I spend lots of time traveling around the mountains. Over the years, I have used many different methods to do so. Sometimes my mode of travel is dictated by the time of year, such as skiing in the winter and not in summer, and sometimes I change my mode based on whimsy and what I feel like doing that day, like riding my mountain bike or just running. All these different methods are great ways to travel to and through beautiful places, but one other mode of travel stands alone as the best to travel in the mountains with.
In the winter, when I am at work I spend my day skiing down the mountains and riding chairlifts back up to the top. You should be jealous as this is a fantastic way to spend the day. It’s kinda complicated, though. First, you have to know how to ski, which isn’t really all that easy. Then you need a chairlift to get you back up the hill. These are massively complicated machines that are heinously expensive and difficult to operate. I could keep going about how complicated the snowmaking and grooming efforts can be, but won’t. So resort skiing is fun, for sure, but certainly on the complicated side.
On my days off, I do a lot of skiing in the backcountry, which on the surface seems a great deal simpler. It isn’t. To start with, you need to know how to not just ski down mountains, but how to get up them with out a chairlift, snowmobile, snowcat or helicopter, which is a whole different skill set. Then there is the whole avalanche thing. I don’t like avalanches. They’re scary and scary has a way of taking the fun out of things.
Mountain biking is a hoot. Bikes have gotten so good these days that you feel like you can fly around the woods like Luke Skywalker in “Return of the Jedi”. You are really stuck to just the smoothest of trails, though, and bikes are also crazy expensive and easy to crash. Not always the best combo.
ATV’s, snowmobiles and dirtbikes? Don’t get me wound up on those. With all the noise and smelly exhaust fumes they are kinda like going to the movies with a blindfold on. You’re missing a pretty good chunk of the experience.
Running though is pretty great. It’s simple. There is no real complicated required gear. You just need some shoes. Some nut jobs might even argue that. You aren’t necessarily stuck to the trails and can go where ever you want. I love the feeling of it, too. The action of running through the woods connects me with our ancestors that would run through the woods just to go catch dinner. But running in the mountains is… Hard. Real hard.
Hiking is just flat out a no. Hiking is like running, but slow. I got no patience for slow.
Horses. I’m telling you. Horses.
A good trail horse can go almost anywhere, trail or not. They move just fast enough that the scenery changes, but not so fast that you miss it. I may be a little sore at the end of a long day in the saddle, but I’m not kidding myself. The horse really did all the work getting me up those mountains. I’ve never seen a horse have a flat tire either, and one of the comfiest saddles I’ve got was a prize at a rodeo… In 1981.
I’m not gonna do the research and possibly let the facts get in the way of a good line, but I’m pretty sure nobody has ever been killed by an avalanche while riding a horse.
It may still be winter up here in the mountains, but summer is coming and the trails will be snow-free soon enough, and I tell you what… I’m ready to go ride.