Quick Stats: John Teller, ski-cross racer, U.S. Ski Team/Olympic hopeful
Daily Driver: 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 (John's rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Highway 120, Mono County, California
Car he learned to drive in: 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee
First car bought: 1995 Dodge Ram 1500
Freeskier John Teller has always wanted a diesel truck, and says his 2001 Dodge Ram pickup has been a great daily driver for this rugged outdoorsman and member of the U.S. Ski Team.
Teller hopes to realize his dream of becoming an Olympian by going to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which begins in three weeks. He is ranked 25th in the world and he'll find out on January 19 if he will be going to Sochi.
The Dodge pickup has been the perfect ride for the many road trips to Park City, Utah, where the U.S. Ski Team is based, and to Telluride, Colorado, where it often trains.
"I really like the reliability. That engine has the least moving parts out of any diesel, so that makes it the most reliable. I'd like more power out of it but that obviously takes a lot of add-ons to get that. It's got great power already, but of course we always want more," he says. "I really enjoy the truck and the power that it has, and it can really take me out to the mountains. If I'm hunting or fishing or hiking, it gets me where I need to go. I've got leather seats that are heated and the stereo's really nice. I really enjoy the car."
Teller bought it used from the original owner four years ago and gives it an 8 rating. "There was no way at the time that I could afford a brand-new truck, so this deal came about from a family friend that lives in town here," he says. "It had an overhead camper that came with it for an extra thousand bucks, so that's the package deal I was looking for."
He lives in the eastern Sierra Nevadas, where conditions often get snowy. He's a full-time auto mechanic, and the truck comes in handy for work. "It's a great snow truck. I work at an auto shop, so sometimes we're out pulling cars out of places, and using the diesel power instead of using our tow truck. So it's a very useful truck, utility-wise," he says. "It's four-wheel drive. If I did put chains on it, I could go anywhere."
It's also able to haul all his ski gear. "I just drove out to Park City and I had 20 pairs of skis in the back of the truck and it didn't take up any room at all," he says.
Car he learned to drive in
Teller is based in Mammoth Lakes, California, where he was born and grew up. "This is where I train and there's a huge mountain here that is my home mountain," he says, referring to Mammoth Mountain.
Teller works at the family business. "That's my full-time job. I work on everything -- we do transmission, engines, we do it all," he says. They have two shops, Mammoth Chevron and Alpine Garage, directly across the street from one another. He's worked there since he was 15.
"I grew up in a family where my grandfather started an auto shop 43 years ago and my uncle, my dad, my grandfather, and I have all worked in the same shop together," he says.
He learned to drive at 15 in his parents' 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and he also got to practice on their Ford F-250. He accidentally got an early start.
"I was 3 years old and my dad left me in the truck. I pushed it into first gear and it ended up driving into a Volkswagen Beetle. My parents tell me that story all the time," he says. "Even as a young kid we were doing donuts in the mountain parking lot just down the street from us and my dad was showing me how to winter drive and how to correct if you start sliding."
First car bought
For a couple years, Teller had a 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 to just get him around town. It was his daily driver when he stopped racing for two years and was only working as a mechanic. The Dodge belonged to a former customer who was moving out of state.
"It was one of his work trucks and he was moving and didn't want it anymore, so I bought it from him for $500 and kept it going," he says.
But when Teller decided to go back to skiing competitively, he was set on the diesel Dodge he has now. To get to ski races he either drives to Reno or Los Angeles to catch a plane, or drives to Park City and Colorado to train.
"I really needed a reliable vehicle because the '95 Dodge was turning into a car that I didn't want to drive out of town and get stuck somewhere."
Favorite road trip
Growing up, his grandparents and parents took him and his sister on a lot of road trips. "Colorado is as far east as I've gone, and everything in between: Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and up into Canada," he says.
He enjoys the drive from Mammoth to the U.S. Ski Team headquarters in Park City, Utah. "It's probably legally about eight and a half hours. I tend to take an hour off that trip," he says. "There's a whole lot of nothing out in Nevada, a lot of straight roads where you can see for miles and miles."
But Teller's favorite road trips are the ones right in his own backyard, in the eastern Sierra Nevadas. He particularly loves driving anywhere in Mono County, especially Highway 120, which goes through Yosemite Valley. He is about 20 minutes from Yosemite and 15 minutes from the town of Lee Vining, where Mono Lake is and where he likes to go duck hunting.
"It's just the view more than anything -- a very beautiful drive to take," he says of Highway 120. "It is pretty windy. You've got to be careful going through the park because there's a lot of law enforcement so you definitely have to be aware of the speed limit. On the other side of highway 120, on East 120 it's a pretty fun road to drive, there's a lot of whoops and dips in the road that are steep hills and it kind of feels like a roller coaster a little bit."
2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games
Teller's sport is ski cross, and he has to compete in eight World Cup races before the Olympics in order to qualify. It's a relatively new sport, and it's only the second time it's at the Olympic games.
"It's like motocross on skis," he says, of ski cross. "We have four people going down at the same time down a course with bank turns and jumps and rollers."
He started skiing when he was 3 years old. He quit racing for two years after he stopped alpine racing, which is what he grew up doing. "I stopped racing because I wasn't getting to where I wanted to be and I ended up spending a lot of money. It was years and years of trying to make the U.S. Alpine Team, and that wasn't going anywhere," he says. "Growing up skiing and being a good skier, alpine was the way to go. My parents were big alpine skiers, so in a sense I really didn't have a choice, as far as what I was doing. They were going skiing, so I was too."
He entered ski cross in 2008-2009. He came in third for the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, but only two athletes got to go. In the 2010-2011 season, Teller became the first American to win a World Cup Ski Cross event in Tirol, Austria, and he then came home and took gold in the X Games in Aspen.
He's been on the podium several times and finished in the top 10 in the country in the last three years in overall standings.
Photo: NBC Olympics/USOC
Photo: NBC Olympics/USOC
Photo: NBC Olympics/USOC
"This would be my first Olympics ever. I've dreamed of being an Olympian since I was a little kid and it's pretty cool that I have this chance to be able to represent this country and achieve my dreams."
During the summer, he works in the shop full-time fixing cars five days a week. Three days a week, after work, he works out. "I'm a huge outdoorsmen, so the whole weekend I'm out playing around in Mother Nature - hunt, hiking, fishing, water sports, rock climbing, everything. There's so much to do out here."
In the winter, Teller skis about six hours each time he hits the slopes.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will be televised on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET on February 7. For the first time the network will have primetime coverage a day before the opening ceremony, on February 6, which will include competition in snowboard slopestyle in its Olympic debut, team figure skating (also at the games for the first time), and women's freestyle moguls.
For more information on how Teller does on the road to Sochi, please visit www.johnteller.com and www.usskiteam.com. For more information about the Sochi Winter Olympics, visit www.TeamUSA.org and www.NBCOlympics.com.