AT Skiing with Phil Gallagher

by bert on April 14, 2011

So what do you really know about AT Skiing? Well step right up, you’re about to go on an AT skiing (Alpine Touring) adventure – read on:

It’s Quiet Up High

AT Skiing

Phil Gallagher . . . livin' the dream

You might hear a raven.   Sometimes the wind has a voice.   When it gets steep going up, the sound of breath comes to ear.   It’s wild up there, all covered in snow.   If you’re alone, you don’t feel alone.   The beauty overwhelms you, like walking with the horses, like feeling the joy of being an animal.   The silence gives you ease and as you exert yourself climbing and skiing, you sense you belong, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be perched atop mountains in the coldest of seasons.

Time is important.   One is always aware of the day, without being aware, not in the mechanical concept of hours and minutes, but in the colors and hues particular to the passage of the sun upon the horizon.   The shadows and shades of white, broken by forest and rock touch you with winter, the small name for a season of power and strength, when the cold freezes water, and rain becomes snow.   Nature welcomes you in unspoken terms accepting your presence with a might that can cripple, maim, or take a person’s life in a harsh reality that is ever present in the high country.

The skiing is why you are there.   It drives you to sacrifice for those fleeting moments when skis glide through deep powder in remote areas, where nothing else matters.   There is an undeniable sense of power that comes with the experience of days in the elements.    Sometimes this power accompanies you back into the world of man’s creation, where it becomes an armor that protects you from the onslaught of societies commercial, strip-mall, media, barrage. .   It’s also a force that compels the individual to return to the source; the mountains in winter; the deep snow world.   It has the effect of religion and for some it is.

The steeps are the best part and remarkably easy to maneuver on with skis.   The depth of the snow and the temperature combine to create a multitude of conditions perfect for sustained descents from summits.   The thrill and exaltation are beyond words.   In the world of ski mountaineering, the experienced share a sense of being that transcends all boundaries.   It comes from the grace and knowledge imparted on the journey up.   Ascending a mountain through muscle and will takes the shape of a pilgrimage.   It is humble homage to a mass of earth and rock, considered by some to be inanimate, yet like the Paleolithic people who came to these regions aeons before, the adventure skiers share in the ancient understanding that all things have life and spirit.

Something happens up there; challenge, reward.   Each time is different, as winter unfolds taking the adventurous further into the mountains on paths inspired by the quest for virgin snow.   It’s not about glory or prestige, but rather a journey towards self realization through skills honed by years of practice and commitment.   As the world around us becomes more structured, more regulated, as life itself seems to be driven by the media induced needs of the twenty first century ego, the mountains remain lofty pinnacles of refuge and beckon, like light in fog to those who seek what is true, what is real, what is worth those unforgiving minutes of life’s perilous risk.   ~ by Phil Gallagher

Are you ready for some AT skiing?

After the way Phil makes it sound, me too. I haven’t met Phil in person yet, but we’ve become acquainted because a mutual addiction: deep powder snow. He seems to be have a dual talent – the ability to ski backcountry and the ability to communicate AT skiing really well with the written word, wouldn’t you agree?

The right skiing gear for AT skiing?

For the uninitiated, which would include me, there is a whole world of specialized skiing gear and paraphernalia to ski backcountry and do AT skiing properly and safely. Specifically designed skis, boots, bindings, clothes,  packs, beacons, probes, shovels, etc. all need to be considered. Maybe we can get Phil to talk about  the right stuff for AT skiing in another article? Until then, go check out what Backcountry has to offer in the way of AT skiing gear and equipment – perfect name huh?

Is AT skiing just a good way to do some cheap ski trips?

Hmmmm . . . maybe. Maybe not. But after reading Phil’s article it feels just like what he said; a pilgrimage to pay homage to the deepest aspects of the inner self . . . whoa . . . sounds very Buddhist doesn’t it? Well that’s what powder skiing is really all about and why I wanted to feature Phil’s fabulous article for the world to experience.

Here are a few other places that Mr. Phil Gallagher has also been published:

  • Off Piste – The Backcountry Ski Journal
  • Black Diamond – 04/05 Winter Catalog
  • Main Street Rag  – Fall 2010 Coming Home Anthology

Pretty cool huh? If you were to ask him to give us a little background on himself . . . and I did, here’s what he would have to say:

“I learned to ski as a soldier in the US Army during the Vietnam War, stationed in Germany.   Talk about luck!  Upon discharge spent the winter of 68 in Jackson Hole then traveled the world with my surfboard until planting my toes in the sand on the north shore of Kauai in 73.   Returned to the mainland in 86, got my old skis out of my parents garage and spent a few winters in Colorado and Utah before settling down in Washington state on the east slope of the Cascades.”

So there you have it – the world according to Phil . . . I like that world, which is why I live there too – living and skiing in Colorado! Thanks Phil!

What about you? Are you ready to get way out there and live in Phil’s world of deep powder and AT skiing?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

bert April 18, 2011 at 4:52 am

Hey Jills! Thought you might like this one!


Jills April 18, 2011 at 2:18 am

Bravo, Phil!


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