Many intrepid mountain heroes have been defined by multi-year quests that many would deem impossible or insane. From Reinhold Messner’s no-oxygen climbs of all fourteen eight-thousand meter peaks to David Hempleman-Adams’ accomplishment of the Explorer’s Grand Slam (Seven Summits and both Poles), ticking off a list of challenges grabs the imaginations of a vast swath of people. While I’m no Messner or Hempleman-Adams, I’ve been inspired by the difficulty, beauty and challenge of their accomplishments and set out on my own path in their inspiration.

The Fifty Classic Descents of North America is a book penned by Chris Davenport and Penn Newhard chronicling fifty of the most challenging, aesthetic and world class ski lines of North America. Now nearly ten years old, it’s a historical book that draws allure, intrigue and lays atop the coffee tables of many diehard skiers. It is the quintessential book of North American ski mountaineering. From Alaska to Colorado, California to Baffin Island, these lines are among the most difficult in the world and all of them have at least one historical descent. But no one has skied them all. Over the course of the next three years, I will change that.

Drawn in simply by the allure of “I want to ski that,” I plan on devoting the next few years of my life to skiing every line documented in that book. And for one final twist, I plan on doing it the hard way, by climbing every line that I ski.

-Cody Townsend

The Fifty Classic Descents of North America represents a collection of iconic lines put together by legends of the mountains like Jimmy Chin, Lou Dawson, Greg Hill, Hilaree Nelson and more
— Chris Davenport, Author and Ski Legend

Project NOTES

  • Project Description: A 50-part web series chronicling Cody Townsend’s attempt to ski all 50 lines described in the book, “Fifty Classic Descents of North America”.

  • Timeframe: 2019-2021

  • Ski Partners: Chris Davenport, Michelle Parker, Chris Rubens, Josh Daiek, Jimmy Chin and many more.

  • Media Distribution: YouTube

  • Places: Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Baffin Island, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Hampshire.

  • Goal: To ski all 50 lines while maintaining fun, safety and adventure as the priorities.