Weekend Warm-Up: Solving For Z

A ski guide learns the hard way that just because you love the mountains doesn’t mean that they will love you back.

Calculating risk is the least favorite part of any expedition. The wonder, the excitement, and empowerment are on pause as you make a decision that can make or break you. Mountain guide Zahan Billimoria grew up obsessed with mountains and was willing to take any risk to fulfill his dream of becoming an excellent mountain guide. However, he quickly learned that some things come with a heavy price. 

Billimoria’s home of Wyoming has no shortage of mountains and a bustling guiding community. He tracked down some of the most elite guides and quickly found another family with whom he could share his love for the slopes and thrill of the skiing.

His career took off and he easily handled any challenges that the mountain threw at him. He was on an all-time high and terribly in love, a feeling that dissipated soon after it came. He realized that a love for the mountains can be an unrequited one. He came face to face with himself and his own recklessness after he lost three close friends to tragic accidents.

Zahan Billimoria climbing in the Tetons. Photo: Solving for Z


The innocence and naivety of a life’s dream turned grey and somber. He took a step back from his mountains to reflect where his life was to go next. Eventually, he realized that sometimes, bigger is not better. He chose to slow down, enjoy the moment, and eventually started to guide again. When the sun seemed to peek through the clouds in a glimmer of hope to rebuild his life and career, he made another miscalculation that almost cost him his life. 

An avalanche left him with a shoulder injury and a period of dealing with strong, complex emotions after surviving. A gap was revealed to him: a gap between his expertise and nature. When you think that you have all the answers, nature deals a humbling surprise. He saw that he was not invincible. After accepting that change, growth, and the uncertainty of the next step are good things, he decided to live every day with a balanced, quiet state of mind. He decided that whatever comes next, he will be ready for it.