Skiing every month for 10 consecutive years can separate a man from his peers, and even from his wife.
“She said ‘No’ when I asked if she wanted to go on Oct. 20,” Craig Moore said. So the 37-year-old outdoor photographer set out alone to reach his milestone of skiing at least once a month for 120 consecutive months within 100 miles of his home in Whitefish, Montana.
“Having a goal is a good excuse to go skiing in October. Sometimes you need an excuse.”
August, September and October have been the biggest challenges to his monthly resolve through the years. They’re generally outside the call of purely fun pursuits or even his photo assignments for publications such as Men’s Journal, Powder and National Geographic magazines.
“I could find a dozen people to go today,” he said on Tuesday, looking out a window into his yard at a new dump of fresh November snow. “There’s 28 inches of frickin’ awesome snow at Whitefish Mountain.
“But even though I get a ton of support from my friends and wife, you can’t really expect them always to be thrilled about giving up a day to ski on icy, crappy snow (in the questionable months).
“I do it for me,” he said. “Skiing can be a wonderful social thing, but at the end of the day I ski because I like the sensation of sliding down a hill. I’ll seek out that enjoyment with or without a friend.”
Finding skiable snow in September was easy a few years ago when a 3-foot dump smothered the east side of Glacier National Park. This September was sketchy, but he got it done in the park near Lunch Creek. Moore documented the notch in his record with a photo showing white tracks carved in a bank of snow coated with a dingy film of summer dust and wildfire ash.
“With all the crap and exposed rocks, it would be like sliding down a cheese grater if you fall,” he said.
Around hanging glaciers and other extreme terrain he explores every year, falling is not an option.
He set the 120-month mark in October by driving high onto Werner Peak, skinning up and climbing a few hundred vertical feet on a road before linking Telemark turns. He followed crusted drifts in meadows where still-standing beargrass stalks resembled a crop of corn.
Then he gritted his teeth for the last stretch back down the icy, rutted road. “It was a little like a luge run of death,” he said.
“I have old, disposable tele skis I use for that. You don’t need the big powder boards for rocks and sun cups. I save my good carbon AT gear for better conditions, which start this month and run through June.”
On one year, Moore notched his October ski outing during a snowy hunting season by donning skis and camo gear in pursuit of deer. “That was new adventure to me,” he said.
In winter, snow is easy to access, so the search centers on finding the best freshies or new challenges.
Summer skiing generally relies on glaciers in the national park and finding wind-deposited snow on north-facing chutes and bowls in the Mission Mountains and the Swan and Whitefish ranges.
“It’s a pain in the ass to get to some of them,” he said. “It’s often more about the adventure than the skiing. It’s not glamorous.”
Bagging a run early in a summer month is a hedge against the possibilities of fire closures that might deny access to the high country.
“I’ve had a lot of failed attempts,” Moore said. “I’ve worked hard to get somewhere on a hunch only to find there’s not enough snow to ski. I’ve hiked in 10-20 miles to ski a snowpack the size of a football field, or smaller.”
He relies on reports from friends, social media and intel from people who fly over the region’s mountains. “Accurate info is critical in finding summer snow, especially in low snowpack years.”
While she had other things to do in October, Moore’s wife, Amy, has invested her share of joy and suffering into his skiing commitment.
“Most of our skiing is a blast,” he said. “But she was with me during September a few years ago on one of the most harrowing trips.”
The Moores and a friend had hiked into Jackson Glacier in Glacier Park to explore, climb and ski. The second night, a hurricane-grade storm swept over the area with winds recorded up to 110 mph nearby at Logan Pass.
“We had to hunker it out because you couldn’t stand up,” he said. “The wind flattened our tent to our faces. We couldn’t sleep. We suddenly realized a bunch of massive boulders were around our camp and I started thinking about how they got there from above. We were in a bad place.
“I remember Amy turning to me at one point and saying, ‘If we die at least we die together.’ ”
Eventually they had to downclimb in wet, nasty snow for nearly three miles on 30-degree slab-rock slopes.
“My wife hurt her knee, so I ended up carrying her 60-pound pack as well as my 80 pounds of pack and ski gear.”
A lot of scary mountaineering mishaps have edged into Moore’s trips over the years. He’s been involved in incidents with fatalities. “I know what it’s like, and this was one of those moments of really fearing for your life,” he said.
Moore was inspired to attempt skiing year-round during the huge snow season of 2006-07, and then he just kept going.
“I’m an adventure photographer and skiing was becoming more of my profession,” he said noting that he shoots skiing about 120 days a year.
“I’ve been a skier my entire life. I’ve skied 100 days a year since I was 16, except for the two years I worked on newspapers in Georgia.”
“It’s not for notoriety that I do this every month, not to win a bet,” he said. “It’s for me. I do it because I love it.”
Growing up in North Carolina, he worked at a small mom-and-pop ski hill, sleeping in the back of his Jetta to work and ski at the resort on weekends.
He came to Montana State University to play football for the Bobcats as well as for the skiing around Bozeman.
“I quit the team when skiing took over my life,” he said. “I often wish I’d have invested as much time in day trading as in skiing.”
Like any avid skier, Moore will be riding lifts and trekking into the backcountry numerous times this winter. Sometime around July, he’ll have to confront the hardship of continuing his string.
“What’s the next chapter?” he said, repeating the question. “Maybe I’ll shoot for skiing every month in my 30s. I’ve got three more years to go for that. Then what?
“I don’t know what it will be that stops me.”