Adventure writer and photographer Matt Gibson has spent the last portion of his life traveling around the USA looking for the sickest ski hills. Doesn’t sound half bad, does it? When I heard of his ambitious endeavor, I knew I had to get the inside scoop.
Alec Ross: Tell me about your current endeavor to find the best ski resort in the US.
Matt Gibson: My girlfriend Emilie and I are traveling around the Western USA looking for the best ski area. So far we’ve been to hills in Utah, Wyoming, and California. We’re checking out the hills and interviewing locals to find out what makes each spot unique. We’re also inspecting as many craft beers and hot tubs as possible.
AR: What are some crazy experiences you’ve had during your travels.
MG: Well… I once drove up the side of Mount Kinabalu at night on a motorcycle with no headlights. That was probably the scariest thing that’s happened. Then, the next day I got caught in a monsoon on the motorbike in the middle of nowhere. It took me about 8 hours of driving in the pouring rain and wind to get to a hotel. I’ve also swum with whale sharks and once bathed in a pool of burning water (methane gas bubbling up from a crack in the bottom ignited when it reached the surface). Those are probably the most memorable experiences.
AR: Living the life! What are some identifiable characteristics of some of these American destinations?
MG: It varies from area to area and usually depends on the local character. Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole are very remote and steep and get tons of snow, so they have a very small town feel and attract a breed of hardcore athlete that’s willing to live in relative isolation for their sport. Squaw Valley and Heavenly on Lake Tahoe, in contrast, are massive destinations with visitors from around the world. They have all the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Utah’s hills, like the state, are visually and geographical spectacular, hugely underrated, and frequented by extremely friendly locals.
AR: Besides the local lagers, what inspired you to pursue such an extensive endeavor?
MG: I grew up in British Columbia, Canada, started skiing at 3 and snowboarding at 12. After university, I moved to Asia and stayed for six more years. So, when I moved to Salt Lake City and took over writing the snowboarding guide for About.com last fall, I saw the perfect opportunity to tour to all the epic ski hills I’d seen in movies growing up. Salt Lake City happens to be the geographic center of all the best ski hills in the USA. We can drive pretty much anywhere in under 8 hours.
AR: You’re also a photographer. What are the advantages of that skill within your adventure writing?
MG: It definitely has some advantages. On the most basic level, it’s one less person to coordinate with when planning or doing activities, and that simplified things a lot. But there’s a flip side to that. Sometimes doing both jobs is very demanding and it’s hard as one person to give both the attention it needs to be done right.
MG: Definitely. One of my favorite sections on my website is the photo essay section. Since I take the photos and recall the emotions that were evoked at the moment. I think that I’m able to tell a more personal and poignant story than if the photos and text were provided by two different people.
AR: What is your goal in the work that you do?
MG: To write novels that help people understand their lives and the workings of the world. Adventure travel writing is a way for me to earn a living doing things I love until I am able to achieve that.
AR: Life’s experiences teach you many lessons. What have you learned in all your travels?
MG: The most important lesson I’ve learned is when you jump into a situation where it’s sink or swim, you’ll usually swim. Fear of the unknown is totally rational, but it doesn’t account for your ability to adapt, improvise, and push your limits in order to succeed. Adventure does not consist of crossing deserts or swimming channels. Adventure occurs any time you put yourself in a situation where the outcome is uncertain and you must confront the unknown in order to come out successful. I guess what I’m trying to say is challenging yourself is key to person growth, and that when you do challenge yourself, you’ll often be amazed by what you’re capable of. Everyone should be amazed. We’re all amazing people.
Matt Gibson is an adventure travel writer and photographer and the blog manager for the Flight Network Blog. For more adventure goodness, read about more of his adventures on his blog or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.