What is The Fifty?

Morning on Joffre Peak //  [o] @bjarnesalen

Morning on Joffre Peak // [o] @bjarnesalen

Sam Petri: Well, it’s cool that no one has done all of them yet.

Chris Davenport: Yeah, I’ve skied like 25 or 24 of them. That’s a lot. Maybe someday somebody will be like, ‘You know what? We’re going to do a project to ski the 50 classics that these guys wrote about.’
— Interview with author Chris Davenport about Fifty Classic Ski Descents Of North America, TGR.com, Nov. 9, 2012

A HANDFUL OF INTREPID MOUNTAIN HEROES have been defined by multi-year quests that most would deem impossible, ill-advised or insane.

From Reinhold Messner’s no-oxygen climbs of all 14 eight-thousand meter peaks to David Hempleman-Adams’ completion of the Explorers’ Grand Slam (the Seven Summits and both Poles), the attempt to tick off a list of extreme challenges can capture the imagination of people of all ages and from all walks of life.

While I’m no Messner or Hempleman-Adams, I’ve been inspired by the difficulty, beauty and challenge of their accomplishments and, inspired by them, have set out on my own quest.

Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America is a visual tribute to the continent’s finest ski backcountry ski lines. Penned by Chris Davenport and Penn Newhard and designed by Art Burrows, it chronicles more than four dozen challenging, aesthetic and world-class ski lines.

Now nearly ten years old, it still ranks as an alluring catalog of adventure that can be found atop the coffee tables of diehard skiers throughout Canada and the United States. Without dispute, it is the iconic reference to classic North American ski mountaineering objectives.

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 to devote 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, November 2018