Rope Tows & Remote Work385002569793

Words by: Kelly Mackenzie

About a year ago, everything changed with the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. For many skiers, that meant lost jobs and lockdowns as travel and businesses shut down. Resort seasons were cut short, and many of us wondered what that would mean for our ski-industry driven economies in mountain towns across the world.

I was right there with you. My season, however, was lost from the beginning to a blown knee. Last spring, while most skiers were getting their powder fix, I was in class at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, my professors recommended we prepare to finish the semester online as we left campus for spring break. Sure enough, I went home to the Tetons in March 2020 and have been back here ever since.

As ski season approached, I couldn’t help but get excited for my return to snow. At least skiing would resemble some sense of normalcy after the (seemingly) strangest year of my life. In preparation for my upcoming ski season, I decided not to compete and keep my ski plans as local as possible. In all honesty, I was looking forward to getting back to my roots, skiing a full season in the Tetons, and playing in the backyard (quite literally) with a home built rope-tow.

Growing up in the Tetons and being raised by a family of passionate skiers was an absolute blessing. As a kid, I remember my days at Grand Targhee Resort filled with powder and incredible influences, which established my love for flying down the mountain early on. As a teenager, I joined the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club and spent most of my time training at Snowking Mountain Resort and my days off at Targhee. Freeriding and powder have always been at the core of my love for skiing, but I will always be grateful for the fundamentals of arcing that ski racing taught me, now embedded in my style.

Photo: Matt Powers

This ski season allowed me to return to these places and recall the story of how I fell in love with skiing, as I continue to fall deeper in love with every year. I bought a pass to Snowking, where I get my quiet turns in after work under the night lights. I sneak a few days in over at Targhee with family, friends and spent a day with the 4FRNT crew. However, most of my skiing this season has happened right in my backyard, on a small, low angle hill studded with sagebrush and wind lips. My boyfriend (who happens to be an engineer) designed and built a homemade rope-tow for our very own backyard skiing utopia. Ropetopia, as we call it, has been the perfect place to return to small airs, pow turns, and even a few rails near the bottom where I work on my park craft in secrecy. It may not be a season filled with epic trips and glorious travel, but this season has been magical and fulfilling nonetheless.

Something about a pandemic (and recovery from injuries) has made me more appreciative than ever to be a skier. Maybe the outdoors, fresh air, and limited social interaction feel extra special after spending so much time at home. As we skiers come into mid-winter nearly one year into the strangest times of our lives, I hope we can all take a moment to appreciate what a gift it is to ski and all that goes into making that possible. For me, that includes being grateful to work and ski from home, being mindful of my risk-taking decisions with respect for the frontline healthcare workers, thanking resort employees, and following their rules and guidelines. Whether you are working from home, working out from home, or skiing from home, we’re in this pandemic together, and together, we’re going to get through it.

Words by: Kelly Mackenzie


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  • I love the rope tow conversation; I volunteer operate a community ski hill www.skibaldmountain.com we are the core of what snow riding is and invite you all to ride with our all volunteer crew!

    Christina Allen on

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