The one year challenge has been putting the love of skiing to the test since the first ski bum decided they would rather spend their days going beyond the ordinary ski season. This is my one year challenge story which took me through several states and many "where the hell is the snow" moments.
It started on October 18th, 2013. We had gotten snow two days before at Brighton resort, I knew that I was going to have a few hours of daylight after work so I threw everything into the back of Vanhalla (my minivan) before work and was able to leave right at 3pm. I made it to Brighton, threw everything into my backpack and began the hike. It only took a little over an hour before I was standing at the top of the Snake Creek lift looking out over Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Heber Valley. There were even some hunters a few hundred yards away that I didn't see until after I had screamed that I was the best skier on the mountain and scared away the antelope they were stalking. Sorry guys.
November brought about the normal season for Utah. Having figured out a decent schedule for the spring semester, I was able to typically get 2-3 days a week up at BTown. November through April was easy, riding chairlifts, drinking beer and shredding with friends. But like all good things, the season came to an end and I was back on the hunt for snow.
In May, I fulfilled a dream of mine and went to Mt. Hood, Oregon. After doing the long drive from Salt Lake City to Hood River I immediately went to the Timberline Lodge to get my bearings and take a look at the mountain I had wanted to ride for the past seven years.
At the lodge I made some phone calls and met up with an old friend, errrka, and she showed me to a campsite at Trillium Lake where I made fast friends with lots of fellow ski bums.
The next few days brought about lots of skiing, sun block, and more than a little beer and it was definitely a dream come true. After the spring pass was done, I hadn't yet had my fill of Oregon, so errrka, ERICA.MN, and a couple other new friends jumped in their cars and we headed for the coast. If we weren't friends before, we definitely got close in more ways than one with five of us in a hotel room.
On our way back from the coast, we were lucky enough to have a tour of the ON3P Skis factory in Portland. I'd like to personally thank Sam Caylor, and the rest of the guys at ON3P for their hospitality. It was incredible to get a first hand account of a pair of skis being made and being able to ask questions like "why do that" or "what makes x better than y?" After a quick stop at Voodoo Doughnuts and Powell's City of Books, we headed back to Trillium for the night and I was back on the road to Salt Lake the next morning. May, month 8 of my challenge, was done.
In no time at all, I was back on the road for the Beartooth Summer Sessions in June. A beautiful drive through Utah, Wyoming, and even Yellowstone National Park made the time fly. After Yellowstone, my GPS went out at the beginning of the Beartooth Pass. I was going blind into a snowstorm on June 4th, in the middle of nowhere, with the same Led Zeppelin CD on repeat.
Tensions were high and gas was running low. When I finally saw another car on the pass I stopped and asked them how close I was to Red Lodge, and to my relief I was soon on the downhill side having survived the isolation, snow, and low fuel levels. After a quick stop at the bar to meet up with the ski crowd and watching some piglet races, everyone headed back to camp for the night.
Beartooth was an awesome experience with a vibe that has never been seen before. Whenever someone would send the 30 foot cornice, everyone would stop what they were doing, yell some support, and lots of pole clapping. Its an event that you should definitely check out.
Only a few days after heading back to Salt Lake, the upper elevations got about 2 feet in a freak June storm. Naturally this meant that I had to get some more turns in.
A few days after the storm I finally managed to get up to Alta's parking lot and start the hike. After heading up the service road for only about 15 minutes, a pickup truck pulled up behind me. I quickly began to come up with some kind of reasoning I could give them to not make me leave. Rather than try to kick me out however, the two employees inside were incredibly excited that I was going to make the long ascent to the summit of Mt. Baldy. They even gave me a ride up part of the way in the back of their truck.
Two hours after getting out of the back of the truck, I was standing on top of Baldy. I dropped into Main Chute, and after working my way through the mashed potatoes, I may or may not have done a BN on the lower part of the decent. Month 9 was done.
July brought me back to Alta, though in a much less dramatic way than June. I met up with Sh4dow and he showed me the way to Gunsight where we took a few laps on the small white ribbon of death that was left. It was a short hike, but none the less beautiful. Month 10 was short and sweet.
August brought about the most physically taxing turns of the Challenge. It brought me to Mt. Timpanogos in Lehi, Utah. I told myself I was going to do it, and the next morning I left my house at 4am to get started on the trail early. As the sun came up I was struck with the beauty of the mountains.
It took about 3 hours or so before I made my way to the snow. Mt. Timpanogos is 11,000 vertical and the snow was near the summit. Upon reaching the snow, it was another 400 yards or so before I clicked in and made my turns.
This trail is a popular spot, especially on a cooler August day like the one I found myself on. To go along with that, I was asked what I was doing and "is there still snow up there?" close to 40 times. But it was an awesome experience that earned me a lot of high fives and fist bumps from total strangers. One group even asked to take my picture to send to their son exclaiming "John has got to see someone still skiing in August!"
September and finally October were a little different. Due to a heavy course load and a job, there was no time to take my planned trip to Glacier National Park, and with snow being scarce even in the upper elevations in Utah I headed instead to Snogression to get my fix and practice my stunt-tricks.
There you have it, The completion of my one year challenge and an idea that has transfixed me since its inception. My only pieces of advice to anyone that has read my story and enjoyed it are these; 1) Be safe, always tell people where you are going and when you think you'll be back. 2) Send it. If its something you want to do, make it happen. Like our friend Warren Miller said, "if you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do."