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Staying Stoked During Uncertain Times with Adrian Ballinger

Professional ski mountaineer and founder of AlpenGlow Expeditions shares how he's tackling quarantine and staying out of the backcountry.

With resorts shut down, skiers are flocking to the backcountry. At the same time, overcrowding, unstable conditions, and lack of proper education has created mounting dangerous conditions beyond the ropes. Trailhead parking lots have been packed as law enforcement and government officials decide what to do next. Just last week, Utah Avalanche Center reported 11 human-triggered avalanches that likely resulted from overcrowding and a lack of avalanche education. Mountain towns are already being hit hard and becoming hotspots for the virus, so keeping people out of the backcountry has become increasingly important.

As an IFMGA/AMGA mountain guide with experience leading over 100 international climbing expeditions including Everest, Adrian Ballinger’s expertise in the backcountry is next-level. With stay-at-home orders now widely in effect across the country, however, Ballinger has turned his focus away from skiing to look for ways to stay active at home. 

After a fresh storm in Tahoe last weekend, Ballinger’s guiding company, Alpenglow Expeditions, received over 150 calls from skiers looking to head into the backcountry, whereas a normal weekend would see about 20 to 25 calls. To set an example and keep everyone safe, Alpenglow Expeditions has cancelled all expeditions until June.

Adrian Ballinger finding pow.
Ballinger will be dreaming of days like this until next season. Photo credit: Adrian Ballinger

“We were trying to figure out if we could still meet people at trailheads and socially distance and still go skiing, but then we felt that wasn’t the right message to be putting out.” 

Alpenglow Expeditions is one of the many ski companies that have been brutally affected by the government shut-downs. With no revenue coming in, small companies like his are encouraging the purchase of gift cards towards future expeditions, next year’s set-up, or future ski tunes to help companies stay afloat during these uncertain times. It’s not only a way to pay their employees, guides, and sherpas, but also provide hope. “We hope it’s a way for our clients to keep dreaming and give them something to train for,” says Ballinger.

Training is how Ballinger has been spending his time while quarantining with his partner and professional climber, Emily Harrington. Between climbing on his recently upgraded climbing wall at home, running, or focusing on ski and cardio training, he spends 2 to 5 hours a day training. 

According to Ballinger, staying positive is key to sanity while being locked up. When he isn’t training, he is planning trips with his partner for next year and going live on Instagram once a day to check in with the community. Even while remaining socially distant, he manages to stay in touch with friends and family. Last week, his neighbor and professional skier Michelle Parker came by on her bike with her boyfriend and professional photographer Aaron Blatt.

“We stood 20 feet from each other and had a cocktail that we each brought from our houses,” says Ballinger. “People are getting it now, and it feels like the time to be doing that and step back.” 

Watch: Michelle Parker’s ‘Originate’ with Emily Harrington 

More from SKImag.com’s Backcountry Channel