Colby Thompson spends months every year traveling the U.S. in his fixed-up, albeit fragile, green VW bus fondly named, Dharma. A 26 year old filmmaker by trade, with a degree from Champlain College, Colby maintains a job doing freelance digital media work while traveling and playing music across the country. He traded LA traffic for national parks in search of the freedom to lead what he calls an unconventional lifestyle.
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Colby Thompson Photo: @anamericanroadstory

 

Colby has always relished adventure. He originally went to film school to feel like part of the stories he’d be creating; to feel inserted into the world of The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. After graduating from college, Colby moved to Los Angeles, CA in pursuit of his Hollywood dreams. Life in LA started to deflate his preconceived expectations of what being a part of the filmmaking industry really looked like. It forced him to take an honest look into the life he wanted to lead. The answer he found, was one of meaning. He still adored storytelling, but came to realize he’d only ever be on the set… not living within the story being created. So, he decided to change that.

Colby’s social media feed showed people in his life backpacking, traveling through Europe, teaching English in Thailand etc… This prompted a realization for him, “I can do whatever the fuck I want in life” and sparked the motivation to live his own adventure, in his own way, on his own terms.

He departed on his first trip across the United States in his fixed up VW bus just over 2 years ago in May of 2016, and was on the road for 5 months.

While vanlife has become a sensationalized trend, and an attraction for those with curated social media profiles, Colby strives for authenticity in his pursuits. Spending the summer of his first trip as a campground host in a Colorado national park, a job that offered minimum wage and a place to park in exchange for campground upkeep, sounded perfect but was enough to burst the vanlife bubble for him. The job included scrubbing bathrooms, well, pit toilets, and gave Colby an appreciation for the pros and cons of living simply.

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Colby Thompson Photo: @anamericanroadstory

 

Colby hasn’t completely abandoned his filmmaking skills either. In fact, he still makes a living through his video production work for Boston based event company, Nuimage Entertainment. When he’s on the road, he has a videographer attend and capture the weddings, corporate parties, or other events managed by Nuimage, and then send the footage to him for post-production packaging for clients. When not on the road, you just might find this van dweller dawning a suit and tie, with his shoulder length blonde hair neatly arranged in a bun on top of his head, eating hors d’oeuvres while mingling with his clients at their events.

This paradox used to be the source of some internal conflict for Colby, who previously felt as though he was masquerading where he wasn’t truly welcome. “I don’t feel that anymore. I get paid to go do these projects. People find value in what I do, and it’s a cool experience for me. Now when I attend, I’m just being me. I’m here to work and do what I’m good at”.

It was this new appreciation, and another road trip from October, 2017 to April, 2018, that turned Colby on to another trend: building a tiny house.

The book, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, which features a picture of a worn down airstream camper, parked amongst a dusty desert landscape on the cover, resonated with Colby on this particular adventure. The book delves into the lives of transient, older Americans that have adopted a nomadic lifestyle surrounding cheap seasonal labor out of necessity.

These are the folks who got hit the hardest during the recession and who’s social security and retirement plans didn’t pan out as they’d hoped. The vagabond labor community often stays invisible compared to their younger counterparts; the full-of-wanderlust 20-somethings posting pictures of national parks on their Instagram accounts.

Colby also noticed that the portrayal of vanlife across social media lacked a sense of authenticity, and commented “The life-coaches of Instagram who post photos of amazing landscapes and say ‘live your life now or find your purpose’ feel really dumb when your engine won’t start and you have to figure out which direction to walk in search of cell service”.

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Colby Thompson Photo: @anamericanroadstory

 

Dreaming of what he could accomplish when he returned from road life in the van, Colby hatched a plan to build a tiny house with his partner, Aria. “It’s not the tiny house itself that is the dream come true. It’s that we’ll have this, paid off. We’ll still have the freedom to live life in any direction that it goes without being constrained.”

 

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Colby Thompson Photo: @anamericanroadstory

 

When asked about his decision to leave LA in the pursuit of his own adventure, Colby aptly responded:

“I’ve been adjusting my goals to reflect the things that will fulfill me” citing that his motivations changed “from external and egocentric to internal, soulful motivators.”
“Health and happiness. That’s what this whole experience is about.”

You can learn more about Colby and his adventures on Instagram @anamericanroadstory

It doesn’t always seem cool to talk about mental health, let alone post about it on social media. So let’s take a second to do that now, because 1 in 5 of you reading this suffers from mental health; which means everyone reading this knows and loves someone who does.

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Did you know that 43.8 million adults (19%) in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness? Did you know that 16 million adults in the U.S. suffered from a major depressive episode in the last year alone? 18% of adults experienced the effects of an anxiety disorder in that same time frame and of the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who battle substance abuse, 50.5% of them also battle mental illness.

I chose this photo of me snowboarding for this post because it’s probably what you’re used to seeing on this page. And that’s because it’s what I choose to show you. These days, we have that ability in our society… we get to decide what parts of us people see. You probably wouldn’t know that I deal with depression and anxiety (but you can probably tell that snowboarding’s good for my mental health 🤙🏼)

So, what can you do? You can pay attention. Does someone in your life seem different than they normally are? Are they distant, down, low-energy, uninterested, moody, explosive, combative, or constantly “on edge”? Does it worry you? Tell them. Call them. Encourage them to talk to someone. Don’t be their therapist, but be their advocate. Are they thinking of hurting themselves or someone else? Call someone immediately. Not sure who to call? Call their doctor, the local emergency room, or 911. Don’t be a bystander because the topic is uncomfortable. These conversations matter!


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Mental health effects someone you know and love. Talking about it is important. Share your thoughts with me @_derekmacdonald

My 5 Favorite Podcasts

Tips on performance, athlete interviews, and ski industry happenings: podcasts for working out, commuting, or keeping you company at the office.

(Cover photo: Throwback of me recording with AK on the WintryMix Podcast. Photo: @wintrymixcast)

  1. Finding Mastery

    Curious how elite athletes and industry-leading badasses think? What their outlook, lifestyle, and physical/mental training practices look like? Me too. High performance sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, conducts long form interviews with these folks to learn more about them, their process, and the structure or format that led them to their successes and that pilot their everyday life. Unlike some interview styles, Gervais avoids casual banter and digs into the “how” and “why” behind the actions, thought patterns, and behaviors of his accomplished guests. His excitement and genuine interest in his guests is palpable, and makes for very interesting interviews.

    I love to listen to Finding Mastery when I’m working out- rowing or running (activities where you can get into a rhythm and focus on the dialogue).

    Some examples of Finding Mastery guests include: Retired Navy SEAL and ultra marathoner David Goggins, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion Carli Lloyd, Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll, and big wave surf icon Ian Walsh.

  2. The Powell Movement

    Mike Powell spent 18 years in the ski industry managing athletes. He knows the ski industry well, and uses his experience to chat with some of the best skiers and action sports stars to learn more about them as people. Most of the time episodes provide a bio of, and glimpse into, the lives of these professional skiers. These conversations give the skiers a chance to showcase their personalities. Most of the time their public image is relegated to photos and videos of them skiing (nothing wrong with that, either). The Powell Movement allows you to learn about their careers and who they really are beyond the cliff drops and pow shots.

    Like Finding Mastery, I like to listen to The Powell Movement when working out- rowing or running (activities where you can get into a rhythm and focus on the dialogue).

    Some examples of guests that you can find on The Powell Movement include: veteran badass skier Sage Cattabriga- Alosa, mind blowingly unique snowboarder Scott Stevens, U.S. Olympic skier (and silver medalist) Nick Goepper, and snowboarding legend Kimmy Fasani.

  3. The Tim Ferriss Show

    This podcast is pretty unique; it comes from best selling author and business advisor, Tim Ferriss, and features everything from long-form interviews with guests to tips on improving your own health and productivity. The marketing nerd in me loves when he does segments on branding, writing, and business. The performance geek in me loves when he gives advice on daily structure, fitness, and organization.

    In Tim’s own words: “Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.  This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”

    Unlike the Finding Mastery podcast and The Powell Movement, I usually will listen to The Tim Ferriss show on my daily commute instead of when I work out (unless it’s an interview with an athlete or someone that I’m particularly interested in). Listening when I’m cooking dinner is always good, too.

    Some examples of Tim’s guests include: Jamie Foxx, Edward Norton, Tony Robbins, and Terry Crews.

  4. The Low Pressure Podcast

    Another one on snow sports. This interview-style podcast feels like you’re listening to conversations about what’s going on in guests’ lives over a couple beers- because you are. Mark Warner of Whistler, BC usually shares a couple of bevys while he chats with professional snow sports athletes about their latest trips, film projects, contests, off-seasons, and upcoming plans. The Low Pressure Podcast’s tagline is “the podcast for skiers”, but also features interviews with people of the ski industry like Jason Levinthal of J Skis, Matt Sterbenz of 4Frnt Skis, and Rooster and Geoff of Ski The East.

    The LPP is great for listening to at your desk while you work, or while you’re driving to the resort. I even throw it on sometimes when I’m on the uphill skin with my splitboard.

    Some examples of guests that you can find on the LPP include: veteran big mountain skier Ian McIntosh, freeskiing all star Sean Pettit, freeskiing sibling crushers Angel and Johnny Collinson, and badass skier and Powder Magazine’s Female Performance of the Year winner for 2017, Tatum Monod.

  5. The WintryMix Podcast

    This ski biz podcast is different than the other snow sports ones on this list. After 3 seasons of an interview-style podcast, host Alex Kaufman switched things up. Season 4’s new format featured a call to action: a submission based approach dependent on listener engagement. For a description of how this works in Alex’s own words, check out Episode 46.

    Essentially, WintryMix is a monthly bulletin board of updates on the ski industry. No, not the TMZ version highlighting which pro skier is dating who. Episodes feature things like event promos, ski stories, press releases (that are encouraged to be unscripted), debate topics, conversation starters, rants, resort info… all told by listeners like you.

    Alex is the former mastermind behind Ski The East’s social media and partnerships. There is definitely a slight focus on New England ski culture, BUT, the combination of Alex’s ski-biz exposure and the general popularity of the podcast means that it extends across the U.S. with ease. Fun fact, you can catch me on a couple of early episodes from when I was interning with Alex and Ski The East (Episode 13‘s interview of Olympic Skier Hannah Kearney and Episode 20‘s coverage of energy consumption and snowmaking in Vermont).

    I listen to Wintry Mix a lot while driving. It usually prompts me to record a submission on my phone while still in the car. I have yet to actually submit though…

Here’s a list of all of the 2018 Olympic Snowboarding, Freestyle Skiing, and Alpine Skiing event schedules and their live stream links.

This might come as a shock, but I like the winter Olympics just a little bit more than the summer Olympics. The bigger shock? My favorite part of the winter Olympics are the snowboarding and skiing events. I know, I know- huge surprise.

I follow action sports year-round. I grew up watching (and still watch) X Games, Dew Tour, The Freeride World Tour, The U.S. Open and all the other qualifying comps along the way. If you’re like me and you can’t get enough of both skiing and snowboarding, NBC has you covered for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.

Snowboard Event Schedule and Live Stream Links

Freestyle Skiing Event Schedule and Live Stream Links

Alpine Skiing Event Schedule and Live Stream Links

Snowboard:

(Provided by NBC)

Slopestyle

Men’s Qualifying: Friday, Feb. 9, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE STREAM – HEAT 1 (8:00 p.m. ET)
LIVE STREAM – HEAT 2 (11:00 p.m. ET)

Men’s Final: Saturday, Feb. 10, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Qualifying: Saturday, Feb. 10, 11:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Sunday, Feb. 11, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Halfpipe

Women’s Qualifying: Sunday, Feb. 11, 11:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Monday, Feb. 12, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying: Monday, Feb. 12, 11:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 8:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Snowboard Cross

Men’s Qualifying: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 11:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Qualifying: Thursday, Feb. 15, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Thursday, Feb. 15, 10:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Big Air

Women’s Qualifying: Sunday, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Thursday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Friday, Feb. 23, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Parallel Giant Slalom

Qualifying: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 10:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Final: Friday, Feb. 23, 10:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM 

Freestyle Skiing:

(Provided by NBC)

Moguls

Women’s Qualifying Rd. 1: Thursday, Feb. 8, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying Rd. 1: Thursday, Feb. 8, 9:45 pm. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Qualifying Rd. 2: Sunday, Feb. 11, 5:30 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Sunday, Feb. 11, 7:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying Rd. 2: Monday, Feb. 12, 5:30 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Monday, Feb. 12, 7:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Aerials

Women’s Qualifying: Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Friday, Feb. 16, 6:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying: Saturday, Feb, 17, 6:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Sunday, Feb. 18, 6:00 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Slopestyle

Women’s Qualifying: Friday, Feb. 16, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Friday, Feb. 16, 11:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying: Saturday, Feb, 17, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Saturday, Feb, 17, 11:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Halfpipe

Women’s Qualifying: Sunday, Feb. 18, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Monday, Feb. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Qualifying: Monday, Feb. 19, 11:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 9:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Ski Cross

Men’s Qualifying: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 9:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Final: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 11:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Qualifying: Thursday, Feb. 22, 9:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s Final: Thursday, Feb. 22, 11:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Alpine Skiing:

(Provided by NBC)

Women’s Giant Slalom

Run 1: Sunday, Feb. 11, 8:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Sunday, Feb. 11, 11:45 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Combined

Run 1: Monday, Feb. 12, 9:30 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s slalom

Run 1: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 8:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 11:45 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s Downhill

Final: Wednesday, Feb. 14, 9 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s super-G

Final: Thursday, Feb. 15, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s super-G

Final: Friday, Feb. 16, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s giant slalom

Run 1: Saturday, Feb. 17, 8:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Saturday, Feb. 17, 11:45 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s downhill

Training: Sunday, Feb. 18, 9:00 p.m. ET
​LIVE EVENT STREAM

Training: Monday, Feb. 19, 9:00 p.m. ET
​LIVE EVENT STREAM

Final: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Men’s slalom

Run 1: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 8:15 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 11:45 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Women’s combined

Run 1: Thursday, Feb. 22, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Run 2: Friday, Feb. 23, 12:30 a.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Team event

Final: Friday, Feb. 23, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

2017 was a big year for me; a year full of transitions.

Here’s a peek at some of my favorite moments and photos from 2017.

For starters, I kicked off the year by accepting a new job and moving across the country from Vermont to Wyoming. 2016 proved to be one of the most challenging years of my life and the jump to Wyoming felt like the perfect opportunity to move in a new direction. Literally.

January

The job was in the marketing department for a non-profit called NOLS. For those who don’t know, NOLS is an outdoor leadership school that takes students of all ages on backcountry expeditions around the world, teaching them both leadership and technical outdoor skills. 3 years prior, I had been one of those students on a much needed, semester-long expedition in college. (For more about that, check out page 11 of this article).

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Anyway, back to the new job. The job was as a marketing representative; a position that let me interact with prospective students, travel, and work on marketing projects that would help the company to better reach its target demographic. Oh, and emails. Lots and lots of emails.

NOLS world headquarters, and my new office, can be found in the town of Lander, WY. Lander has a population of 7,665 and is probably best known for its proximity to the Wind River Mountain Range. That, and rock climbing. There are some seriously badass rock climbers that call Lander home. I’m certainly not much of a rock climber, but I do love me some snowboarding and was super excited to explore Wyoming and its surrounding states for mountains that I could hike up and ride down.

February

You can call Lander a town, but I quickly learned that “community” would be a much better description. Lander is a mix of NOLSies (people that work for NOLS either in the office or as instructors/ trip leaders for the courses and expeditions that NOLS offers), ranchers/ farmers, climbers, outdoor enthusiasts/ dirtbags, outdoor enthusiasts/ dirtbags who are just passing through in the van they live out of, and long term Lander residents who grew up there and have always called it home. You will find all of these people at any of the 4 bars in town, but usually at the Lander Bar (LB), at least to start the night during happy hour.

I found myself as part of the NOLSie crew from the very beginning. These people were here for the same reasons that I was, and loved a lot of the same outdoor things that I did. Go figure.

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Ya know, the crazy things that I call fun? They do too. Like snowboarding and splitboarding (hiking up the mountain and then riding back down, because chairlifts are for squares). Togwotee Pass, WY. March, 2017

March

Fast forward to March, and it was time for my first travel tour for NOLS. I’d be traveling to high schools, colleges, and expos in the mid-west to recruit prospective students and spread the good word about romping around the wilderness. February had been spent hashing out the logistics; like, which schools were in our demographic, what dates were they available, what order did it make sense to go to them in since we’d be flying there and then renting a car… Again, lots of emails.

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Sometimes you just have to channel your inner tourist and go for a hike in the concrete mountains. Chicago, IL. March, 2017

The trip went really well, and things at work were pretty awesome all around. March also featured a visit from some familiar faces and a Zac Brown Band concert at Jackson Hole. Not too shabby.

The rest of March included planning and logistics for a full month of travel in April. This time, to showcase the NOLS Exploration Film Tour to college campuses throughout my northeast region in New England. (Yes, still lots of emails).

But first, closing day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

April

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John Wohlgemuth in Cody Bowl at Jackson Hole on closing day. Derek MacDonald photo. April 2017

Annnnd right before taking off for a month long trip, it seemed only fitting to pull an all nighter and drive 14 hours after work to Mammoth, CA. The 7am arrival on Thursday launched a long weekend of shredding pow and rock climbing with the one and only Shawn Robbins during arguably the deepest winter Mammoth has ever seen.

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Spend all day Sunday driving back to Wyoming, go for a run, pack for a month, get up at 4am, drive 2 hours to Casper, WY, fly to Denver, fly to Boston, kick off the month long public speaking and film tour? Got it. Cool, ok let’s do it.

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April 12th, 2017. The tour is underway and I made it back to Vermont. Birthday trail run by the water, nice! IMG_2297

The month flew by and the travel tour went better than I could have hoped for. I got to see family and friends while I was in New England too, which is always a bonus. Traveling is a lot of fun. It allows you to meet a lot of people and see a lot of places. But it is also really demanding. You’re sort of always “on”. Most days looked like: wake up, pack up the hotel room, grab some breakfast and coffee (have to have my coffee…or 4) drive a couple of hours to the next destination, check into the hotel, log on to the computer and crush some emails, go for a run, shower, drive to the event, set up for it, speak to crowds of people and watch the Film Tour, break down the event, get back to the hotel, sleep, repeat. (Side note: I listen to a ton of podcasts. Big fricken fan of podcasts. Great way to spend time when traveling, running, or working out; but more on that some other time).

Ok, it’s the end of April and my final day in New England before flying back to Wyoming from Boston the next morning…  better call up Andy Root and see if he wants to wake up at 3am to drive to New Hampshire with me to hike and ski Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington. Duh. No brainer!

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Yeah I’m short, but let the record show that Root’s on the uphill here. Tuckerman Ravine, Mt. Washington, NH. April, 2017

May

Like I mentioned, traveling is super tiring. It’s awesome and I love it, but having time to recharge is nice too. Back to Wyoming, the office, my desk, and…emails. 3 days later: ok, time to go to Montana to represent NOLS at the BANFF Mountain Film Festival. Sweet. 6 hour road trip with the newest marketing rep, Caleb? Sweeter. Caleb snowboards? Sick! Better bring the splitboards and call up the friends in Bozeman. Friends tell us there’s a graduation party for someone we don’t know… Oh there’s a keg? Sure, yeah, we’re in. As the band, Dawes says, “When the tequila runs out, we’ll be drinking champagne“. Happy Cinco de Mayo.

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Bridger Bowl, MT. Caleb Walker Photo. May, 2018

After a great weekend and one very hungover drive back to Wyoming, I finally got some time for that recharge. Day to day life at the office resumed and of course the weekend warrior mindset that comes with it. There was still snow to be found, but the weather was also warming up. Perfect opportunity to meet up with the Salt Lake City UVM friend group in Jackson, WY for a long weekend of hiking and camping!

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Jackson, WY. May, 2017. Derek MacDonald photo.

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Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park. May, 2017. Derek MacDonald photo.

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Derek MacDonald and Russ Hanson at Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park. May, 2017. Caleb Walker photo.

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Derek MacDonald in Jackson, WY. Caleb Walker photo.

June

Duty calls- head to Vail, CO for the GoPro Mountain Games! I ended up meeting some incredibly cool people and some pretty awesome NOLS alumni including Jimmy Chin, Loki the Wolf Dog, Loki’s human companion Kelly Lund, and Chris Davenport.

Yeah, it’s June- I know, I know… but did you really think I was going to go to Colorado and not bring my snowboard? The 6 hour drive from Vail back to Lander conveniently took me through Loveland Pass on Colorado’s continental divide. So, I hiked up to the snow, snowboarded to the bottom of the pass, and hitched a ride back to my car at the top of the pass. And then drove back to Lander.

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Derek MacDonald on the continental divide. Loveland Pass, CO. June, 2017.

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Continental Divide-Loveland Pass, CO. June 2017. Derek MacDonald photo.

June also means that it’s that time of year again: time for HOBY. What’s HOBY? Good question. HOBY is the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Organization. They’re a non-profit organization that provides a unique leadership training, service-learning, and motivation-building experience for high school sophomores. This comes in the form of an annual, weekend long leadership seminar. I attended this seminar as a student in 2010 and have been involved as a group facilitator for the seminar since then.

Time to fly to Boston for the weekend!

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Great weekend at Bentley University in Waltham, MA for Massachusetts HOBY! Quick turn around, though. Back to Wyoming. (Boston Logan airport and Denver International Airport kind of felt like a second home this year).

Things had been pretty busy, probably a good idea to catch that quick recharge. Better land at the airport in Casper, WY and drive 5 hours up to Jackson to say whats up to Shawn and the Tetons. That’s also why keeping the hammock in the car is a great move… just sayin.

 

Hmmmmm… end of June and I want to go snowboarding… drive to Montana after work on Friday? Deal.

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Stopped for the night on the way to Montana in Dead Indian Pass, WY. June, 2017. Derek MacDonald photo.

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Beartooth Pass, MT. June, 2017.

July

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re not supposed to snowboard in the summer… Whatever. But Montana’s snow was good! How about a compromise- I’ll go camping and hiking with the friend group for a couple of days, and then take off to go snowboarding? Ok, cool. Sounds great.

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Always bring a book. Popo Agie Wilderness, WY. Erica Nelson photo. July, 2017.

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Derek MacDonald featuring Melvin Brewing. Liz Shultz photo. July, 2017.

“On July 2nd, I woke up at 4a.m. in my hammock. I packed up my sleeping bag and quietly tossed it into my already loaded 4Runner, doing my best not to wake anyone else up. A few friends and I had been camping in the Popo Agie Wilderness outside of Lander, Wyoming near the Wind River Range.

By 11a.m. I was putting on my snowboard boots on the side of the road on Beartooth Pass, around 250 miles away—just shy of the Montana boarder. As I cinched down and tightened my boot, the lace frayed and snapped. Great. I kicked myself for forgetting to bring a spare. Had I just driven over five hours to ride a couloir in duct taped boots? Maybe. Sorry, mom.

I didn’t notice that Jen was in this photo at the time that it was taken. If I had, maybe things would’ve played out differently.”

Check out an article I wrote about this summer snowboard mission turned medical rescue on tetongravity.com.

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Beartooth Pass, MT. Derek MacDonald photo. Read full article on tetongravity.com

In the weeks that followed, I kept in touch with Jen. Her injuries healed up and she was up and moving around a lot sooner than either of us expected. Phenomenal news!

The weekend warrior saga continues. Jackson, WY is only 3 hours from Lander, so I like to send it up there when I get the chance. Plus, Grand Teton National Park is one of my all-time favorite places. I flippin love it. (I’m so sorry, I had to).

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Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park. Maddy Kwasny photo. July, 2017.

A great weekend, and another productive week in the office means heading back to Jackson the following weekend- this time for snowboarding.

Where do I stay when I go on these adventures? Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have nice friends that let me crash on their couch. That’s when the adventure takes place in, or at least starts in, civilization. A lot of the time, it means sleeping near the trail head on the ground, in my tent, in my hammock, or in the back of my car. More on the details of that some other time…

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The key to the dawn patrol is the sunset prep. Caleb Walker photo. Jackson, WY July, 2017.

The weather foiled my first attempt at a snowboarding objective I’d had my eye on. Summers in Wyoming play host to a ton of afternoon thunder storms. Usually, they roll through pretty quick. Other times, they don’t. The snowboarding objective at hand required hiking up to 11,600ft to ride a snow-filled couloir, and then hiking back down to the car. I didn’t think I’d have enough time to get up and down before the storm, and I had zero desire to get trapped in that kind of weather at that elevation, especially by myself. Since I got up at 4:00am to evaluate the situation, I had some time on my hands once I pulled the plug. I decided on an early morning, 13.1 mile trail-run around Jenny Lake instead before heading home.

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Jenny Lake, GTNP. Derek MacDonald photo. July, 2017.

A couple weeks later, the weather looked good to try snowboarding in the Tetons again. And this time, Caleb was interested in joining. So we sent it.

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I always need my coffee, especially at 4:00am before snowboard missions in July.

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Derek MacDonald and Caleb Walker at Amphitheater Lake, GTNP. July, 2017.

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Derek MacDonald on Disappointment Peak, GTNP. July, 2017.

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Derek MacDonald snowboarding the Spoon Couloir. Caleb Walker photo. July, 2017.

This July snowboard mission was one of the highlights of my year. I often hear the word “crazy”… someone recently suggested the word “dedicated” instead. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The pursuit of passion requires a certain combination of both. Brendan Leonard of Semi-Rad.com wrote this article on the “crazy” things people pour themselves into for seemingly “no reason”. I think his perspective on this is brilliant.

Anyway, duty calls again, this time to represent NOLS at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City! I got the chance to meet some pretty rad folks; Johnny Collinson, Angel Collinson, Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright.

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August

Got some new ink! Maybe I’ll write a separate post about this at some point.

August was also a suuuuper busy month for me at NOLS HQ spent planning another month long travel trip to New England for the new and improved Film Tour. Different landing pages for the website, different email work flow campaign, different films, different presentation; same outdoor stoke!

It was also really nice to be in Lander for so much of the summer. I’m a pretty routine oriented person and I thrive with some measure of consistency. Yes, there’s a lot of spontaneity and variety in the activities that I do, BUT the daily practices that I employ get used a lot regardless of where I am. Maybe I’ll write an article on that itself in the future…

Simple things I enjoyed about being home in the summer… Things like waking up and having my coffee in my own house- very nice! Things like seeing and joking with my coworkers and friends at the office every day- very nice! Things like working out during lunch and running my favorite loop around town after work- very nice! Things like getting dinner and drinks with friends downtown and jamming to live music at the LB- very nice! Things like weekend adventures in Lander or close to home- very nice!

Ok, on to September.

September

Flew to New England and kicked off the month-long film tour on a high note: Chas and Aeri got married!

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Chas and Aeri’s wedding on Lake Champlain, NY. Derek MacDonald photo.

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Cheers from Shawn and Derek!

October

The tail end of the Fall Film tour brought with it one of the highlights of my year- my visit to Sleepy Hollow, NY. I got the chance to work with the students and faculty of Sleepy Hollow High School’s Outdoor Club (SHOC) to spread the good word about NOLS and outdoor education. In addition to speaking to students in classrooms and the auditorium, they invited me to join them on a day-hike with the SHOC program. I LOVE  interacting with people. Laughing, joking, talking, and connecting with others fires me up! I had a truly fantastic time meeting these folks, and getting to experience Sleepy Hollow during Halloween was pretty cool. They also have some beautiful spots to go trail running (shout out to Noah, Charlie, and Peter for showing me)!

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Sleepy Hollow, NY. Derek MacDonald photo. October, 2017.

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Day hike with the Sleepy Hollow High School Outdoors Club (SHOC)! Charlie Hildick-Smith photo.

November

My fall travel tour concluded in Portland, ME at the WRMC (Wilderness Risk Management Conference presented by NOLS, Outward Bound, and SCA).

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Portland, ME. Derek MacDonald photo. November, 2017.

Before flying home to Wyoming, I got to grab breakfast with my mom!

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Selfies with mom. Plum Island, MA. November, 2017.

Ok, now back to Wyoming.

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Boston from the air. Derek MacDonald photo. November, 2017.

November brought with it another big change for me: I decided to leave my position at NOLS and move to Jackson, WY. This was a really hard decision. I love what I did for NOLS and I love Lander and all of the incredible friends I have there. I made the decision to leave because I wanted to reengage with outdoor education from a different role than I was currently serving. I wanted to move back toward field-based work where I would be directly interacting with people in the outdoors; where I would be doing what I’m truly passionate about.

I’m so grateful to NOLS and all of the people who made my time there so, so, so incredible! Who knows, maybe life will lead me back to NOLS in the future. Now, you can find me working at Jackson Hole Mountain resort as a snowboard and ski instructor (want to ride? hit me up)! Two of my best friends, Shawn Robbins and Steve Gregory, moved to Jackson and work at the mountain too. Come summer, I’m hoping to lead backcountry backpacking trips again.

After my last day in the office, Shawn and I decided to take a mini road trip to go surfing in California before the launch of ski season. But, since the snow was already falling, we jumped over to Grand Targhee to hike and ride powder before pointing the car to the coast. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

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Grand Targhee Resort- Alta, WY. Derek MacDonald photo. November, 2017.

Now it’s road trip time!

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Santa Cruz, CA. Derek MacDonald photo. November, 2017.

December

Back in Jackson, the ski season began, work was underway, and days off looked like this.

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Togwotee Pass, WY. Steve Gregory photo. December, 2017.

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Digging pits! Togwotee Pass, WY. Tami Razinger photo. December, 2017.

December’s welcome to Jackson was incredible. Not the deepest snow, not the most stable snowpack, but I find myself smiling every day anyway. I love living in Jackson. I love the people here, the shared stoke for skiing and snowboarding, and the proximity to some absolutely mind blowing terrain for romping in the mountains. Life. Is. Good.

Aaaannd before you know it, the holidays are here and I’m hopping on another plane to New England to spend them with the fam in Vermont! (Yupp, Wyoming to Denver to Boston… the usual).

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Mad River Glen. Waitsfield, VT. December, 2017.

Vermont has a certain magic to it. The place just drops my jaw and clears my head of everything else going on in life. I, of course, brought my splitboard and my snowboard so that I could mix in some 4:00am sunrise hikes with friends and ride the resort all day with the family afterward.

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It’s very important to check your pits when getting pitted. Waitsfield, VT. Abby Keough photo. December, 2017.

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Merry Christmas from the fam! Colby Thompson photo. December, 2017.

 

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Thanks for reading!

If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed some snippets from the 2017 highlight reel. Thank you 2017 for one hell of a year. Thanks to the friends, family, and adventures who made it so frickin awesome!

Check back in on theexpeditionjournal.com for the latest adventures and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

Cheers,

Derek

Adventure Not War

A story of human connection fostered through connection with the outdoors.

A couple of months ago, this popped up in my news feed thanks to professional rock climber Alex Honnold. Like I do with content that piques my interest but that I don’t have time to look at in the moment, I emailed it to myself. And there it sat, in a folder in my gmail account.

Well, I finally got around to watching this film and I wish that I had taken the time to watch it sooner. Stept Studios (well known for its contributions to the ski industry) teamed up with 3 army veterans on a mission to return to Iraq for… a ski trip? Yupp.

My name is Derek MacDonald and I am a snowboarder, backpacker, writer, runner and public speaker currently living in Jackson, WY. The Expedition Journal is intended to serve as a log of  my adventures and outdoor escapades.

Derek MacDonald

What does that mean exactly?… Well, I like sleeping outside, getting up at 4:00am to hike up mountains with my snowboard, catch the sunrise at the top, and then of course ride powder on the way down. You can also find me searching for sunsets by the water with friends and some good beer.

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For an example of stuff you might find on The Expedition Journal, check out an article I wrote about a summer snowboard mission that turned into a medical rescue on tetongravity.com.

My background is multifaceted- I’ve worked in marketing and as a writer with specific interest in public relations and branding. I’m also a backcountry trip leader, outdoor educator, and snowboard instructor. This means that aside from personal ramblings, I’ll usually share content affiliated with outdoor brands, the ski/snowboard industry, travel, personal achievement, and professional development.

Thanks for reading, and happy exploring!

Cheers,

Derek

Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

 

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