Backstory: Father, Son and Seven Continents

To put my relationship with wintery mountains into words is too great a task. The same can be said for my relationship with my son.

Backstory: Are We There Yet?

Spring 1998 found me gazing at the sky from a shelter 10,000 feet up Rainier. The pinpoint sparks above contrasted with the sea of clouds below, and the stark, ghostly light moved me to doubts. We summited without our skis, and my regrets followed me home.

Backstory: Tucks Someday

We are a ski family. My wife, Kristin, my son, Grant, and I all love to ski. But my teenaged daughter, Karly, loves skiing more than any of us, and today, she is jonesing to get on the slopes.

Backstory: Crossroads of a Skier

It’s late morning in October 1993, and I’m sitting in my VW Jetta, a coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I don’t smoke. Don’t drink much coffee, either. But this moment, this place, begs for both. I’m somewhere north of Great Falls, Montana. Maybe Cut Bank, maybe Shelby, maybe Conrad. It doesn’t matter. There is a gas station and a diner and that’s all, and that’s all I need.

Backstory: The Last Time I Saw Him

Two guys from California stood at the front desk of the Lake Louise Alpine Centre and International Hostel in Banff, Alberta at 7 a.m., ready to go. They even had their tele boots on, chomping to get out into the fresh pow that had been falling for days in the Canadian Rockies. They impatiently scanned […]

Backstory: Tired & Alone

The glare off the oncoming windshield bored into my weary eyes. It was the first vehicle I’d passed in more than an hour. During this long drive, my radio scrolled silently through channels. It’s not the middle of nowhere until even the Spanish and NPR channels don’t come in, and on Highway 6 between Ely […]

Skiing Yellowstone: Top Notch Peak

While Yellowstone National Park is familiar for its geysers, bison and the requisite family road trip, it also offers intriguing potential for backcountry skiers. With two million acres of terrain, easy access and a deep snowpack, it’s an alpine playground that skiers share only with grizzly bears and foxes. And on that mid-May morning, we had Yellowstone seemingly all to ourselves.

Backstory: Christmas Powder

I sit in a recycled ski chair on the cabin porch in Ouray, Colo., and watch giant, Christmas Eve snowflakes fall softly as I call my parents to wish them Merry Christmas. I am eager to tell my parents that I’m going backcountry skiing for the first time tomorrow. Instead, Mom reads her oncology report: cancer. In my mind tumors twinkle like Christmas lights throughout her. The conversation ends and snowflakes merge with my chilled tears.

Backstory: Outerspace

As early winter light spills over the North Cascades of Washington, dawn touches the heights of our little valleys. Eastward, my view stretches toward the silhouetted, ragged edges of an untrammeled landscape, snow draping everything. Gazing toward the near-solstice sun on this December morning, I bask in the knowledge that no roads interrupt the expanse to our east for almost 50 miles: nothing between us and the rising sun but true Cascadian wilderness.

Backstory: Release Me

At 0545 the phone rings. Dispatch has a one-vehicle rollover north of town. The driver might have a broken neck. “10-4. I’m on my way,” I say as I wipe the sleep from my eyes and turn on my bedroom lamp. Donning uniform and duty belt and patting the still-sleeping black lab on the head, I step out the door into a fresh dusting of snow on the back porch. Roads must be bad up north, I think as I switch on the light bar of my patrol vehicle and speed north out of this sleepy Montana town.