a way to strengthen the walls in a shear strength direction which is basically the racking affect that happens when a large amount of pressure, usually wind, gets forced onto a structure.” He used laminated veneer lumber, which is typically used in beam structures, and shaved them down to two inches thick with 3/8″ sheathing on both sides. “I was trying to pull out as much weight without sacrificing the important structural elements, and it was the very first one I did and it’s been phenomenal.”

As fun as the tiny house lifestyle seems, we were curious if there were any adaptations to lifestyle. “People ask me what is the biggest challenge, and I usually say doing the dishes. When you find yourself in a position where your water isn’t limitless, your water supply has to be resupplied by hand, it instantly puts you in this place where you notice exactly how much you’re consuming.”

Zack’s outlook on life and adventure is one that all of us seek out. It has taken him around the world and allowed him to experience many different cultures. His travels have taken him to some of the best powder in the world and allowed him to turn his passion into a way of life.

Be sure to catch Zack shredding Alaska and Namibia in RUIN AND ROSE, coming worldwide this fall.