Sleep In The Dirt

Aaron Rice = 2.5 Million Self-Propelled Vert

Essays From the Field

Follow Aaron Rice on his journey as he begins his goal to ski 2.5 million vertical feet.

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“5 Winters ago I skied ~75,000′ vert, The next year I skied 117,000′ vert. The next year 248,000′ vert. The next year 447,000′ vert, and last year 703,000′ vert. This year, my goal is to earn 2.5 Million self-propelled vertical feet. This will beat the current record held by Greg Hill. I know this is within my physical limits, but I keep asking myself if I can do it mentally, emotionally, and logistically. I believe the answer is yes, but I need to prove it to myself.”

Three steps, two steps, one step, and we arrive at the summit. There is not a cloud in the sky and the moon is so bright our shadows are as defined as 2pm on a sunny day. We have just climbed 3,000” the second half of which is a technical ridge with many hundreds of feet drop offs on both sides. It is now 3:30am. We are standing on the summit of Mount Superior getting ready to ski the south face, which is one of the 100 classic ski descents of North America. There is a foot and a half of new low density snow and not one other sight.

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As we stand there our body heat quickly disappears into the huge sky above and we throw on our down jackets. Avalanches are certainly on our radar. The slope we are about to ski is almost 3,000’ long, 35-40 degrees and it avalanches across the road at the bottom an average of 2-3 times per year. We know it is stable right now. It was spring snow before this storm and there has been no wind in days, but the thought of an avalanche on this slope, in the middle of the night and how bad that would be still goes through your head.

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It is so bright we decide we don’t even need headlamps for the descent. We throw in a couple ski cuts at the top of the run for good measure and then drop in. The snow is amazing! Light and fluffy, totally bottomless and very stable. After uncounted faceshots we reach the road at the bottom. We are somewhat speechless. For many skiing an untracked over-the-head south face of superior is a once in a lifetime experience, and we just did it in the middle of the night under the light of the moon.

The rest of the day I skied another stunning 3,000’ south facing couloir as the sun rose and then half a dozen north facing mellow powder runs. This was the best run of my life and one of the best days of skiing I’ve ever had. This may not have been the exact day I truly got the backcountry skiing bug, but it was definitely a big contributor.

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Almost two years later, I am now in the depths of month two of my attempt to ski 2.5 million human powered vertical feet in a year. It was days like this that made me want to attempt a goal where I will get up and ski as much as possible every day from sun up to sun down.

– Aaron

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