many people look out from their office windows and from their apartment windows and beg the fleeting question, “What is this for?” I recently had a long conversation with a French bookstore owner in Annecy about the very question. With all that is available to us in this time, this moment in the timeline of humankind, many people are lost at the prospect of answering the question.

Others, far more wise and versed in the various ways life drifts through time, try to explain the meaning of life through religious ideals; God’s objective for them in this existence. And more still have been heard to say that God is found in the mountains, one of the beauties of all creation. But this guy, here and now, writing the ideas of a sullen heart has but a couple of unsubstantiated ideas.

Life isn’t necessarily about leaving a mark. What you do will naturally do that, for better or worse folks will continue to live on after and take what you’ve done with life and quicken their own. The life of a businessman is remembered for his trials and success in his work. The family man is remembered for his love toward others and his own. Sometimes these two are one person. Then we have the explorer, known for disappearing for days and years discovering the world, knowing beautiful people and standing in wonderful places.

It’s been 10 years now since one of my childhood friends passed away. It’s been 12 hours since my father went the way of the resting. When my friend died it sent me to my knees. He lived a life of adventure. And goodbye was never an option. My father worked his life away and his body didn’t hold up. His work benefited his employer and his family. With a combination of stress, diet, and lifestyle he spent the last decade in and out of hospitals and treatment centers.

They say that life is short. And that it’s important to do the things that are important to you, be with those that are important to you, and to be present for every precious moment. Why would I trade the breath of life for my job? Why would I trade a moment with my mother to run errands? Why do we continue to see other things as more important than being present for the beauty of life? Is it just the American way? Are we so busy with work and success that everything else is second rate?

We’re so busy “being busy” and “doing stuff” that we’ve lost that part of our humanity. Go about your day and think about it.


For as long as we’ve known men have traveled into the mountain. In biblical stories men disappeared into the mountain to commune with gods. Some men returned. Some did not. Because not all men returned we cannot assume that all men were changed by the mountain. What we do know is that each man that returned had changed. Where doubt and fear once abode, courage and wisdom blossomed; weakness replaced with strength; shadows with light.

Why have men gone into the mountains? Some would immediately say that they went because the mountain was there. The biblical would say it was to commune with God. The explorer would say that the mountain must be conquered. There is one other however. He’s been addressed objectively before. But who would call it what it is? Some would excuse it for a borderline psychological condition.

Our first three men, the prophet, the explorer, and the ‘because it was there’ are men who return. This much we know. The prophet returned with words of enlightenment from On High (literally), the explorer returned with stories of the conquest, and ‘because it was there’ barely returned with their lives. All were different men when they returned.

This other man, this fourth character that doesn’t want to return and won’t, where does he fit in? And where does he go? And what shall we call this one?

Is it possible to categorize them amongst the others? No. These don’t return. What reason takes them into the mountain? What do they find? Why does it seem that they come from nowhere and pass you on their way into the mountain forever? In their passing we take notice of them and wonder. Anxious to hear what they have experienced we wait for their return. Because all men return from the mountain, don’t they? All men who return from the mountain have experienced some enlightenment to share..

No. Not this one.

Trouble with exploring the man who never returns from the mountain is that we can’t interview him. We can’t sit them down over a coffee and ask them about their experience and what took them into the hills. We can’t ask why they never came back, face to face, because that just isn’t realistic.

We can postulate that they might be crazy or hearing voices. We can blame society for pushing out another soul who just didn’t quite fit in. We can say that the mountain changed him. We can say many things but in doing so we insult the man.  What do we know? Can we postulate that he was vulnerable to the scheme that is society? Can we postulate that he didn’t belong? We cannot. Because we do not understand. Nor can we pretend that we do. We cannot insult this man by making assumptions that an external force drove him and his experiences into the hills.

In a world conquered by the noble and the brave we only hear of conquest and exhibition. The stories that come forth pour from the lips of the pronounced, from the famous, the glamorous, the athlete, and so on. The world is primed to hear from these. Is the world ready to hear the stories of the men in the mountain? Can we even begin to hope?

What? Thanksgiving is always an interesting time for me. I tend to eat a little differently around the holidays. I tend to shy away from others when I can. I have a tradition of skiing on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings with my two nephews and their father. But when I see all the food and the weirdness of a holiday to celebrate gratitude gone awry, I wonder. I wonder how this has gotten so out of hand. The commercialism of it all. The commercially produced turkeys; the stuffing (where did this idea come from?); decorations?

The mere facility of walking into a grocery store and buying a turkey and throwing it in the oven is no action of gratitude. Neither are all the different ideas there are about cooking the bird. Where did the idea of stuffing yourself silly come from, I wonder. It’s a silly idea and a gluttonous behavior that only indicates indulgence, not gratitude. It shows that we’re still just takers.

We are aloof to our vulnerabilities. We are naive to assume that all is well. We are a nation living in a dream. I live in a dream. How then does one show gratitude in a Peter Pan State? I guess we could donate our fancy dinners to the millions of folks that are without. Could we make that sacrifice? Feeling hungry at the end of the day of Thanksgiving because you gave away all your food to people who feel that way at the end of everyday?

Should we do that as groups and families? What would come of it? Would we also want to give to these immigrants that have nothing but the blankets on their backs? They came to America for refuge. Sometimes they are welcomed. I’ve seen it. I’ve been part of a group that has taken warm meals to one such families. We took clothes too.

I could say all that would be incredible. And it is; it is unbelievable that we’d do that to show gratitude. If I had my way, I’d drag you all into the hills and then the deserts to show you the beauties that abound in nature. I am grateful for the life that is there. I am grateful that I can go there. I am surely grateful for the sense of wholeness I perceive when at the top of a mountain covered in snow. Without those places I don’t believe we would be able to commune with our purpose of being alive.

Winter has this certain type of desolation to it. It’s the kind of desolation that keeps me sane and makes me comfortable. I know that I can just hang out there in the snow all day and feel secure and at home. Because of the nature of winter and my obsession with riding the mountain I am found amongst the throngs of people inbounds. I hate it most when it’s busy and it seems to be busy all the time. Weekends are the worst. And the crowds this year have come in full force unlike anything I’ve ever seen at my home mountain. 

And now that winter seems to be on the thaw I think back to the south, to the deserts of Utah; to my bike, campfires, and tents. The spring and the crowds seem to drive me out of the serenity of winter and into the ever present desolation of the desert. 

What is it about these landscapes that lets me escape into dreams and places where there aren’t people? And if there are people they’re there for but moments. What is this inside? and is it inside? Or is it from outside, like the voices on the wind that I nearly always hear? The voice echos from the desert, from desolation, from naked places.

is to sit with coffee and begin to write. It’s the flavor and nostalgia that helps enable the flow of words onto this digital format. I mention it often. It is a good way to write.

During the winter I pursue skiing with all my passion. Waking up includes the habit of breakfast, ski clothes, and finally skiing. Everyday it’s like this and if I don’t catch myself I’m off to ski on a day that i really shouldn’t. I’ll come down early and sleep in the car when in fact I should have just stayed at home and worked on any of the many projects that I have going. Writing being one of them.

But the last week has been full of epic moments, from skiing 30″ deep pow in the Wasatch of Utah and then working with companies Marker and Volkl to spread the stoke on their brand, with which I’ve been left feeling somewhat nostalgic. So the cup of coffee is in order. And while I watch the snow melt I’m thinking about my friends in the north shredding the snow that I’ve been dreaming of all winter.

Pursuance of skiing surprised me as I’d all but given up on winter in exchange for time to ride my bike. Although winter seems to be drawing to a close forever, what with global warming and the eventual rise of global cooling.. I’ve regained a love for skiing. And I refuse to make it my job or any form of work. It is my time. Away from the bike and the shop and all its tools, I am free to reign in upon the mountains and shred the snow that in them lies.

During my days out I’ll use a variety of skis to accommodate my style for the day on whatever snow is available. I’ve skied the roughest snow on the worst days to make myself a better and stronger skier. I spend time scaring myself so that when the day comes to huck the cornice it does not go by without my accents upon it. And then when the pow day comes, the powder whores come out for a freeforall. They only ski on pow days. They don’t ski hard, iced up, balled up snow. They’re a bunch of towels. They’re soft, like their Black Diamond Skis. I ski right on by.

They also can’t ski all that well. Afraid to shred and spread the stoke they push all the snow to the bottom of the massive pow slope. And then there’s the cool dude from the east coast that used to race, on a ski break with all the dudes, killing it. And they dream of my life. My life is built on skiing. And everyday I push it harder. And I ride alone; in the glistening white of the fallen crystals surfing as it were through a dream where nothing else matters. Every turn is like the dream that soothes, every wave of snow like a moment frozen in time, all is magic and all concerns of life fall away. With days like this disappearing the memories become ever more important and intangible.

Days and weeks will go by without snow and like the weak reaching for the bread on a table that is too high, the hunger becomes all too consuming. Wonder and pain and doubt become waking thoughts; will it ever snow again? Still someone would take my roughest day on snow over their life stuck in an office. I am living a dream, making ends meet barely. I trade time for skis. I trade everything else for moments alone in the snow.

Skiing on the deepest days is what I live for. There is nothing else. And when winter ends, I search the dreams and memories for the times that I cannot bear to lose or forget.

“I once enjoyed a life, different from this, in opulence. In my younger years I would travel with friends and take pictures with them and do all the things that people do. My life was in the city with friends and family close by. It was a single cell. It was the life wrapped up nice and neat, predictable and beneficial. There was always some one to go out with for drinks or dinner. There was always a get-together at some one’s apartment or house. And sitting there with your closest friends, girlfriend in arms, and telling jokes, playing games, and eating dinner; those were special moments and you thought that no one else in the world could possibly be enjoying that same moment more than you were in that time and place.

“Those are all memories. And no one can take those from you. They become the most important part of your existence. But here’s the part that you don’t know. The part where the world around you that I now call ‘the good ole days’ all seems to fall away as if standing upon the edge of a precipice, looking down, wondering. The time arrives when you have to fake your excitement for others, hide the doubt in pictures of you with those closest to you; it’s when you start to drift away. Going out on the town becomes more of a rescue than a pleasure. It becomes this way because you start slipping.

“When your friends finally stop calling to do things and the loneliness starts to set in, the wilderness opens before your eyes. There is nothing there for you. Or so it would seem. Then like thunder rising from the dust a voice calls you to go. And finally, like me, you disappear.”

It has long been a tradition to place wish upon a star. When we were little we would look up into the night sky and wonder and make a wish upon that star. That star would glimmer forever and always mean to us what it meant in that strange moment when we thought that it could provide fulfillment. In the time that passes after the wish and childish things become wont, it becomes recognized as a dream that may never be.

Maybe we hold on to that dream and desire, we hope that wish will become a real thing even if it takes us to our last breath. Hope in a dream is what drives us and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. The dream is what we envision. It is what we desire. And then the sun comes out and we lose vision of the stars. Its bright light blinds us to the soft glimmer of our one star from which is strung the medallion of our wish. While we can’t see the star it is still there. It is glimmering. The brightness of the sun requires us to find diversions and sometimes lies to us that the hope of a dream isn’t realistic.

Returns the nighttime sky with our star. And the peace of the wish settles there. It is beautiful. It is our childhood dream. And then as the scientists explain, the light coming from that star disappears in a flash of supernova, occurring 1 million years ago. The wish hanging from a brilliant gold twine crashes down and expires, its star having exploded. Out of trillions of stars upon which to hang a wish and a hope, that one had to die. Do you take it as a sign? Do you take the opportunity to move onto the next star and make a new wish? Or is it simply said that, “it was a silly wish anyway”?

There’s a obsessive behavior  in people who have no real excitement in their lives. I see it and so does the market place. I love practical purchases. Gas. My first iPhone and then iPad. A bag of fresh ground coffee. There’s a satisfying feeling of buy things I can use. I use all my ski boots. I use all my skis. I use all my bikes. I have the necessary equipment for the job.

What I find is what the market place has found: create an appetite for useless things and that’s how you create a market. I think it is interesting how many things are manufactured, distributed, and purchased that have no real relevance to our needs as a civilization. Most things seem to me frivolous. And then I look at how I live compared to the target market that all this nonsense was made for.

I live a life that has limited means and therefore all my purchases must be calculated and proper. There’s no reason to buy things that are not functional or cannot be eaten. Anything else seems to be luxurious and futile.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are entire mansions filled with memorabilia of that family’s vacations and items that were purchased there. They can surround themselves with the artifacts of their lives and adventures. It’s strangely object based, bringing something more than a memory back from a trip. And then that item sits upon a shelf, collecting dust, and is a mere representation of something that is otherwise intangible.

What I’m getting at is that it seems unlikely for us to actually make use of all that random things that don’t have a use. The concept that a table is purchased simply because it is wanted, with the objective that it fill a corner in the house doesn’t calculate for me.

I return to the point that I originally presented: the excitement that is missing from the lives of the busy is found in the adventures outside the office, homes, and resorts. For those who do not pursue adventure on a daily basis there seems to be a need to have something physical so the week of exciting moments on the river is not forgotten. For others, surrounding themselves with things they’ve purchased and have no idea why indicates a lack of adventure, a serious lack of uncertainty in their lives.

This idea has been growing inside my mind because it seems so obvious that our society indulges in frivolous activities. I return from a day of backcountry skiing with my life. I have cheated the elements again. I rappel 130 feet from the top of an arch, cheating gravity and experiencing the thrill of not knowing what could happen. Those are the moments that define me. I can’t buy a little statue that shows me how much that’s changed me. The uncertainty of stepping outside is what changes and defines.

In conclusion, the mindset needs to change from “what can I buy” and “mindless purchasing power” to “where can I go?” and “what can I do?”

I’ve been able to find myself in wilder places during the uncomfortable times in life. It’s soothing, necessary, and incomparably beautiful. The most recent of times have been trying: finding myself ever more displeased with the nature of working in a want-based society, the ails of death and illness, and the overall lack of good judgment executed by the leaders of your country. It is difficult, at best, to remain within a society which no longer appreciates the benefits of a stroll in the woods.

There is something greater, there, in the forests, on the high point in a valley of red sandstone, or on a river in a boat. And though there is much more there than is found in your office on the 14th floor; what is not there is a pot of gold. The financier has no boat waiting at the top of the mountain for there is nothing there. There will always be those who climb the mountain for the tangible reward, only to be disillusioned when they arrive and find nothing but another pile of rocks and that they have only climbed to the top of what then appears to be the neighborhood’s tallest pile of sand.

The more I work, selling things to people because they need them, however they need them, I long for the life outside and need it more as the days go on. Everyday inside requires another two outside. And I’m not the only one. I refer to Ed Abbey often because I relate to what he had to say. It makes sense that a man must be outside in his natural environment for healing, mental reprieve, and above all, fresh air. The times when I’m surrounded by the walls of civilized life are when the shadows become monsters and the monsters become real. There is no reason to be so afraid of going outside. The monsters are on the inside.

For relief, I recently took a ski trip away from my home ski town, to a place much less crowded. My home town is over run and hardly what it used to be. The angry metropolitans have come and brought their lifestyle with them: fancy cars, attitude, and increased property taxes to name few. So when I take a ski trip I go to a place that is far from that and far removed from the convenient way of airline travel. Those conveniences that bring metros to my town are the ones that we really don’t need. Not people like me anyway. That’s all part of eliminating the journey, making it too easy to forget, and henceforth commonplace. All of that takes away from the happiness of the man..

During this particular trip a friend was with whose mom died at the very close of our stay. She wasn’t home, a couple hours away as it were. It had been expected and welcome from my understanding. It was a case of Lou Gerhigs, one that slowly disables the body until the victim becomes a prisoner of the body until it finally gives up body function. It seems to be the only thing worse than cancer. It seems that her mothers death was also a relief. And so she was skiing, coping, living. It was her way to deal with it. And in her mothers passing, she was being healed by the very presence of the natural world that surrounded her.

To those who seek continued destruction of natural places in the vain pursuit of oil and trees and minerals, there will come a time when you will find no peace in the destruction of your world. You will be restless and sick most of your life, dealing with the ignorance that you’ve destroyed the one resource that can restore health to a beleaguered spirit.

Make a journey, forget your wealth, find the wild places, leave behind the wretched dirty air of your sterile office and find adventure. Learn to survive.

Today I had the privilege of skiing with an Aussie who lives in Sweden. He admitted that he was there, like most men, for the women. I wonder if they are really different there. I really wonder. Nonetheless, our conversations drifted from skiing to mountaineering to professions.. I spoke of how I left my attempt at a professional financier in ruin and how I couldn’t live that way again. He is a doctor that is now pursuing a life in the mountains as a mountain medic or something of that nature. And we talked about American consumerism. And the more I am in retail, the more I see the disgraceful behavior of a civilized nation blending privilege with indulgence.

What I see more and more is a nation with every possible product to consume, some for no reason at all, just to buy them. And the presence of such a marketplace denotes a free economy that has created a level of wealth unknown to many nations and most of the world. My personal consumption of products is focused on bikes and skis, and the necessary paraphernalia that each sport requires for extreme performance. I am able to care for my skis and my bikes, without the help of another mechanic, in most instances. I spend my income on food that supplies a healthy diet, I don’t over consume products because that leads to waste, and generally I aim to reduce the amount of dependence I have on a marketplace driven by appetite for useless products. I live relatively close to work. My activities are not completely free of carbon footprint but I can respectfully say that I’m working on it. Somethings just wear out and have to be recycled, leaving a trail of waste from the beginning of the product life cycle to the end.

But we all look for ways to reduce and to recycle so that our world doesn’t grow angry with us. And then the rest of the time I am in the mountains whether on bike, foot, or ski enjoying the natural world which means more to me than many of you will understand. The wilderness is requisite to my existence. I cannot survive without it.

The adventure that comes with wandering the wild places of home are what bring life to a person. Their stories become legend and they are interesting.