Throughout the years, I have become to respect the mountains, and the terrain that they offer. When you hike, you spend hours upon hours inching yourself closer to the one place that you cannot wait to be, the summit. Once you peak your head above the tree line, finally visualizing the highest point on the mountain, you somehow find the energy to practically run to the top. The feeling of summitting a mountain, no matter how big or small, is almost always the same. All at once you feel accomplishment, joy, and sometimes even the end of desperation. Quite honestly, it’s the best goddamn feeling ever. That’s the whole point of the hike, to get to the top of the mountain right? Wrong. Recently, I’ve come to realize that the summit isn’t as glorious unless you actually hike up yourself to see it. It is the effort and physical triumph that makes that view oh so special. You might be wondering what has finally made me understand this, and surprise... it’s #skiing.
This year, since I decided to no longer run NCAA Track & Field, I have been fortunate enough to spend more time exploring on the weekends. Since most of my hiking I tend to do solo, winter hikes can be quite dangerous even with someone else, let alone by yourself. So now during the winter I ski. I’ve been skiing for 18 years, but since I’m not longer competing, this is one of the first years in a long time that I’ve been able to really get out on the mountain. Up until now I’ve been earning my summits by climbing to the top, but after 30 days of skiing I’ve started to not appreciate the summit of the mountain as much. I won’t lie it’s pretty nice for a change to be carried up by a lift to the top of the mountain with absolutely zero effort, sometimes even with a beer in hand. However, now when I get to the top, I think oh nice view, slap on my skis, cruise down the mountain, and then do it all over again. That special feeling when you get to the summit is gone, especially after 10+ runs at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, skiing offers a whole new “special” feeling; like when you fly down a steep slope, catch air off the lip of the trail, or even carve through fresh powder. It is for these reasons why I view the mountain in an entirely different way.
I do love skiing just as much and sometimes even more than hiking, but recently, I’ve missed “summiting” the mountain. This is what lead me to one of my new passions, #alpinetouring. Also known as “skinning,” alpine touring combines the best of both worlds for me. I get to hike up to the peak, appreciate the view, and then carve my way through the terrain to the bottom. A week or two ago, I tried this for the first time. Unfortunately I didn’t have the gear to “skin,” but I strapped my skis on my back, clipped some snowshoes on my feet, and hiked to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. With a start time of 6:30 am, I made my way up through the recommended route, following fellow “skinners” to the summit of the mountain. I won’t lie, it was hard work with a 30+ lb. pack on my back and wind blowing me backwards, but I found a new reason to motivate me to the top and it wasn’t the view. It was the amazing group of people that I was surrounded by who also woke up at 4:30 am to climb to the top of the mountain. Every time I passed, or took a break next to these people, they were extremely friendly and also passionate about the outdoors. Meeting new people doing the things I love, such as skiing and hiking, is something I always look forward to. Touring has now given me the outlet to a whole new community of people to connect and eventually explore with.
On my final push to the summit, around 8:15 am, I saw the early skinners begin to ski by with grins on their faces, waving to us fellow climbers. I got the same feeling like when I hike, finding that final store of energy to reach the summit. I’ve seen the summit of Whiteface Mountain hundreds of times, but never before like this. To my excitement, I got that same feeling that I get when I hike and I couldn’t be happier. With a grin on my face, I changed into my ski boots, strapped on my skis and cruised down the mountain. Once I had reached the bottom, the lifts started to run and the day on the slopes had begun all over again. It was surreal to get on the lift and ride back to the summit I had just climbed up to, but I will tell you what, it was so worth it.