Fall!

I’ve been doing really great all summer and fall. I’m excited to begin the ski season, but I’ve been happy biking, climbing and enjoying the warmth. I know I won’t have much of that for the next 18 months once the season begins.

But the past couple days, despite the impending triple winter, that time of year has come; all I can think about is snow, skiing, freezing my fingers and toes off, and glorious faceshots. Here’s a little gem from Cyril that perfectly summarizes how I feel.

 

Rustler High Life Episode 1: Freedom from Aaron Rice on Vimeo.

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The 4 Types of Fun

Having spent the last many years doing outside activities, I have very often come across this thing called type 2 fun. Type 2 fun describes activities that are not the most enjoyable while they are happening but after the fact you realized that you loved it. When I first heard of type 2 fun I obviously wondered what type 1 was, and if there were other types. Well over the years I have developed my own system of the types of fun. I did some research before writing this, and I am not the first person to add a couple more types of fun to the list, but I think my definitions are a bit different.

Type 1:

Fun while you are doing it, fun afterwards. This is just good family fun. Playing with puppies, music concerts, Powder skiing!, hanging out around a bonfire, spending time with loved ones, and countless other things that make you happy.

We all need type 1 fun in our lives, however I have found that too much type 1 fun can often become boring. Type 1 fun keeps you in your comfort zone. Many of the things in life that are the most rewarding are not always fun.

now that's fun!

Pure fun!

Type 2:

Not fun while you are doing it, fun afterwards. Okay, it may not be, totally unfun while you are doing it, but it is certainly very difficult and often you want to stop, but for some unknown reason you keep going. Most physical activity is some level of type 2.

Take running. For me, I start a run and pretty much think about how much longer I have until it is over. There is this weird point 2 hours in where I stop thinking about anything, but mostly, I just want to be done. No matter how much running hurts during, and how much effort it takes to keep going, I never regret going and always feel great afterwards (unless my knees hurt).

Type 2 fun is my favorite type of fun. Things that are type 2 fun are the most rewarding. Skinning is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world (I sure hope so). However, while I am skinning I am often hurting. Maybe I am racing and pushing myself to my limit, gasping for 9,000ft air. Or maybe I am fried from a week of 50,000ft and then waking up at 5 am to go ski some stupid objective that is 4 miles and 4,000ft away. The skin track is a rock solid side hill for those 4 miles –  believe me, i do not like skinning for the first hour of that day. But when I come home that night and I’ve ski 4 runs of Boxelder and 11,000ft, I love skinning and am so happy to be alive!

Pushing through difficult things is how we make our lives better. Weather that is an early morning tour or endless hours of applying to a new job. It is getting past the difficult things that make life worth living.

 

Type 4: (gonna jump out of order here, bare with me)

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is worth it. Some things are not fun while they are happening and not fun afterwards. Type 4 things are often unavoidable realities. Doing your taxes. painting a house (that is not your own), and getting your car inspected. Most things that are type 4 fun are, well not fun, but also they are not going to kill you. The more complicated life gets, the more time you spend doing type 4 fun. Most things that are involve bureaucracies are type 4 fun. I spend a good amount of energy ensuring that my life remains simple and I keep my type 4 fun to a minimum. If my work ever becomes a type 4 fun, that is my life being wasted.

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Don’t waste time on type 4 fun. Do it and be done.

Type 3:

Fun while it is happening and not fun afterwards. The best example is a hangover. Getting wasted at a party can be fun, but the hangover and realization that you sent a few regretful texts makes the night out type 3 fun. Type 3 fun is great, but must be taken in moderation. Too much type 3 fun and life starts to become unfun. Most things that are type 3 fun are addicting. I know when I binge watch 5 season of parks and recreation I may not completely regret it, but I am pretty sure I could have done something better with my time, and have a slightly bad taste left in my mouth.

College may have a bit too much type 3 fun.

College may have a bit too much type 3 fun.

I use the types of fun scale as a bit of a guide to life. I enjoy type 1 fun, but don’t necessarily seek it out, as too much can be boring. Type 2 fun is the most enriching. I try to engage in as many activities as I can handle that are difficult and rewarding. Type 3 fun can be great, but I am always wary and make sure I am not getting sucked in to the type 3 spiral. I try to limit type 4 fun activities as much as possible, but when I have to do them, I try to just get them out of the way as quick and painlessly as possible (easier said than done).  

Bonus type 5 fun is watching a sunrise or sunset.

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Long Hair

I have had long hair my entire life. When I was a baby I was bald for almost two years and I’ve just been making up for it ever since.

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Bald till 2 and making up lost time ever since

When I was 5 my mom convinced me to get a real hair cut. It was called a boy’s cut and she promised me it wouldn’t be too short. I’m not sure what I thought a boys cut was, but it was too short, and that was basically the first and last real hair cut I’ve had.

The infamous boys cut

The infamous boys cut, never again!

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my hair used to be straight

At some point in Junior High, I ended up with a mullet. I still can’t quite figure out how that happened. When you are 12, there is no such thing as an ironic mullet… I was the target of much ridicule.

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This mullet would rock the spring bumps so hard!

One summer at the hippy, and somewhat communist, wilderness camp I attended, I decided to wear my hair in a braid. It got much less knotty and was easier to manage. On the first day of school that fall, a kid I sort of knew from previous years was behind me in line and asked who the hot new girl was… I turned around feeling pretty embarrassed. Not that I should have, he was the one with misdirected misogyny. Somehow my 13 year old self didn’t let that get to me and I wore my hair braided for the rest of 8th grade.

IMG_3669What guys doesn’t get his hair layered for soccer?

I have always seen my hair as a litmus test. If people are going to discount me or when I was younger, tease me for my long hair, then they are not worth my time. Take the kids that relentlessly teased me in elementary school. In 3rd grade I was the new kid, with long hair and striped shirts that my mom dressed me in. I was the target of much abuse. But I found people that still wanted to be my friends. I’m not saying it was easy, but I also would never want to go back and cut my hair so I could be friends with the people that were teasing me. Little hint, they haven’t changed all that much and still aren’t doing cool things with their life.

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School picture vs. Running ragged

If you’ve seen Freaks and Geeks, there is a great scene where Sam approaches Gordon Crisp, “the fat kid” about how he smells bad. Gordon explains that he has a medical condition called trimethylaminuria that makes him smell. Sam asks if he will smell for the rest of his life? and Gordon responds that he will, but he doesn’t mind because “The nice people don’t mind and it weeds out the jerks.”

While, I am not advocating that we all just embrace our BO to figure out who really likes us, the idea is there. The people that will accept us as is, are the ones worth our time, and the people that tease us are jerks and are not worth our time.

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Ah, college Ultimate…

gotta have at least one ski photo

gotta have at least one ski photo

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Vacation, Outdoor Retailer, and a Few Day in Alta

The last few weeks have been busy, relaxing, strenuous, and somewhat overwhelming at times. I left Vermont and spent a week relaxing on Cape Cod. Then I flew from Boston to SLC for the Outdoor Retailer Show. I have never been to anything quite like it. The past few days I was up in Alta getting my August turns in and doing some hiking.

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A little slice of Thoreau’s paradise

Vacation on The Cape has been a family tradition since before I could walk. The pristine kettle ponds, endless oceans, and ripping single track make for full days. We joke that the “Cape Trip” is about doing the most physical activity you can, so that you can eat as much as you can each night.

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Full Disclosure: I fell 2 frames after this

This years “Cape Trip” was similar to years past, but I took doing as much activity as possible a bit further. I swam 1/2 mile across pond and back each day. I did a bit of windsurfing, though the wind wasn’t quite there. I tried my hand at SUP surfing. It took me a good hour and a half just to paddle in a straight line. Then I was able to catch a few good waves. The surf was the best I have seen in many years.

We have always mountain biked on The Cape, but this year I really fell in love with the seemingly endless smooth fast single the National Seashore has to offer.

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Smooth single track

At the sad conclusion of the “Cape Trip” I wasted little time and headed for Utah, the beehive state. Why? no idea.

For the first 4 days back in UT I was trapped downtown at the Outdoor Retailer Show. And what a show it is! There are 1500 retailers and it costs many millions of dollars to put the show on. There are 2 story buildings, built just for the show, inside the convention center. There was a full size Hobie Cat hanging from the ceiling. Here’s a list of 19 WTF products seen at OR. I think I walked about 15 miles a day traversing the convention center from end to end to end for each meeting I had. There were live SUP demonstrations going on nonstop, and there was a whole room devoted to Chinese manufacturing. Yeah, I guess the OR show is a big deal!

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Hobie Cat hanging from the ceiling

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Pancakes?

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Yep, that room is about 1/10th of the show

Once I finally escaped the clutches of capitalism and consumerism I went straight for Little Cottonwood Canyon. Even though it was summer up there it felt like coming home. LCC in full bloom may be just as beautiful as it is in the winter. Wait, what am I talking about!?! It’s beautiful in the summer, but not that beautiful!

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My best touring buddy, Joey Camps, went with me on a quick mission to get in a couple August turns. The upper reaches of Snowbird were still holding on to just enough snow to make some turns. After skiing, to save the knees, we took the tram down.

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Plenty enough to ski:)

I don’t know if it was revenge for making him come skiing the previous day, but the next day Joey totally sandbagged me and took me on an 11 mile hike. Sure 11 miles sounds easy, but it was also 8,500 elevation gain. Still though that shouldn’t be be too hard. It was also nearly all class 3/4 scrambling with some class 5 climbing and much of it had crazy exposure.

Hey Buddy!

Hey Buddy!

We summited Storm Mountain, The East SLC Twin, O’Sullivan, Dromedary, Monte Christo, and Mt. Superior. Coming up to Monte Christo was easily the scariest part. We had to traverse out a 4ft ledge looking straight down at the Tram Club. Then we had to make a couple tricky class 5 moves getting higher up and even more exposed. We finally pulled over the crux and easily scrambled to the summit!

one of the less exposed sections

One of the less exposed sections

Exposed scrambling is something I am pretty new to. It is an interesting head game. No single move is hard. However the continual threat of falling means that you have to stay focused for many hours (10 in this case) and move a bit slower to make sure that you don’t slip or trip. I think I retied my shoes about 7 times during the day, just to make sure they were tight.

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The days hike left to right.

So, nice and puckered, I left Utah and headed back to VT. Coming off the OR Show, I am more stoked than ever for 2point5mill. I have a workout regimen that I will begin this week. I have some great mtn bike rides planned and I have started back up jumping in the stream every day!

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The Compromises we Make

I once had a professor give me some advice for life. He posed it as a thought experiment. He said,

“There are three things in life, work – what you do to occupy your time, paid or unpaid, place – where you physically are, and relationships – your interactions with other people, romantic of otherwise. Of these three things you can only expect to have control over two at a time. If you have control of all three expect something to go haywire, if you have control of one, pick another and go for it, and if you feel you have control over none of them get up off the couch and start walking.”

The thought experiment was as follows,

“If you had to pick just two of these to have control over, which would they be?”

The answer to this is always changing throughout life. When I was in a committed relationship I choose that first, and then let what I was doing during my free time be out of my control. Generally, when winter comes. I choose place over everything else so that I can do what I love and ski as much as possible. This requires large compromises on the work I do and the relationships I have. I see my family in the fall before the season starts and then not again until the spring, and I work waiting tables.

2015-02-06 07.29.06Talk about place.

For everyone the balance of place, work and relationships is different and changing. I have found it a great tool for making and analyzing tough life decisions. By seeing decisions through this lens, you don’t regret the compromises you make, but can rather recognize that you can only expect to control so much of your life, and the rest will figure itself out.

This summer I have been making a ton of compromises. I absolutely love my life, and wouldn’t change a thing, but getting to that point takes compromising and relinquishing control over the third piece.

To begin, I live in a basement. An unfinished one. With 4 loud pumps (not sure what a house needs 4 different pumps for). And a ceiling that is 5′ 10″ (I am 5’10.5″). And I am too cheap/lazy to buy/find a bed, so I am sleeping on a sleeping pad. And the sleeping pad has a pinhole leak in it, so if I don’t fall asleep in an hour I start feeling the ground and have to blow it back up (if I fall asleep I am fine until the next morning).

2015-07-20 11.56.32Home sweet home

This may sound like hell to many people, and I’m not saying it is my paradise, but I really don’t mind. The pumps just force me to be a sound sleeper. I don’t spend much time down there, so the ceilings are whatever. Inflating the bed nightly is just training for my lungs. And on the plus side the basement is a constant beautiful 65 degrees and makes for great sleeping when it is 85 and humid upstairs.

For work I am perusing Craigslist daily looking for odd jobs and landscaping gigs. The pay is pretty good actually, but it is certainly not steady work. It ends up this has worked out great and I have been able to spend a large amount of my time preparing for the winter logistically and training physically. I certainly let go of most of the control I had in the work I was doing though.

But really, I am happy to make these compromises because I am looking towards the future. I am scrimping and saving for the winter. I am living with friends in one of the most beautiful parts of Vermont. I have amazing access to mountain biking, so I can train. I have a veggie garden for the first time in years. Like a bear going into torpor I’m loading up on place and relationships for the coming winter. When December 1st hits I will be 100% committed to work. Granted I love the work I will be doing, I will not have the balance. I will be in places I love, but I will also be travelling a lot. And relationships, well my touring partners will be the extent of that.

Getting ready to drop [Photo: Louis Arevalo]

Life is about finding that balance that works for you. That balance can be a current one or an evolving one. For many people the balance needs to be in constant equilibrium, for others they can front load the balance and correct later. I find the balance is much easier to keep when you relinquish control over one element and let it just fall into place. When I try to control all aspects of my life, my stress levels start to rise and all the aspects start weakening.

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Why?

I started talking to friends and family about my plan to ski 2.5 Million feet about a month ago. About a week ago I officially announced that I would be going for the record. When I tell people my plan the most common question they ask is

“Why do you want to earn and ski 2.5 Million feet?”

You might think I have a great answer all lined up, but it’s not that simple. There are a bunch of reasons that all go together that made me decided to go for it.

Among the reasons I decided to do this is for the challenge itself. Often it doesn’t matter what the challenge is, what matters is doing something that is difficult. I get a lot of satisfaction in setting a difficult goal and working to achieving it.

If that was the only reason though, I could have just tried to become the best chess player. That’s certainly a hard challenge. So there must be more to it than just the challenge.

I grew up skiing on family vacations. In high school I started alpine racing. During this time I started to fall in love with skiing. I began heading north with friends on weekends to ski and chase powder, as best as a high school student can. When I got to College I was so hooked. I started backcountry skiing and leading trips around New England. I almost skied my first 100 day season my senior year (I’m still a little bitter about the March thaw that year.)

hsracing                                                    A young Aaron ready to bash some gate [2006]

When I graduated, I got a well paying job in my field, which I quickly quit and I moved to Alta to be a ski bum. This became a theme for the next couple years. Over these few years I learned that skiing was truly what I wanted to do with my life, at least for the not too distant future.

I love skiing more than most other things in the world. I love skiing untouched snow. I love the peacefulness of standing atop an empty mountain peak for sunrise. I love skiing spines, and jumping off cliffs into a bed of stellar dendrites who’s sole job in life is to catch a falling skier and then decompose into some lesser fragmented form. And my love for all of this is amplified when I spend hours hiking uphill for each turn.

1425400_10151906153436891_1045415107_oStanding on mountains [Photo: HardcastlePhotography – Wolverine Cirque, UT]

So, if I had to summarize that into one sentence I would say, I love skiing and skinning more than most other things and what better way to enjoy it, than by skiing as much as I can fathom in a year.

But that’s still not the whole story. Since hearing about Greg Hill setting the record for most vertical in a year, I was super impressed. But, I always said it doesn’t take being a super athlete to do what he did. People who run 100 mile trail races, and sub 4 minute miles are super athletes. However to walk uphill with skis on for 10 hours a day just take commitment. OK, not just commitment, there is a certain level of fitness required, but as a non super-athlete I firmly believe it is much more a mental battle than a physical one.

Very few people have the combination of passion for skiing, physical fitness, mental craziness, willingness and ability to commit and free time to make aiming for this goal a possibility. For me the timing for all of this is perfect right now. I am young and free of responsibilities that tie me down. I have been training both physically and mentally the past 3 years for this, albeit I was unaware I was doing so.

408388_636102922781_407410201_nOld stomping grounds new angle [Photo: Adrienne – Cardiac Ridge, UT]

One person I was chatting with the other day about why i wanted to do this, asked if I was attempting the record to set a new high bar that would be hard to beat. I didn’t think to long about my answer and quickly said no, I am doing this because I love skiing, and the record just happens to be a nice way to quantify the whole process.

However in thinking about that question a bit more, I realized there was still more to it. While I am not trying to break the record in order to set the new high bar, there is an added benefit that the sport of backcountry skiing will be pushed a bit. People will see the potential that backcountry skiing offers.

Backcountry skiing does not necessarily mean less downhill than lift-serve skiing. As skiers we can backcountry ski and still spend a huge amount of time on the downhill and do it all self powered and in perfect or near perfect conditions with less crowds.

patagonia2014Down in Patagonia skiing pow with great new friends!

So why am I trying to ski 2.5 Million vertical feet in a year? Skiing is my biggest passion and it is what I love to do and what makes me the happiest. I love challenging myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I do think that by setting a new high mark for backcountry skiing it will show others the realm of possibility that the sport offers. And lastly the timing is right. If I don’t try now then when?

superiorridgeteague2013Aaron on the south ridge of Superior at sunrise [Photo: Teague Holmes]

 

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It’s All Mental!

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When I think about the upcoming year it is inevitable that I begin to wonder if what I am attempting is possible. So much could go wrong, and it is a very difficult task to imagine taking on. However, when I start to think about the possibilities, I am not worried about my legs being able to carry me, or my lungs being able to support me. That’s the easy part. The hard part is the mental game.

I worry about the 15th day in a row of 10K+ days, where my touring partners are working and the snow is a bit crusty. This is when I will have to really dig deep and convince myself that it’s worth getting out of bed at 6am for the end goal. That warm cozy bed with my down comforter and my red pillow that I have had since I was a young kid. I need to pull myself out of the comfort and jump outside into the freezing cold. However, I know that an hour into the day, as I stand on my first summit I will have no regrets about leaving the comfort of my bed. Nobody has ever regretted waking up early and climbing a mountain, at least I never have.

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Training for the physical aspect of climbing mountains all day has a formula. Set goals for vertical climbed, cross train on a bike or by running and hiking, eat right, don’t sit for long periods during the day, all things that athletes will naturally do. There is no formula though for the mental game. How do you train yourself to be better at getting out of your cozy bed every morning? How do you train yourself to not be lonely when you haven’t socialized with anyone but your touring partners in a month and a half? These are the questions I have been trying to answer recently.

One answer I have come up with is to do things that are hard. Push yourself mentally. Practice overcoming the mental battle. Right now this is taking the form of a very small goal. There is a little mountains stream that runs through my backyard. It quickly rises and falls with the rain, and the temperature changes with the sun and rain as well. But it is cold. And I mean really cold. When it has been sunny for a few days, it is bearable, but most of the time it is breath stopping, foot cramping cold. No matter how cold the stream is though after you jump in you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

The Raging Miller Brook Dex Admiring the Raging Miller Brook

I was jumping in occasionally, maybe when other people wanted to I would push myself to jump. I realized jumping in the cold creek was the perfect mini mental battle to practice on daily. I decided for the rest of the summer, I would jump in the creek each day. If is was sweltering heat, or a grey rainy day, or I worked all day and wasn’t home in until 11pm, I would still force myself to jump in. Because after you jump in you always feel better, I am not forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do, I’m pushing myself to do something that is difficult.

While jumping in a creek is a small act each day, I hope it will be great training for getting myself up out of bed at 6am and heading out into the cold winter to walk uphill and summit mountains. I am currently on day 8.

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2.5 MIllion

So, I’m doing it! I want to officially announce that I will be attempting to ski 2.5 Million self-propelled vertical feet in a year. I plan to start December 1st.

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What has gone into this decision? I have been saying for the past few years that, while impressive, it would not take a super-human to break the record for most vertical. It would only take someone with the right amount of time and commitment. Luckily for me as a not-so-super-human, I have made myself the time to do this and I am giving myself the opportunity to prove that I have the commitment.

Over the past couple months I had my annual spring time “crisis”. You know, when skiing stops occupying all of your physical and mental space and now you have time to think about what you are doing with your life. For me this happens every spring. One year, I decided to get a desk job. Another spring I decided to follow a girl and when that didn’t work I took the opportunity to head to Patagonia for an endless winter.

This spring I was on the fence again. Work? in VT? software? in CO? guide? Climb? Pimp out a van and live in there? or commit fully to the insane endeavor of trying to break the record for most vertical feet earned in a year? After a few weeks of clearing my head in the desert, climbing, mountains biking, and even skiing a bit, I had made up my mind. It still took me a couple more weeks to really understand that this was my decision.

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Once I was in and knew it, I started getting ready. The past few weeks, I have been working on a website, planning for the year, and talking with companies and non-profits to work with. This has been close to a fully time job over the last couple weeks. I have been living in my friends basement, picking up random craigslist jobs, working just enough to break even.

So what does this mean looking into the future? Achieving this goal is as much, if not more, a mental battle as is it physical. I plan to ramp-up my training as the summer progresses. The training will reflect the goal. For example, I have decided to jump in the creek behind my house everyday. Jumping in a freezing cold creek is never easy, especially if it is wet out, or night time. However, nobody has ever regretted the refreshing feeling after dunking in a mountain stream. Just as skiing a straight month of 10k days is will never be easy, it will be incredible rewarding if I can overcome the mental battle each morning to just jump in.

I also plan to start pushing the length of my mountain bike rides. 3-4 hours on a mountain bike can be exhausting, but I want to be able to go 6-8 comfortably by the end of the summer season. I think this is a good reflection of the pace of backcountry skiing. I also have a couple trips planned for the summer to keep me on my toes.

I will be posting near daily updates to Instagram @airandrice, on Strava, and right here at airandrice.com

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