A horrendous buzzing sound fills my head as I waive my arms in utter confusion. It’s pitch black and I can’t see a thing. Struggling to orient myself, I catch a glimpse of neon green light. The light then reads 4:02 am. A sigh of relief as I realize it’s the alarm clock and not an alien abduction. Although it’s only been just a few hours since managing to fall asleep, I pull myself out of bed knowing there’s a mission on tap for the day. No use putting it off as there’s precious time ticking away.
My good buddy Dylan and I have been planning this day for quite some time. A few months ago, an ice-climber friend sent us a photo of an incredible couloir he spotted up one of his routes. This line, in a word, looked like an absolute “beast” yet at the same time a thing of sheer beauty. What started as a somewhat lofty idea slowly evolved into a plan of action, then an outright mission. That mission? To go ski it, of course!
March has to be one of my favorite months, if not the favorite. The days really start to grow longer and the sun’s angle becomes noticeably higher. You hear the birds signing again. The river breaks open and fish start moving around again. It is a time of reassurance that you’ve made it over the hump, that is, of the crux of winter’s grip. Of course, winter is great in its own regard and by no means is March the end of it here in the Rockies, but a quick glance at the calendar reassures you that the glory days of summer really are within reach. In a sense, you begin to experience the best of both worlds; warmer weather, great fishing, but still plenty of snow to ski. From a ski mountaineer’s perspective, March is particularly exciting in that it’s typically the month where the snowpack becomes more settled and warrants your presence on some of the steeper lines.
Dylan and I leave town before sunrise and on schedule for the 1.5 hour drive to the access point. We’ve carefully studied a topo of the area and mapped our ascent route accordingly. The couloir sits off a ridgeline that extends out to an impressive buttress of roughly 3,000 vertical feet. The easiest way to gain this ridge would be to traverse around the buttress then wrap back up, however, there looked to be a manageable chute we could ascend instead to make things a bit more interesting.
We arrive at the trailhead and start skinning up a gorgeous canyon-esque gulch with the low tumbling sound of a creek bouncing off the rock walls. The forest here is mostly old growth laced with strands of green moss hanging everywhere. A little under an hour up, the chute we’ve planned to climb comes into view. There’s a massive pile of avalanche debris in the runout that we pick through and begin working our way up; now with the added assistance of ski crampons. It is quite steep, slow going and hard work. The corners of my eyes start to burn from all the sweat.
Gaining the ridge by simply going around this would have been much easier and convenient, but for my ski partner and I, it’s not always about getting from point A to point B in the quickest, easiest way possible. From mapping out the area, to geeking out over the landscape on Google Earth, to reveling over all the possibilities—we’re truly marveled and inspired by these mountains and ski lines. It’s all about the process and how we can enrich the overall experience. Believe it or not, an adrenaline fix isn’t the priority, but comes as a nice bi-product of the bigger picture.
After a few hours of working our way up, the incline eases a bit and gives way to a tundra-like landscape that overlooks a vast alpine basin. We enjoy the aesthetic fruits of our labor for a moment before carrying on. One more long traverse brings us to the ridge where the entrance to our line is… somewhere. This side of the mountain is riddled with chutes and couloirs as it drops precariously down into the drainage below. We can only see about the first 200 ft. or so of the face and the line we’ve come for is the only one that extends down to the drainage floor. All the other lines eventually cliff out, so it was imperative that we take the right entrance into the right couloir.
In a scenario like this, you can’t afford to act first, and then think later. It’s not a free for all. You don’t want to end up at a “dead end” gazing down a thousand foot vertical wall without proper gear for a rappel. So we take our time and study. While there is an element of uncertainty, we’ve also put the time in to prepare—photos, maps, google earth screen shots, etc. Thus feel confident in the entrance we commit to.
The first part is a scramble down a wind scoured ramp of loose rock that leads to the snow where we gear up for our descent. A wave of gratitude washes over me every time I’m about to drop into serious terrain and I find the suspense humbling. Pretty sure Dylan is on the same page too.
It’s like this moment of clarity where we understand this is what we were meant to do.
I go first. The snow is pretty firm, making for some “sporty” turns through a short, technical section peppered with rocks. Once I got down to where the walls of the couloir really swallow you up, everything was more sheltered and the snow gradually became softer. Kind of like a styrofoam/chalky powder mix. It is an absolutely incredible feeling midst the rhythm of tight jump turns as the sluff of loose snow rushes right along with you
One at a time, we “leap frog” and take our time skiing down this majestic couloir, stopping for pictures and to marvel at our surroundings. You feel so small and swallowed up in those rock walls and it’s beautiful—really puts you in your place.
While the duration of the ski down is short and sweet relative to what we put in to get there, it carries a lasting memory and impact we will never forget. Nearly 3,000 vertical feet of couloir skiing—an all time line for both of us. Once reaching the bottom, we cross a small creek still mostly covered in snow to catch an old mining road that’s half melted out for a cruise back to the truck, and of course, a couple cold beers.
Days like this, to me, define what it means to feel alive. Sure, it was a great ski, but at the end of the day what brought us there had little to do with the actual act of skiing. It’s about the takeaways and how we can apply them to things in the long run. It’s about purpose and what we’ve really come here to do/be, which in this case, was simply to be free, but more importantly, the ability to realize and experience things that are so much bigger than us.
Because at the end of the day, it’s not about us.
When I shared the story and pictures of this epic ski tour with my family back in Denver, who none of which were ever big into skiing, their heads cocked a bit. “Are you crazy?” “How did you even get up there?” When I explained it to them, the next question was “all that for just one time down?.. Why didn’t you just go to the ski resort?”
Good question. I suppose if it was just about the skiing, that is, the act of flying down a mountain strapped to planks of wood, then we probably would have. After all, it’s only 30 minutes up the road.
And don’t get me wrong—I can gladly enjoy a day at the resort— it’s just a whole different mentality. At the resort, you’re there for the “thrill”. The motive, more or less, is getting your money’s worth. Or maybe the most runs your legs can handle.
If it’s a powder day, you’ve really got to capitalize on all that low hanging fruit before it’s gone. It’s all about the descent, followed by that wonderful feeling of instant gratification. Ride up lift, rip down, and do it all again. Churn and burn. Let’s not forget about logging stats on that app that tracks vertical feet skied and max speed reached, too.
It’s all in good fun. But in the grand scheme of things, the aspirations for a day at the ski resort are much more superficial than a day of ski mountaineering where you’ve likely spent months, or even years researching, planning and timing your objective. It might take a couple hours prepping gear and route finding the night before, then waking up at 4am to make your way to the base of a mountain, then another 4-6 hours ascending that mountain, then, finally, get your 15-20 minute ski down.
While either way you end up flying down a mountain strapped to planks of wood, what’s driving you is quite different.
Your motives and vision stem from completely different paths. Resort skiing is like the “short game”. It’s a matter of buying your way up the mountain, then seeing how much you can handle. Ski mountaineering/backcountry is like the “long game”; access to the mountain is all yours, but you must be willing to take the time and make the sacrifices to get up there. It takes some sacrifice and discipline, but ultimately, the rewards and overall experience is lasting.
In business, kind of like my family trying to understand the motive for ski mountaineering; many people just don’t get why someone would choose to stray from the beaten path for something that can seemingly be achieved in more conventional ways.
This is especially true in the real estate business.
In a recent conversation I was told that “there is no long-term to any of this [real estate]” followed by being asked “why aren’t you buying leads?”
Well, I suppose if it was just about the sales, I too, would join the race for that “low hanging fruit.” I suppose, I too, would prioritize prospecting over studying and solving problems of the market that my clients face. I suppose I would do things like pay for leads and “premier agent” space on Zillow and other similar machines, rather than continually master my craft. I suppose I would invest money in automated messages and services to save me the hassle, rather than investing time in developing skills and writing/publishing useful content. I suppose, I too, would be content with a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than hone the specifics case by case.
Although my constant prospecting efforts would prove to be fruitful, my commoditized level of operation would force me to see everything as a matter of selling people on myself.
And while I might impress, I’d fail to inspire, because like resort skiing, the aspirations would be quite superficial.
But alas, in my world, none of this is the case. Here’s a fact: I don’t sell the most homes in Gunnison County.
Quite frankly wouldn’t care to.
And to be clear, I’m all about making good money, whether that’s selling lots of homes for people, or whatever it may be one does. Let’s face it; we all need money to support the lives we really want to live.
But the means and motives in which that financial position is achieved is what I’m getting at here. Is it a numbers game; striving for a greater volume of money and sales? Or is it based on a calling to be part of something bigger than just sales and an understanding that by fulfilling a purpose, the money will simply be a bi-product?
I mean, really, if someone is willing to bend, twist and deviate their ways— “anything for the sale”— what kind of principles do you suppose they hold true to? And who am I to judge what other peoples’ motives are anyways? I just find it quite apparent what they are when people consistently turn to bombarding a community with, well, themselves.
I believe it is quite possible to grow business and financial position internally, that is, by seeing the bigger picture, working on and figuring out ways to constantly improve what you actually offer, instead of perpetual advertising, prospecting, and lead generation.
But I don’t know. Maybe I am crazy. Crazy for waking up at 4am to write, then publish for my readers/clients things seldom mentioned. Crazy for hoarding books and archiving binders full of new ideas to further develop strategies. Crazy for obsessing over influential marketing concepts and how they can be applied with my clients. Crazy for sometimes sacrificing more leads/sales for principles. And since I’m fed up with people getting taken advantage of, maybe I’m crazy for taking a stance against the numbers game and unethical schemes in the real estate industry.
(4:30 am scene at my desk)
Because—much like my days in the mountains—this isn’t about me.
And, as a result, that’s why you won’t see a life size cut out of my mug plastered all over the paper or internet. Or see me featured on sites like Zillow and Trulia, smothering the words “call me” over everything I can, or begging for referrals. Those are short game tactics, and frankly, I believe there are better ways.
“Quod vitae sectabor iter” – a Latin phrase and well known verse of the ancient Roman poet Ausonias asks “What path will I take in life?” The way I see it; there are two paths to life (and business); the short game—or—the long game. Money and sales don’t last. But experiences and strengthened perspectives do.