Temper tantrums, tightrope walking, and the snowy south Denver streets
I encountered this business complex during my first night of exploring the snowy streets of Denver, CO in February 2015. It was hard to convince myself that I would actually ride down the terrifying ledge coming off the building’s roof after discovering it; however, it definitely seemed like something I wanted and had the capability of doing. The ledge itself wasn’t too intimidating but getting to the edge of it made me nervous. Since it didn’t come directly off roof, I was going to have to carefully inch my way to the end of the flat top section before being able to ride down the steep part of the ledge and land in my pile of snow. Thinking about climbing up there and doing this created a primeval anxiety with chills similar to being an optimistic child seeing the world for the first time and believing that anything is possible. One way to describe this feeling is a sense of empowering glow balanced out by nervousness and fear (“anything is possible”, but risky choices can still go wrong). This feeling can also occur when you take ecstasy and the drug slowly kicks in. Your heart rate increases resulting in some anxiousness, as you know you’re about to be in for an unpredictable ride. However, you also feel empowered by this euphoric stimulant and are eventually filled with overwhelming positivity. The world is in your hands and it is just up to you and the people around you to make good decisions.
If you consume MDMA/ climb up to deadly ledges often, this amazing feeling of empowerment juxtaposed with anxiety will eventually begin to have less strong of an effect, but that is why these experiences should be infrequent and therefore more valuable. Don’t let risky decisions become the norm. Slow your roll and satisfy the soul!
The ladder attached to this building was the critical attribute that made my vision more of a possibility. I was alone when I discovered the building my first night in Colorado and climbed up the ladder by myself to get a better sense of how realistic skiing the ledge would be. The whole process only made me more nervous and while I felt like a badass alone on the roof in the snowy city looking up at the stars, I decided that walking out to the edge of the ledge was far too undesirable. The area seemed slippery so I deemed the feature too dangerous. However, I wasn’t fully acknowledging the difference that would occur between walking on the top of the ledge in sneakers versus easing myself across the platform with heavy skis on my feet.
This ledge lingered around for the next few days but didn’t stress me out because I didn’t commit to attempting to ski it. I knew it was an option (like everything else in life) but I didn’t have a strong desire to climb back up onto that roof.
After a successful afternoon of helping my good friend, Josh Karcher, ski off the railing of a luxurious business complex on February 27th, Karcher, Joey Vandermeer, and I ate a celebratory dinner at a Mexican restaurant and afterwards drove to my ledge blasting hilarious grimey club music: https://soundcloud.com/bennyrox/fak-mix-1
This was a great way to calm me down since at that period of time, life seemed so playful with nothing to be taken too seriously. As we began to build a landing for the feature, I had to explain to my two friends that there was a good chance I would opt-out and not actually ski down the ledge. I needed this reassurance to not feel overly pressured to commit to this terrifying endeavor although once everything was built and ready to go, there was almost a guaranteed chance that I would have to try it out.
Being a bunch of amateur squids, we had no intent of setting up lights and a generator so we parked my car in a good position to illuminate the ledge with my high beams. Once everything was ready, I was obviously fairly nervous and anxious and tried to throw my skis onto the roof, which was just a little too high up for this to be an easy toss. My skis would soar 15ft in the air, hit the roof, bounce off, and then fly back down slamming onto the ground. I tried this several times, maybe once actually catching my ski when it rebounded, but was overall unsuccessful at getting my equipment on top of the building.
This whole process only made me more anxious/ frustrated/ terrified and I began screaming curse words at the top of my lungs. I would like to remove the “top of my lungs” description from this narrative but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that it was true. This was not smart (not that cursing as loud as you can ever is) considering the area we were in was very enclosed and my screaming echoed throughout the parking lot. My two friends were definitely uncomfortable since they didn’t sign up for me having a “panic attack” at the spot, but I was their ride so they couldn’t just leave.
The alternative to throwing my skis onto the roof was climbing them up on the ladder with me. This was going to be tricky since I was already in ski boots, didn’t really have any hands free since I was holding onto a ladder, and was shaking due to my discomfort and nervousness.
Nevertheless, the process slowly began to work. Joey would hand me my ski when I was halfway up the ladder, I would climb further up with it and then throw it onto the roof from a lot closer distance. I needed to use both of my hands get my whole body up and over the edge of the roof so no matter what I had to toss my skis up. After another failed attempt or two of missing the roof resulting in a little more screaming, I finally got my skis along with myself onto the top of the building and it was game on.
I had my iPod set to an hour-long deep house/ disco mix for the entirety of the session, which worked surprisingly well. It was great to simplify life and not worry about distractions like shuffling between songs (and likely killing my iPod due to the cold) so I could stay focused and confident. The music was soothing as I crawled around the snowy roof trying to locate my skis and poles under the Denver night sky. I gathered my gear together, strapped in, and began to inch myself across the top of the ledge. The tenseness and anxiety I felt screaming in the parking lot became paralleled with the Zen and peacefulness I experienced standing on a thin ledge, slowly moving myself forward one ski at a time to the edge of my drop-in.
I now understand the out-of-body sensation that tightrope walkers must experience when they walk across a rope hundreds of feet above the ground. Everything in the present moment stops except for the activity you’re engaging in. Any sudden movement or hesitation could have undesirable repercussions so your mind becomes so zoned in that you enter into a new dimension of time and space. You will stay in this place until you make it to your destination, which in this case, was my pile of snow in the parking lot.
I spent about 45 seconds inching myself across the top of the ledge in this serene state of mind. When I rode down the ledge itself, I landed in my pile of snow, flew forward, and fell over. I immediately exclaimed, “I don’t really want to do that again!” This was an instinctive response to reassure myself that I was in control of the situation and didn’t have to put myself through those same adversities again if I didn’t want to. However, deep down I knew that I wanted to fully succeed at the challenge I had committed to and would have to attempt this at least one more time.
Soon enough, we reshaped the snow pile I planned to land on so I could ski the ledge again. The second time around, everything was quicker and much easier. I got my skis to the top of the roof without any screaming and inched myself to the end of the ledge with a lot more confidence and awareness than I had before. The out-of-body tight rope walking sensation wasn’t nearly as powerful as it had been initially so I felt comfortable moving more swiftly across the narrow platform. I made sure to keep my weight balanced slightly backwards as I rode down and dropped off the steep ledge to avoid falling forward like I had on my previous attempt.
The feeling of landing successfully was more peaceful than anything else. In the adrenaline-fueled world of extreme sports, you can either outwardly express your excitement when you succeed at a challenge (such as boastfully screaming out of joy) or savor a moment by staying quiet to fully appreciate the peacefulness and empowerment associated with it. Sometimes this is not exactly a choice and you will either naturally start yelling or passively remain blissful.
In this situation, I knew what I wanted to do so when it finally worked out, it wasn’t extraordinarily rewarding. The experience was the process. I believe this relates to a lot of the activities we complete in life. We usually have an end goal that we are aiming to achieve but the experience associated with working towards that goal is where memories are made and stories come alive. The reason an experience like this is so fulfilling is because of the surprises that come along the way. Just because you know that you are capable of doing something doesn’t mean that you can anticipate what the process of actually accomplishing it will be like. It is the process that will take you on a journey of self-discovery. Life is foreplay.
Thank you to my good friends Joey Vandermeer and Josh Karcher for their support that night. These experiences are a team effort and wouldn’t be possible without the support of the crew.