Weekend Warm-Up: A Peak Obsession

Passion project or obsession. Sometimes the lines blur between the two. For professional skier Cody Townsend, it is both. His obsession with peaks, and the thrills that come with them, translate into the need to ski the 50 classic descents of North America, a feat never attempted until now.

The Chugach Mountains in southern Alaska, known for their legendary steeps, are a mecca for skiers. Townsend, along with snowboarder Jeremy Jones and cameraman Bjarne Salen, travel to the remote town of Valdez to capture two of the most challenging peaks, Pontoon and Meteorite Mountains.

Meteorite Mountain’s climb and ski descent was like a religious experience, full of ritual and ceremony. Care accompanied every movement. It was said that a meteor or UFO crashed on its face many years ago, giving the mountain an allure that drew adventurers to it. After a river crossing at the base and hucking up its snowy face, they traversed to ridgeline, their souls free and complete. Descending, the surface held firm, their worries faded and they basked in the mountain’s power.

Pontoon Peak. Photo: Cody Townsend


Soon after, they chased after another high on Pontoon Mountain. Accessible by plane, its blinding white powder, tilted at a 55-degree angle, is iffy or dodgy in all but ideal conditions. Townend’s good friend, Dave Treadway, passed a few months prior after a snow bridge collapsed here. Townsend knew not to underestimate the mountain, no matter how much passion or obsession one felt for it. Luckily, the mountain relented and let them descend safely.

At the end of the day, Townsend was a student with the mountain as his teacher. With each ski venture, lessons turned out to be the most important takeaway.