TheBigOutside Blog

Michael Lanza, creator of and Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine, writes about hiking, backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, paddling and other self-powered outdoor adventures

Chasing the Snow: Why ‘Compressed Adventure’ Can Save You

Zooming down the interstate, with my family in the car and our Nordic skis in the roofbox, I’m reminded of a truism that explains not only our motivation today, but many of life’s turns and frustrations: Sometimes the place where we are and the place where we want to be lie far, far apart.

My wife and kids have hunkered down for the long haul with their books and electronics, settled in for a day trip that will involve about seven hours of driving in exchange for less than half that much time skiing. To our left rise the visual evidence for why we must make this pilgrimage: the Boise Foothills above our home, brown and virtually devoid of snow in late autumn. It’s a disheartening sight.

My companions had uttered a few murmurs of skepticism that the payoff will justify the drudgery of so many hours car bound. But we’ve run out of patience waiting for the snow to come to us. So we’re en route to the nearest place with white stuff on the ground and groomed ski trails—Galena Lodge, which sits at the upper end of Idaho’s Wood River Valley, at well over 7,000 feet in the Boulder Mountains.

The phrase for what we’re doing speaks to the desperation implicit in this act: We are chasing the snow. It sounds like both a fool’s mission and divine inspiration—and actually, it has the potential to go either way.

The idea of chasing snow also provides a useful metaphor for a larger, almost constant challenge: fitting the activities that bring us pleasure into lives that can often seem far too overstuffed with responsibilities to accommodate anything more.

The mere thought of making the effort to go after fun when it lies at a distance from you—especially when it involves motivating and moving an entire family—can be the thing that stops us. It’s often not the weather or a lack of enthusiasm about being there once you get there. It’s the organizing and getting-there part that causes inertia. I know; I, too, have on rare occasions suffered from that spirit-killing mental funk. But I prefer to view that attitude in the same way that ancient mariners viewed the unexplored margins of their maps: those areas were labeled with warnings to venture no farther in that direction, “for only dragons dwell here.”

    Read the entire story and see photos and a video from that trip at See other stories about outdoor adventures at


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