Mad Cow Hembel, champion speed skier turned rockcrawler on Episode 215


World champion speed skier turned rockcrawler, John Hembel, shares techniques in improving all skills on Episode 215. Be sure to listen on your favorite podcast app.


9:48 – I worked ski rentals, at the end of the day there’d be a huge pile in the middle of the ski shop; my job was to pair them all up together and put them awayl

17:30 – I actually got a soccer scholarship to a school in Mississippi, but I didn’t like the school

22:40 – the fortunate part is the auto detailing end of things gives you the ability to bring in day-to-day business without knocking on doors

28:57 – It’s the south, so really all you’re wheeling is mud, which is terrible. I hate mud.

36:11 – We’re fortunate in the people we know that we have a lot of really responsible friends who want to save the lands

48:44 – I always knew I wanted to be a pro skier, I loved it so much.

58:01 – when they brought a speed skiing competition to Snowmass, I was like, I got to go out and do that

1:01:55 – I yelled down to the kid, in French, I think I have mad cow disease…then I took my run.

1:08:27 – 2002, I set my record, 2003, I was world champion

1:18:28 – Almost every time we go out rockcrawling, even three and a half years later, I’m learning something new.

Special thanks to 4low Magazine and Maxxis Tires for support and sponsorship of this podcast.


[00:01:39.360] – Big Rich Klein

On today’s episode of Conversations with Big Rich, I’ll be talking with a guy that won a world  Championship in Speed Skiing. Yeah, that’s Downhill Speed Skiing, like on big mountains and snow, and has now found a love of rock crawling and hopes to win a Championship in Unlimited. Yep, that’s John Hembel. John Hembel, it is so good to talk to you. I saw you just a couple of weeks ago at Cedar City, and we discussed doing this podcast, and it’s really good to have you on.

[00:02:13.740] – John Hembel

Thanks for having me, Rich.

[00:02:15.560] – Big Rich Klein

So let’s jump right in. And I know you’ve got an extensive background in competing, not necessarily all in rock crawling. But let’s get started with, where were you and raised?

[00:02:32.520] – John Hembel

Well, I’m not sure where I was born. It’s worth mentioning, but Worcester, Massachusetts. I stayed for five days.

[00:02:38.510] – Big Rich Klein

Five days in West Mass, huh?

[00:02:41.170] – John Hembel

Five whole days in West, Mass. So, yeah. And spent a little bit of time in Florida up until about second grade. I had some family, mom’s family down there, and spent a bunch of time with Grandma and grandpa lived in their house for quite a while and had a very close family. It was great.

[00:03:07.620] – Big Rich Klein

Excellent. And what precipitated the move? Was it work-related for parents or something?

[00:03:16.120] – John Hembel

Worcester Mass, my mom was a single mom and spending time with her godparents. And when her parents found out that she pregnant and not on drugs, they invited her back home and said, Please come and we welcome you. And we’re glad you’re not doing worse things in the world. So she was welcomed home with open arms. For a Catholic family, an unwed mother was a big deal, particularly late ’60s.

[00:03:52.120] – Big Rich Klein

Yeah, I understand. I grew up in a Catholic family. Well, my mom walked away from the Catholic Church in the ’60s. I think it was about the time she decided to burn her bra.

[00:04:03.570] – John Hembel

Well, my mom was slated to be a nun, so that didn’t work out when I came along.

[00:04:08.940] – Big Rich Klein

I guess not.

[00:04:12.280] – John Hembel

The family welcomed us back with open arms. Mom let them help out with raising me for a little while since she was a single mom. I grew up in grandma and grandpa’s home for quite a while, and they were a great family to have around. I had several older aunts and uncles and lived with some of them for a while, so they’re more like my brothers and sisters. And it was and still is a very close family.

[00:04:47.370] – Big Rich Klein

That’s really good to hear. Family is important.

[00:04:51.770] – John Hembel

It is. And when I was about five years old, my mom met who is now my father, and he adopted me when I was seven when they got married. And he’s been a great role model, and I really appreciate him being in my life and showing us all the world and lots of different things and giving us lots of opportunities. And moved us to Aspen, Colorado. When I was very young, in third grade, I think, I started living in Aspen, Colorado, and fell in love with skiing for sure. So that was That was one of the first things I competed in. It became a career after a while, but not until I was an adult. We’ll get to that eventually.  READ MORE


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