Kalen’s Zen and the Art of Ski Touring Stage 2: Energy and Philosophy

“…to arrive in the Rocky Mountains by plane would be to see them in one kind of context, as pretty scenery. But to arrive after days of hard travel across the prairies would be to see them in another way, as a goal, a promised land.”


Kalen’s Zen and the Art of Ski Touring Stage 2: Energy and Philosophy

Photo: Jason Eichhorst


So your engine is warmed up. You’ve motivated yourself to chase after your mission and you’re in full throttle mode. GO GO GO!!!


 But sometimes it takes a minute to get there. Even after all the internal encouragement you can find yourself feeling even worse when you start hiking. You seem to fall in to this contemplative shame spiral of self doubt where everything feels off. You’re breathing harder than normal, your legs feel like leftover pasta, maybe you’re burping up those High Lifes you had last night. Nothing seems to be working in unison. But like any well used machine, she takes a minute to warm up. Start off slow, ease into your situation. Let all the parts of your body slowly gain warmth and freedom of movement. Just like my ‘74 CJ5, once she’s been running for a few minutes it’s easy sailing. Things start to fire faster, the accelerator responds with more zest, and the heater is cranking!


This brings me to a very important point: layers. To save yourself from anymore time spent in the shame spiral, start your tour off as bare bones as you can. You should be chattering your teeth, shivering your way up the skin track. It will only take a few minutes before you warm up and you’ll save yourself multiple de-layer stops that can really ruin the rhythm of your start and also hold up people in your group. Being over dressed not only is uncomfortable, but it physically slows you down. You’ll notice a big difference in your endurance if you start cold and stay as minimal as you can. Before you know it you’ll be coming out of your shame spiral and you’ll be left with nothing but a well oiled machine and endless wilderness ahead.


This brings me to one of the top reasons why I tour…


Stage 3: The Philosophical Stage


“The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this    goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through.”


Photo: Chris O’Connell, Armada Skis

Photo: Chris O’Connell, Armada Skis


This is the time when you’re walking along and you begin to disconnect with the reality of the situation and start to get into your own head. Maybe you start with thinking about what to make for dinner that night or if you left the door unlocked. Your mind will slowly wander into other obscure realms of thought as you continue up the track. This is an important time to listen to your heart and mind and cultivate any thoughts that may reveal themselves. Touring is beautiful in the sense that you’re forced to be present. All you can do is continue walking. There are no distractions, no emails to send, no phone calls to make, to errands to run. You are submerged into reality with one task at hand: Summit.


 Touring is just as meditative as it is physically challenging. When you really begin to focus on your thoughts, the revelations will astound you. It’s no wonder that people such as Muir, Abbey, Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson were able to write some of the most powerful literature known to man. Reconnecting with nature is beyond necessary, it’s vital. I’m not saying you need to go out and write groundbreaking novels or harvest philosophical revelations that rival Plato, just give yourself the time to think. With as many distractions as we have these days these quiet moments are absolutely essential for our sanity. I always come out of this stage learning something about myself and finding potential ways to better my life and the world around me. Hiking is not just physical exercise, it’s mental too.


Enjoy this time of enlightenment because occasionally, things start to head south and this is where the head games begin..


Stay tuned for Part 3…


Story by: Kalen Thorien