9 Days entrenched with Chris Davenport, Ted Mahon and Christy Mahon aka ‘The Power Trio of Colorado Ski Mountaineering‘ was an illuminating experience. In all of my years as a skier and adventurer, I’ve seldom experienced such a well-oiled machine.
When I was being interviewed by Powder Magazine about my time with the crew in Colorado, I was asked what it was like to be incorporated into the team. At the time I referred to it as ‘Ski Mountaineering Summercamp’. But as I’ve reflected a bit on the experience, and measured it against other times working with truly world class teams, as well as working those who missed that mark by a long shot, I’ve found that there are 4 traits that separate the truly elite from the rest.
1. Genuine Passion – This is the wellspring. To quote Macklemore, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.” Every elite artist, athlete or thinker I’ve encountered reached the highest level because they put everything they had into driving at their greatest passions. Despite the blur of alpine starts and long days, every summit and every ski descent had the team giddy with elation, truly enjoying the gift of experiencing passions fulfilled.
2. Creative Vision – If passion is the wellspring, creative vision defines the water’s course. It’s what takes the pure stoke and molds it into something tangible, long term, and communicable. Chris decided to ski all of the 14,000′ peaks in Colorado in a single year, and to guide ski trips in Antarctica among countless other achievements. Here’s the thing about the creative vision part of the equation. If you find that it’s hard to explain your project to the general public, that no precedent exists for you to follow or reference, you’re probably doing something right. Don’t fear that which has never been done before you, seek it. No one with your skills, personality and approach has ever walked this earth. Chart your course.
3. Discipline – There are those who are great with passion and vision, and there are those who have tremendous discipline. The truly rare and expressly formidable are the people who have the passion and vision to create grandiose schemes, and the discipline to see them through. At the end of each day of skiing, when the siren call of beer and napping was resonating loudly around the base camp, each member of the team would unpack and dry equipment, download photos, post content online, research routes for the following day and repack the equipment for the impending alarm clock’s call. Stupid early every morning, the alarm would ring and within 5 minutes each person was awake and dressed, the coffee and food were on the table and the team would depart on time. Clockworks. This wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always fun, but it was the price to pay for executing a major objective day after day with a perfect success rate.
4. Great Partnerships – You can be the greatest in the world at your given passion, and still rot in obscurity if you don’t involve other people in some part of the process. Collective efforts amplify the skills and performance of the individual and all great exploits are made great by this amplification in some way. For Chris, this comes in the form of his selection of ski partners and collaboration with his sponsors and media contacts. Ted and Christy are ideal ski partners; expressly talented and well trained, but also able to provide individual skills to round out the team. Ted provides an analytical and even keeled approach which keeps everyone on route, while his wife Christy is an absolute joy to be around, sprinkling contagious enthusiasm wherever she goes. Add to that the world class equipment from Spyder, Kastle, Smith and Scarpa, an immensely comfortable RV provided by Spyder and a cornucopia of the finest food and beverage available via Whole Foods and you’ve got the requisite talent, gear and support to pull off an endeavor as ambitious as skiing the 100 tallest mountains in Colorado.
I’ll be honest. The bar is high when working with the greats, and it sometimes feels like a grind, but never once have I finished a project with a truly elite team where I didn’t leave with a sense of deep satisfaction at a job well done. As I search for my own path toward greatness, I’ll continue to seek collaborations with those who achieve at the highest levels, and to aspire to be one who not only finds inspiration from these collaborations but also deeply contributes toward the loftiest ends.