Moscow Mules, An Ironing Board and Four Months of Skiing

Moscow Mules
The people you meet in Montana when sipping Moscow Mules…
Photo by Tracy Benjamin.

The bar was full as we nudged our way to a stool; the sounds of Waylon Jennings spilling from the wooden stage across the room. Saturday nights are always busy along the Gallatin River. Crowds of locals mingled with would-be cowboys who’d donned shiny new boots and waitresses rushed by with plates of ribs one could only pray were meant for them.

After ordering up a Moscow Mule, I noticed the guy to my right. He was chatting with a younger fellow, but that’s not what got my attention. Besides his plaid shirt and friendly smile, he was wearing the most spectacular silver and turquoise bolo tie — the likes of which could only make sense in a place like Montana. 

“Hi my name is Matt,” he said, extending his hand for a friendly shake. 

After a few minutes of small talk I finally got the real story, the one that piqued my interest and convinced me to order up another mule and settle in for the tale that was sure to come.

“I’ve just spent the past four months traveling around North America and skiing,” he said with a grin. 

That’s right — the entire winter season while the rest of us were hustling at the bank or shuffling papers in some office this guy had been criss-crossing the Rockies in a Jeep with nine pairs of skis shoved in the back. Tell me how I get that gig?

His search for the ultimate powder had taken him from Aspen to Taos to Park City and beyond. The week in question he was carving it up in Big Sky before heading north to Revelstoke — the conclusion to a once-in-a-lifetime journey he’d been dreaming about for years.

In the back of that Jeep was an old ironing board that his wife had helped him fashion into a tuning station. He proudly showed me a picture on his I-phone of the make-shift invention. It was here that he tweaked his bindings and waxed the day’s pair of skis, allowing him total control of the ride to come.

That night as we sat there at the Gallatin River Grill he was nearing the end of the road. The snow was beginning to melt and the season was drawing to a close. Looking back, I asked him which mountain was his favorite. While he was quick to point out that the trip wasn’t over yet, he admitted to leaning toward Aspen, his home hill.

Maybe in the end that’s where we all end up, loving the places we know best, those slopes where we can read the mountain and where the snow feels the most familiar. Who knows though, maybe Revelstoke will be a game-changer. He’s promised to check in with me when he wraps up his travels in a few weeks. If things go as planned you may even see Matt in one of my magazine articles at the start of next ski season. If not, chances are pretty good you’ll meet him on some chair lift or coming down the backside of a hill when the flakes begin to fall again. And if not, and you’re lucky, you just may get the chance to chat over a Moscow Mule in a bar that overlooks the river in the shadow of a Lone Peak.

Mountain Mama

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” — John Muir

This week I’m packing my jacket and goggles and heading to the mountains for the last time this season. While everyone I know is slathering on sunscreen in hopes of the perfect spring break, I’ll be applying the SPF and praying for blue-bird days. If history is any indicator, somewhere between Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana my stress will begin to fade away with the rising elevation and the occasional sighting of bighorn sheep. This is it, my happy place. And despite the cost, the distance and the eternal layovers it takes to get me strapped into my skis, it’s worth it all for the promise of some great powder.

snow boarding

Although I make my home in the Sunshine State, like many Floridians I can’t wait for the snow to fall so I can hit the slopes. And I’m not alone. In fact, Florida is the second most important ski market in the nation. That’s why chances are when you’re chatting up the guy next to you on the chairlift, the odds are just as good he’s from Tampa as Telluride or Taos. 

However, most Floridians are overlooked when it comes to ski and snowboard editorial copy. And why wouldn’t we be? We live on a peninsula, at sea level, without even a hill in sight. However, we are hot! Not just uncomfortably warm but hair frizzing, feet-burning-on-the-sidewalk, “I can’t take another night of this heat” hot as hell! And while everyone is turning their sights to beaches and tropical getaways, we are dreaming of downhill vistas and ski chalets, snowball fights and s’mores around the fire pit — and that makes for engaged ski/snowboard readers.

So while this mountain mama is anxious to carve it up one last time before the snow begins to melt, I’m equally as excited to return with stories in my pocket for next winter. As an amateur skier, I’ve seen most of the American peaks and I love to tell the tales of all that’s happening on the mountains. Here’s just one example of a ski article I’ve written. Keep coming back to look for more.