To several million viewers of National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” series, he’s the guy who shot his own finger on the show. For those who knew Ralston in other parts of his life, perhaps he is more often thought of as the Air Force veteran, the ski instructor or the fashion photographer.
Ralston didn’t decide to become a so-called “prepper” out of the blue.
“For me, it’s a lifestyle,” Ralston said, explaining that the simple things his grandparents did decades ago that were completely normal then would be considered “prepping” by today’s standards.
Still, he does remember a moment of crisis when he saw his father spring into action and thought to himself that this was the type of person he wanted to become. On a group trail ride traversing steep terrain, one of the horses fell backward onto a female rider crushing her. Ralston said the woman was in critical condition, but his father, having military experience, knew what to do to best help the injured woman.
“I was a 12 year old watching dad be a hero, Mr. Responsible,” Ralston said. “That was the time I was really inspired.”
Coming from a military family, Ralston signed up for the Air Force’s Special Forces ParaRescue division. But after putting in his time, he said it wasn’t the life he wanted anymore.
What next? Consulting his “mini-bucket list,” ski instructor popped up. Now, how could a man who had skied once in his life in the sixth grade get a job in Vail as an instructor?
When sent to test his skills, Ralston conveniently slid into the group of returning instructors instead of the newbies. Ralston recounted the head instructor there to teach the group new techniques saying in an Austrian accent how he wanted all the instructors to pretend they had never skied before. When asking for a volunteer, guess who raised his hand?
Within a few weeks, Ralston skied tested proficient and went on to instruct the 3 to 6 year old group for a year.
After that, Ralston worked in college admissions. He didn’t go to college himself, but helped “[get] other kids into college,” he said.
Next up? Photography. Ralston said he had a stint in modeling, which led him to photography when he realized the pay was significantly better. It was in this career that he met his wife who worked for a modeling agency. Once married and deciding that she might not want him photographing women anymore, Ralston switched to babies.
But that soon became boring, so he and his wife moved on. She had an idea for a new product — an automatic makeup pencil sharpener that did a perfect job in one rotation, conserving the pencil and making a like-new point.
It worked. And after the product struck it big on the QVC channel, the husband-wife team created an ad firm where they “used their eye for what’s hot, cool, and in.”