What would comprise your ideal adventure?
When asked what might be an ideal “mountain” adventure many skiers and riders visualize a heli-ski adventure, picturing a large helicopter with swirling rotor blades landing on an isolated peak with vast untracked powder. Some picture rugged mountain vistas in distant lands. Others picture lift-accessed skiing reaching untracked powder in Colorado, Utah or Canada. For some a trip is not complete without a picturesque alpine village. Truly, dreams vary.
Some do not actually picture winter escapes but, rather, imagine summer skiing in South America. There, seasons are reversed and our summer meets South American winter. Former PSIA examiner Jimmy Ackerson spent years alternating winters teaching skiing in New England, largely at Stratton and Bromley, with summers teaching in South America. From Portillo to Corralco Mountain and Ski Resort in Chile, Ackerson has made adventure travel and coaxing Americans to South American slopes a way of life.
On the other hand, while travel can seem romantic most folks don’t want airport delays or canceled flights. Years ago a friend spent virtually an entire vacation in Utah in a hotel lockdown because of avalanche risk. In contrast, traveling on a writing assignment to the US Nationals in Crested Butte years ago, with a storm pummeling Colorado, the late Bob Gillen suggested I catch a last flight with ESPN the mountain. Soon after we departed in swirling snow the departure airport closed. Fortunately, we landed safely to enjoy more than 60 inches of powder! That trip personified the reasons people love adventure travel.
Sometimes adventure means grasping an opportunity. Last spring my friend Bob Leve, a dedicated cross-country skier, asked if I might help pull his helicopter out of his hangar. That afternoon, this former military helicopter pilot, who owns a Hilyer Helicopter identical to one he flew in the military, shared an adventure. From the glass bubble of his helicopter the sights and sounds were extraordinary. What began as a request to help a friend tug a helicopter out of a hangar ended with an unexpected adventure. Honestly, too few have enjoyed helicopter rides. Still, the flight was only one piece to his adventures. His hangar also housed a bush plane from Idaho! Indeed, this renaissance man - child psychologist, helicopter pilot, navigator, sailer, bike racer, and veteran traveler – has enjoyed countless adventures. From hiking in South America to soaring adventures from the Catskills to southern France, he has lived an adventurous and rich life.
Fundamentally, mountain adventures can offer more options then solely skiing. Look at the smiles in the lodge when people talk about their adventures. Listen and you may hear surprising tales. Locally this can include glider rides in nearby Springfield as well as snowmobile rides or ice climbs. A few months ago, driving into Hartness State Airport to see a friend’s new plane – a turbo-charged, four-seat low-wing aircraft capable of cruising from New England to Florida - I met several pilots who balance winter weekends skiing with snowmobiling. This group balances soaring, snowmobiling, as well as skiing. Indeed, the options seem wide.
From a more scientific point of view, not that we should need research to provide an excuse to travel, a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology supports adventure travel. Researchers Julia Zimmermann and Franz Neyer found that travel helps enhance emotional stability, and openness, and it can increase agreeableness. People can also make friends, and travel can enhance relational closeness. For many, adventure travel can offer a respite from a more harried urban existence. Travel can also elevate happiness and enhance well-being.
In truth, travel can balance history, companionship, and artistry. Watch skiers carving figure eights in the powder on the North Face after a fresh storm and we see artists at play. Watch racers carving the mountain and we see artistry of another type. If I might wax poetic, my sister Wendy is an artist. While she crafts her living as a grant writer, her avocation is that of a multimedia artist. When not working or in her studio in the Southwest, she also enjoys travel. In fact, she spent years living aboard a sailboat traveling and exploring the seas! The point, actually, is that the diversity of an adventurous life can shape and reshape our outlook. Travel often and one cannot help but appreciate diversity. Travel often and we see a different blueprint for life. Still, some put off travel.
Honestly, the art of adventure travel lies partly, perhaps, in a mindset. Most folks travel the same route, week in, week out, to the mountains. Most miss seeing balloonists sometimes floating in the mountains. Most miss gliders often flying over Springfield. Most miss the adventure of skiing the varied trails which create the labrynth of Mount Snow or Stratton. The late photographer Bob Perry once told me he saw the most beautiful sunrises by arriving early at the mountain. Too often we miss those moments though by burying our faces in a momentary effort to stay warm.
Looking for a historical twist? Wander the trails in Park City, Utah an as example and you can see closed mine entrances off the trails. Hearkening to a time when cowboys mined for precious metal, the resort contains multiple mines. In fact, years ago the resort pumped water for snowmaking from those shafts while also transporting skiers uphill through several ancient mining trains. While closed today, these mines remind skiers that while visitors once looked for gold in the mountain, today’s investors mine white gold on top of the mountain! Truly, the mountains are filled with stories, and adventures.
Intrigued? As you sit in the lodge listen to the adventurers. Listen to their tales. Perhaps you too have a story. Who knows, you too may be an adventurer. From Mount Snow or Stratton to the Rocky Mountains, savor each adventure, from your first run, to your last run.
“There is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
– Randy Komisar
Contributing columnist Tony Crespi has served as both a ski school trainer and development team coach. His column is published throughout the season.