Thursday, January 24, 2013
World-renowned skier and Conservationist, Donny Roth sits down with the Colorado Mountain Club to discuss the ins and outs of skiing abroad; his experiences in Chile, how to get started, and what makes all the travel worth it. To learn more about Donny Roth and hear his first-hand account of backcountry skiing in the foreign lands of Chile, come join us for his exclusive talk on January 30th: Exploring the Cordillera of Chile.
You're part professional skier, part guide, and part conservationist. That’s pretty impressive at such a young age. Tell us a little about your journey getting started.
Ha! I haven't been called "young" in a while. I am actually thirty-seven. This is my twentieth year working in the ski industry. I was an avid ski racer all through high school, so when I graduated I naturally picked up ski instructing while attending University. I’ve moved through a lot of positions in my time, and worked in bigger and bigger mountain environments. All of this eventually led to me becoming a heli-ski guide in South America. With traveling all over the world, this is now my nineteenth consecutive winter without a proper summer! Working as an athlete, guide, writer, and blogger means I am constantly learning and being challenged, and this makes it easier for me to keep going season after season.
You ski all over the globe. What attracted you most to skiing abroad? And more specifically, why Chile?
I don't think I was actually attracted to skiing abroad as much as I was attracted to simply exploring foreign places. Skiing just turned out to be the best way to do this. I wasn't able to rub two nickels together for most of my life, so working in different countries was the best way to get there. I don't know why I had such a strong curiosity about Chile. I think it's a logical place to find adventure – it has everything from the mountains to the ocean, from the driest desert in the world to the craziest weather known to man. It only has one main road, and there are wild places in every direction from this road. They speak a different language and have a much different culture, but it wasn't so different that it was impossible to grasp either.
What was the most memorable part of your trip to Chile?
I would have to say, the sunsets or Tyler's (writer for Backcountry Magazine) smile. It seemed like every night we had different light come sunset, and each one of them was magical. Each evening the three of us were allowed to just be quiet while we watched the sky turn crazy colors. The thoughts that ran through my mind were thoughts of being content, which is something I am not very often. As for Tyler, he had never done anything like this before, and I know that he surprised himself every day. He killed it, and he never stopped grinning because of this. To get to witness that was a privilege.
While you’ll be discussing your trip to Chile during your talk next week, we know that you also ski all over the world, including Asia and different areas of South America. For someone that has wanted to ski abroad but has yet to take the leap, how would you suggest they get started?
Keep the trip as logistically simple as possible. Don't try to cram too much in. If you try to visit too many locations in too short of a time you will feel like you're constantly traveling and you will only see the tourist attractions. Spend time in a place – get to know it and its people. Pick a spot and give yourself time to explore its nooks and crannies.
What are 3 things to keep in mind when looking to ski abroad?
More than anything, I would say that (1) you have to be flexible. Often most things don't go like clockwork. Building time into your plan to accommodate for unforeseen changes really relieves a lot of stress. (2) Travel lightly, but bring your own skis and boots. Rental gear can be really difficult, especially in developing countries. Get a ski bag with wheels. Be able to move 100% of your gear all at the same time, for at least a couple hundred yards, and up a flight of stairs. (3) Leave all your stereotypes and preconceived notions at home. The best food might be from a street vendor, the most knowledgeable man in the village might not have any teeth, buses might be better than planes. I see so many people get frustrated because they think the system doesn't work. It does work, it just works differently. The key is to not look for what you're used to, but to see what's actually there.
What is the most difficult thing about skiing abroad?
Without a doubt, it's getting information about the mountains and the conditions. Most of the time the information you’ll need isn't even being collected, much less shared. If it's South America or Asia, there is no real standard protocol to follow, so any information you gather may basically be hearsay. Maps are outdated, fuzzy, and scaled too large. Guidebooks are also non-existent, so asking around town can definitely lead you on a wild goose chase. However, it’s all a part of the adventure, the good and the bad.
What is the most rewarding thing about skiing abroad?
The people you meet when you're off the beaten path. It's the guy that picks you up while hitch-hiking and invites you into his home for the night, or it's the husband and wife that own a restaurant and sit down with you for dinner. It's the young people that bring you to a real asado. It's the conversations in two broken languages, where when words fail you, paying attention to the other person's entire being is the only way to understand their meaning.
What are 3 things to keep in mind when looking for a guide in the backcountry, whether in the States or abroad?
Experience, certification, and professionalism – in any order. The term "guide" is over used. As a client, you want to ski with someone that has seen a lot and can handle change gracefully. You want someone that is trained to be level-headed and operates with the appropriate margin of safety. You want someone that is part of, or is, a reputable business. Cutting corners by using dodgy travel, or food, or lodging generally just ends up in mild discomfort and really funny stories. But going with a guide that was the cheaper alternative can also have grave consequences, so be smart!
We know you see the direct connection between being an outdoor recreationist and the importance of conservation, but that’s not always the case for others. Why do you think that is?
There are as many reasons as there are people – everyone is different. I do think that most of us have cluttered our lives to the point where we can't see the forest through the trees. We can't see the problems around us because of all the junk in front of us. The hectic pace of our daily lives consumes us and saving the wilderness doesn't register as important. In the U.S. we are really good at hiding the extraction of natural resources – clear cuts aren't visible from highways, mines are often behind mountains, and oil and gas derricks are often pretty small on the landscape. And if we are honest about it, we have to admit that we are spoiled. We like the conveniences of modern life, and we want to bring them with us into the mountains. This is a mistake on our part.
Keeping conservation and outdoor ethics in mind, what are some things that skiers should think about when skiing aboard, particularly in a developing country like Chile?
I try my best to encourage people to use small, local businesses. Avoid the big, cookie-cutter resorts that pander to masses. Backcountry skiing is a great way to do this. Giving your money to large corporations only increases social stratification and spreads non-environmentally friendly development. Go to national parks and reserves – and pay the fees. Use small, local hotels and take an interest in their conservation efforts. The governments of developing countries are not blind to the problems we have created for ourselves, but they need revenue for their social systems also. Tourism is one way that they can justify preserving wild places.
For next week’s presentation, if you could leave one take away with your audience what would it be?
I don't want to give away my punch line, but I can tell you that there is one. This story I tell won’t be one about an epic journey of athletic prowess. It's about the value of space, and it's told through a few characters. I think it will be a while before the story really, truly ends.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Ever been paragliding before? Want to go? Bid on Flytim.com's live auction item and many others at the Backcountry Bash and take a ride with the birds above Golden! Read how Sarah G., one of the women behind the scenes making the Backcountry Bash possible, had an experience of a lifetime.
I’ll never look at Lookout Mountain the same way again.
I’ve lived in Golden for over ten years now. I’ve ridden my road bike up Lookout Mountain dozens – if not hundreds – of times, hiked the Beaver Brook trail, and ran the Chimney Gulch trail up to Windy Saddle, but I’ll never see Lookout Mountain the same way again after flying high above it on a tandem paragliding flight with flytim.com.
Tim Meehan, the paragliding pilot and a certified instructor with the U.S. Hang gliding and Paragliding Association, has donated a tandem paragliding flight like the one I went on last weekend as a live auction item for the Backcountry Bash. He feels it is important to be an ambassador for the sport by giving back to the local community, and wanted me to experience the thrill of paragliding before the event so I could tell others what it was like. Why not, I thought! I’ve often seen the paragliders floating down from Lookout Mountain on warm sunny days.
I can tell you this is definitely one experience worth bidding on. It will be the first item in the live auction – so watch for it there! We’ll also have backcountry hut trips, a weekend of guided skiing near Marble with ski pro Donny Roth, a mountain bike trip for two on the White Rim of Canyonlands National Park, a two-day photography workshop with John Fielder, and much more. Check out all of our great auction items in our Auction Catalog.
Let me tell you a little bit more about my paragliding experience. First we had to wait for the winds to be mild (between 3-10 mph) and blowing out of the east. We also wanted some thermals, so that rising air would keep us aloft for more than a few minutes. We drove up Lookout Mountain (also known as Mt. Zion) and parked below the big white “M”. Once up on the hillside, we spread the paraglider out on the slope above us and strapped ourselves into the tandem harness. All it took was a few steps forward down the hill and the paraglider filled with air and lifted us up, like being under a giant kite. In the air we turned left and right, watching cyclists on the road below, and then soared out above the houses and open space. I wasn’t sure what the landing would be like, but it was easy. It was a lot like exiting a slide as a kid - I had my feet straight out in front of me and at the last minute put them down on the ground and ran 3 or 4 steps forward. That was it!
You can see in the video how we turned to the left and the right by crossing one leg over the other and leaning. The flight was smooth and the landing was easy. I was so happy and relieved to be on the ground. We did it!
Now every time I’m in Golden I look to the skies to see if I can see some paragliders floating down from Lookout Mountain. A huge thank you to Tim Meehan for this experience, and to all of our incredible event sponsors, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Avery Brewing Company, Izze, Voile, Dynafit, Donny Roth, Aspen Expeditions, Backcountry Access, John Fielder, Planet Bluegrass, Tenth Mountain Division Hut Association, Shrine Mountain Inn, Western Spirit Cycling Adventures, Vagabond Ranch Huts, Glenn Randall Photography, and many more.
We hope to see you at the Backcountry Bash this Saturday night. Be prepared to bid on incredible experiences like this one and others. You might just get to experience the place you live in a whole new way!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
20th Annual CMC Backcountry Bash - Nov 3
Tickets are selling fast, get yours today!This year's Backcountry Bash is shaping up to be our best ever. Check out the video invitation above from our emcee, pro-skier Donny Roth. Right now we are offering a special, limited discount of $10 off the regular ticket price. Use the discount code SupportBSI at checkout for the discount! (Code is case sensitive).
Come to support the mission of CMC Conservation and our Backcountry Snowsports Initiative. Come also for the great food, beer and auction items! Get your ticket at www.cmc.org/bash.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Kaiser Permanente is the title sponsor of the 2012 Centennial Celebration Event Series and Kaiser Permanente physician Dr. Sean Haney will be sharing his thoughts as an official CMC guest blogger this year about the outdoors, medicine, wellness, and whatever else inspires him.
With fall definitely here, we are reminded of the fact that we live in a state with four seasons. Coming from California, I grew up in a place with two seasons, one wet and one dry season. Of course, there is some temperature variation but large parts of that state do not have anything like the seasonal variation that Colorado does. The seasons in this great state offer unique and varied recreational opportunities for us “locals” and anyone who wants to come here.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you need to do is….. get up, get out and enjoy this great state! Blessed as we are with the geography and climate of this state, we have a plethora of recreational activities available to us. Let’s consider a short list: hiking, skiing, (including snowboarding, cross country) rafting, biking, climbing, snowshoeing, etc. It goes without saying that these sports are not specific to a single season, e.g. spring skiing. We have pretty easy access here to a ton of recreational activities.
Recreational activities offer many benefits, both tangible and intangible. The benefits of recreational activities include: 1) they are really fun, 2) help maintain a healthy weight, 3) maintain and promote balanced mental health, and 4) are a great help to our economy. In fact, they are a very important part of the economy of this state.
Recreational activities help generate a lot of economic activity. The ski industry alone generated over $2.6 billion in economic activity to this state. That is a lot of jobs and tax revenue that supports a wide variety of essential government functions. It is not just for skiing, folks also come to our parks to hike and climb 14’ers. We benefit economically as well as through the aforementioned ways from our many Colorado recreational opportunities.
So, perhaps we need to savior the moments when we are having fun outdoors and remember to support programs and initiatives to keep them vibrant and sustainable. Oh, we should also thank that tourist for dropping some money into our economy and make sure they taste a Colorado craft beer (in moderation, of course).
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
The Bash is a fund-raiser for the club’s Backcountry Snowsports Initiative, which is dedicated to protect winter recreation opportunities for those whom pursue human-powered activities. In short, they help protect the places we play! This is our opportunity to give back to our favorite playgrounds. Your bids and donations directly benefit your winter – don’t be shy!
Your role doesn’t end at the Bash however. This winter, just as we’ve invited you to come party and play with a group of like-minded skiers, I hope you’ll invite someone new to the party and to the playground. If we really want to protect our favorite places, we need to bring more people into them in a quiet, respectful manner. I know this can be in opposition of the tendency to protect our powder stashes. I am not asking anyone to give away his or her favorite tree line. I am asking you to share your passion. Share your energy. Share the sport.
You don’t have to wait until the powder’s deep. Start this November 3rd at the Bash! Bring your stoke, your cash, and as many friends as possible! Let’s start the season in grand style. See you there. Get your tickets at www.cmc.org/bash today!
Donny Roth is passionate about sharing the human-powered ski experience, which is he does feverishly throughout the year. He invites you to check out his website, www.independent-descents.com, and hopes you’ll cross tracks soon.