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I will never forget the day the lifts stopped spinning. It was a bright and beautiful morning in March of 2020 and a foot of new snow had fallen overnight at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Everything seemed perfect. I arrived early and was headed toward the Tram dock when I heard the news: JHMR was closed for the season due to COVID-19.
I was angry and confused, but nothing was going to stop me from riding the rest of the season. Riders will ride. Pandemic be damned.
Two days later, I met up with some friends in the parking lot at the top of Teton Pass and hiked to the top of Mount Glory for a sunset lap. Dropping in from the top, I found myself riding cold deep pow lit by the soft pink glow of a stunning mountain sunset. The fear and chaos that had been at the top of my consciousness for days simply drifted away into the magic of snowboarding. That run inspired me to come back the very next day. And the day after that.
I never intended to hike so much, initially. I just wanted to go up there, clear my mind, and ride. But as it turned out, I kept hiking and riding for 77 straight days. I finally took a breather on June 1st. Not because the snow was gone, but because it was my Mom’s birthday. During that time I hiked over 100,000 vertical feet. I had never ridden so many consecutive days in a row.
As I hiked, I kept a journal documenting my experience juxtaposed with a global pandemic that was reaching a fever pitch. The world was in chaos, but up in the mountains, everything was as it should be. They became my shelter, my church.
Day 2:I can no more stop snowboarding as I can stop breathing.
Day 33:I strive to be mountain-minded, forever pushing upward. To get grounded, reaching down through deep roots, feeling the connection between earth and sky.
Day 60:There are ghosts here looming in the mist. Trees watching over me, some lost in time, standing without needles, still watching over those that choose to ride amongst them.
Day 70:Open and free. Free to experience, to struggle, to marvel at the beauty of the world. There is a higher place. I love visiting it as often as I can.
Day 72:Explore the edges of your passion.
Day 75:Each day I make a choice to align my life to live in my joy, to live in my passion. I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work so hard towards creating a life that affords me so much access to what I love the most in the world.
Day 77:Freedom exists only within yourself. It is up to you to find it.
Ultimately, the pandemic shutdown helped me to become closer to the mountains and better understand why I snowboard. There were so many magical moments over those 77 days of Glory. I am forever grateful for my time spent up there.
Rob Kingwill loves dancing, long walks in the mountains, and keeping necks warm. @robkingwill@avalon7