Q&A with Zack Giffin

What is a place that inspires you and why?

I am most inspired by mountains. The more remote and less hospitable they are, the more I am drawn to them. I believe it is because they are places where no human and few animals can ever stay permanently. It means that any time you get to spend moving in and out of these places is a gift. When you are there, if you try, you can sense the weight of the forces that dictate your survival. The gravity of the situation can feel like a great bass tone vibrating your bones. A noise so low you can’t hear it, but you can feel it.

Who or what is your inspiration? Why?

I am inspired by many, many people! In skiing, I am inspired by the athletes who achieve top-level recognition yet remain humble. In building, I am inspired by artists who spend their whole lives working yet seek no external recognition other than the satisfaction of the work and a good life for their family. In general, I am inspired by people who are unconditionally nice, people who see to the needs of others first. People who are content within their own bodies, love themselves and are confident enough to let others be great as well. I am the most impressed by people who have all the virtues that I appreciate, but can do it on an empty belly.

What songs are you obsessed with these days?

I have been totally addicted to a few:
“Wings” – by Josh Ritter
“Belize” – by The Winterlings
“One Day” – by Asaf Asidan

What inspired your outfit today?

Today I flew on a plane! So, I wore one of my nicest shirts (it has a collar), climbing shorts for stretch, airflow and comfort. I wore sandals so they are easy to remove at security. I spend enough time in ski boots and work pants that I try to wear shorts and sandals whenever possible.

Who is your favorite person right now?

Other than my mother? Well it is hard, because I generally really like people. If I had to call out one person at this moment, it would be my dear friend and inspiration Ryan Van Duzer. He is full of energy to give. He works really hard to benefit people who need it the most. He’s a 36-year-old that doesn’t drive. He is a vegetarian but healthier than almost anyone I know. He is a radical environmentalist, but does it without accusation or judgment, only example. He has worked for the benefit of others for so long, remained cheerful and never lost sight of his own dreams no matter how far-fetched they were. It is a fantastic joy of mine to see the world rewarding him for his dedication.

What do you love the most about what you do?

As a professional skier, the best part is that it didn’t happen early in my life. I worked so many jobs, lived “in a van down by the river” and put everything I had, into a dream for so long that everyone I knew including myself had dismissed it as a possibility. When doors started to open, it was amazing to find out that all the years of work and dedication I’d put into my dream really did account to something! It’s made it possible to fully recognize how special of an experience it’s been and really appreciate every piece of assistance I get and all the people who helped me along the way. Delayed gratification is something I would recommend to everyone!

What I love about being a Tiny House builder is completely opposite of what I love about skiing professionally. Skiing has been about proving myself to myself. Skiing has been kind of a selfish endeavor, where I sacrifice everything in my life including relationships with lovers, friends and family, to indulge in the satisfaction of something called accomplishment. I believe everyone should enjoy this experience at least a few times in life. But after a time, it is important to look for self-satisfaction in something more profound. I enjoy being part of Tiny House Nation because I get to help other create a space that is unique, intelligent and truly their own. I believe the act of building Tiny Houses approaches so many topics that the world needs to address. I love the creative building aspects of what I get to do, yet this show is about so much more than creating nifty space-saving solutions. By building small homes we unavoidably start conversations about broader subjects like “How can we sustain the current path of living standards in a changing world,” “how do we want to spend our time on this planet” and the big one–“what is it, that really makes us happy.” By starting conversations we get to influence people’s behaviors without shouting opinions and pontificating. It is a very powerful form of activism.

If you could sum up yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

If I get through life, simply being know as a “nice guy” that would be perfect. If I had to use three words, I would like to be known as modest, strong and loving and if I could have one more it would be “talented.”

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