2Point5Mil: One Million Done

Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

Skins get a bit gloppy in the warm temps. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

It’s been a long couple weeks. After a March that lent itself to big days and big objectives, April came and temperatures turned balmy. The Wasatch, with its lower elevation, isn’t known for good spring skiing. And generally, as soon as it looks like we may hit a good corn cycle, it snows again, leaving us with a half day of good skiing and a half day of wet, manky snow that needs a freeze-thaw cycle before it’ll ski well.

In early April, we were stuck in one of these cycles—too warm to preserve good powder; too little time between storms to get good corn. Travel became difficult with glopping skins, waist-deep, isothermal snow and a general lack of motivation to ski the mediocre conditions. I was spending many days touring through mellow sidecountry areas and inbounds after or before lift hours.

On skinny race skis, I could get in 10,000 feet in five to seven hours and have some time to catch up on other aspects of life. But the seemingly endless iffy skiing was taking its toll on me mentally. It was becoming harder and harder to motivate.


Aaron gets after it on some fast grass. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

The reason I set out to ski 2.5-million vertical feet was to chase as much good skiing as I could. Day after day of not good skiing, however, was making me question, “Why?” And, “Was it worth it? Why not just take the week off, head south and go mountain biking or rock climbing?”

April 24 arrived and it snowed more than a foot and a half of right-side-up powder. With a strong crew we took aim at a go-to powder paradise zone, lapping a 1,900-foot run. It was a classic Wasatch powder day, which not only refocused my motivation but also made the previous two weeks worth it. And at the top of our third lap, I looked down at my watch and read, “1,000,074.9 [ft.] since 1 Jan 2016.”

One Million logged. One and a half million to go. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

One-million vertical feet logged. One-and-a-half million to go. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

What a feeling! It’s hard to explain what hitting one million felt like. When I hit 70,000 feet in my first week, I saw it as proof of concept. Hitting one million felt completely different. I now knew that this goal would be possible and that I had completed my hardest four months. It became not a matter of if I could, but a matter of executing the plan. I felt a huge amount of relief hitting one-million vertical feet and a great sense of achievement. But some lingering anxiety remains.

The next six months may not be the most physically demanding, but there will be many other hurdles. My plan for May through October is to ski the next one-million feet. Then, through November and December, I plan to finish out the goal.

Aaron skiing some Wasatch pow in late spring. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

Late spring pow comes to the Wasatch. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

In May and June I will be living out of a van and skiing many ranges in the West. Living from a van offers freedom but also adds complexities—like keeping everything dry and clean.

Come July I will head south to Argentina. Logistic are certainly more of an issue down there, but my greatest challenge may be staying motivated and positive while traveling solo for almost four months. I met plenty of people while in Argentina two summers ago, but not being around those you are close to for that long of a time can become deeply lonely.

As I’ve said from the beginning, the physical barriers of this goal may not be the greatest challenge—it’s everything else that is hard, and the next six months will certainly stretch me mentally and emotionally.


Bluebird skies are an added benefit of spring skiing. Photo courtesy Aaron Rice.

As Aaron Rice stacks up vertical all year long, he’ll be sharing his stories on BackcountryMagazine.com under the tag and title 2Point5Mil. Find more about Rice at airandrice.com, through his Instagram feed, @airandrice, and on Snapchat at airandrice. You can also track his progress of monster touring days on Strava.


  1. Alpine ski touring offers the pinnacle in outdoor exploration and winter sports in my opinion. The best part is that really any skill level can begin to participate as you only go as far as you are willing to go. While you may not be able to choose the weather – you can choose the slope!

  2. Nobody gives a shit if he or anyone else skied 8 million vertical feet. Just another bonehead article with no value.


  1. […] 2Point5Mil: One Million Done – Backcountry Magazine – Aaron Rice is shooting for 2.5 million human powered vertical feet of skiing this year. He tagged one million this month. […]

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