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This May, Wyoming’s Exum Mountain Guides, one of America’s oldest and most prestigious mountain-guiding services, will offer the Live To Ski camp. Designed for avid backcountry skiers who are interested in learning the alpine skills necessary for tackling big, challenging descents in complex terrain, the camp takes place May 8-11, 2013. We’ll be there, and there are still a few spots open—so contact Exum now to register. Of particular note is the full-ride camp scholarship that’s available to one lucky candidate for the next 15 years. Below, we catch up with the camp’s lead guide, Zahan Billimoria, to learn what the fuss is about.
To see a gallery of Zahan’s ski-mountaineering shots from the Tetons, click here.
What is the camp and what makes it special?
This camp is an opportunity for high-end skiers to take their skills to the next level. It’s aimed toward the skier who already has a substantial backcountry resume but sees that the really iconic big-mountain lines in North America—Denali, the Grand, Moran, Rainier, Shuksan—are still out reach. These big, beautiful descents take more than just skins and a beacon. They require rope skills, anchoring skills, and decision-making in big, technical terrain. There’s a huge gap between being a proficient backcountry skier who hunts for powder all winter long and developing the skills to go ski steep, high-consequence terrain that might involve a rappel or some belaying. That’s where this camp comes in. While this may be a narrow slice of the skiing populace, those people know who they are—and they’re hungry for some mentorship.
The camp is named “Live To Ski,” which was the slogan of the late Teton ski-mountaineer Steve Romeo. What is the connection between Steve and this camp?
Steve was a friend. He helped put the Tetons on the map for our generation as the premier destination in North America to test your skills as a ski-mountaineer. Steve spent years pioneering new routes and then, perhaps better than anybody before him in the Tetons, sharing and inspiring others to chase their own adventures. He just really loved the nooks and crannies of this range and was able to tell that story through beautiful photos and his own stories. The personal experiences he shared were easy for skiers to connect with. He told the story about the whole experience, not just turning your skis and going back down—the effort, the suffering involved in making the climb, the challenge of making decisions in that terrain, and the experience of being in those mountains. He embodied that holistic experience.
One lucky camp attendee gets a full-ride scholarship for the next 15 years. How does that work?
It’s a gift from David and Peggy Sokol. David is a friend I ski with nearly every week and he has been taken with the stoke of climbing and skiing in the Tetons. He met Steve once, and hearing of Steve’s passing and because of his and Peggy’s own experience as parents, was inspired to create this scholarship to carry on Steve’s legacy. They donated the money to the Steve Romeo Memorial Fund, earmarked to provide one full-ride camp scholarship every year. I think they want that scholarship to go to the next Steve Romeo—the kid who just showed up in a mountain town but maybe didn’t buy a ski pass because he or she is putting every last dime into developing ski-mountaineering skills, spending time creeping and crawling all over the mountains and learning their ways. If we can take someone who’s already invested in a skiing career to the next level, that’s the intention of this scholarship [Editor’s note: this year’s scholarship application period is closed, but candidates are encouraged to apply for next spring’s camp by contacting Exum directly.]
Describe the instructors who will be teaching this course.
These are Exum’s most elite ski guides, who have worked at the highest level, ski-guiding the most complex terrain in North America, Apart from being well-developed ski alpinists themselves, they have chosen this job because they love passing the skills and knowledge and enthusiasm on. Exum’s roster has included the likes of Doug Coombs, Hans Johnstone, and others. The Live To Ski instructors are people who have been mentored by them and inspired by them and are now excited about the opportunity to pass that on to a younger generation—to keep that stoke alive.
View a gallery of Zahan’s ski-mountaineering shots from the Tetons here.