The Tiny House crew, Molly Baker, Zack Giffin, and Neil Provo, are on the road again in their 112-square-foot cabin on wheels, skiing around the Northwest, trying to find serious ski bums.
Everyone wants to be the all-sacrificing powder hound, vagabonding from storm to storm, with no possessions, a bank devoid of money, but full of powder turns. In some places, we know true ski bums. People who don't have cars, jobs, friends on powder days, or houses (or at least houses that don't live in trees).
We know Ben Price.
A true specimen, and maybe one of the last of his kind, Ben lives deep, deep in the Cascade Mountains, living out of his tree house, a map of the peaks engrained in his mind, and more of a dedication to making turns and finding adventure than anyone you'll meet in the mountains these days. And he does it because of one reason...wait for it...because he wants to.
Before the days of the glory and fame of the vibrant, mowhaked professional skier of the 90's to the energy drinking XGames youth of today, there were local heroes, people who skied because of the freedom and counter-culture found in the mountains. There was some risk involved in this--giving up everything to find solace in the powder. Comforts were gone, but enlightenment was found by the skiers living in the parking lot on the periphery of what was normal.
As a snow loving community we've come full circle and today we're all looking for that kind of hero. We need to draw inspiration from something unfamiliar, someone not constructed in the minds of a marketing team, but from a genuine icon--a legendary ski bum. We're looking for Ben Price.
We found him in Washington this December and parked our tiny house in his kingdom, following this splitboarding cowboy to the last frontier. Unexplored mountains and unknown pillow lines were found. And we also discovered that in the world of ski bums there's everyone else and then there's Ben Price (a true snow loving freak who would hate us if he knew we put him on the Internet).
All of us have mountains and lines that beckon to us every day, every season, every turn--Giants that loom in the periphery of our memory and thoughts. These monoliths sleep in our wildest dreams. And sometimes they creep slowly, after years of hoping and wanting, into our reality. These lines turn into days of our life that we'll never forget. They trump weddings, graduations, and other celebrations because they represent an achievement that others can't understand unless they spent that day with you, saw you make those turns, and felt what it was like to be in those places. These mountains and lines are officiators of greatness, if only in our own psyche. But they signify greatness that you'll never forget (and may never surpass) because being invited into the wild by a mountain is like heaven's doors opening for your welcome.
This December we were called into the living room of one of our favorite peaks, a mansion that stoops over our existence every day we've ever skied in Washington's North Cascades. Each time we've ventured into the threshold of this esteemed range, we've cautiously dusted off our shoes at the door hesitantly asking, "Are you sure?" But the mountain has been a gracious host. Polite and accommodating, serving up everything we'd hoped for as an intimidated guest.
On our 15-hour mission in December, the gates opened with an honest certainty. Snow stability and freshness we're expected as we climbed the nearly 7,000 vertical feet to the summit. After skiing that same distance in warm sunlight, but cold crystallized powder, back down to the valley floor, we were only half way done with the mission. We still had to go home. We still had to get back to the tiny house two drainages and another climb away. Our day and night we're not over.
Invitations can be just like that. You can't make assumptions based on your R.S.V.P. The party might go on for longer than you'd hoped. And mountains are surprising hosts, often temperamental. But, sometimes they let you slip out the back door, going unnoticed, like the quiet guest who sat in the corner, barely uttering a sound, but soaking in all the glorious sounds, smells, and sights, of people enjoying the time that they are alive.