It was Thanksgiving weekend, and everyone I know was enjoying the long-weekend. There wasn’t enough snow to get overly exuberant in the mountains, and even my friends that work seasonally were trying to enjoy the calm before the storm. Unfortunately I was being tormented by the prospect that my ship was sinking and I could do nothing about it.
Five years ago, I created Alpine Ambitions as a simple, personal blog to document my adventures while living in Slovenia. Living in Slovenia required me to become more independent as a guide, and the site became my method of distinguishing myself. For five years, it was the outlet for all of my creativity and energy. It was the root of all my success, and also the source of so much of my frustration. But undoubtedly, it allowed me to get where I am today.
It was a creative, experimental process, and along the way I made many mistakes. Like a pencil drawing, you can try to erase and redraw, but the smudges are still seen by anyone paying attention. More importantly, as the creator, you never lose sight of these; they constantly demand your scrutiny.
For the past couple years, Alpine Ambitions has demanded more and more of my attention. It got to the point where I was consistently working eighteen-hour days trying to find the right recipe. In my efforts to make the site effective, it lost its soul. It went down a path that it could not reverse. It would have to be let go.
It’s amazing how hard it can be to let go of something we have put so much energy into. It always feels like we are one step away from finding the missing piece of the puzzle. And yet, all we do is get deeper and deeper until we can no longer see the big picture. As I have shared this with friends and family, everyone can relate to my story in their own way. They relate it to love lost, or their work or athletic ventures. Universally, letting go is much scarier than trying harder.
Once done however, letting go is liberating. There is nothing more freeing than detachment. I agonized over the decision to let go of the project that essentially defined me for five years. The minute I let go, my life was noticeably easier.
Amazingly, my efforts have not drained my energy. Seeing the project “fail” before it became what I hoped it would be has not made me bitter. Instead, the process has helped me be a little bit more compassionate, and taken some sharp edges off my personality. And the freedom of failure has opened the door for me to take more chances.
I am grateful to my sponsors, particularly Mountain Khakis, who allowed me to propose ideas and talk my way through the process. Without really saying it, they made it clear that they support my energy and my passion, not my ability to make sales pitches. With their support and this freedom, I have already begun work on my new project and I am thrilled to have a template to showcase the things that inspire me.
Independent Descents is my new website dedicated to human-powered, skiing, adventure. I have tried to create something that is beautiful and also fits into the way we use the Internet today. I don’t feel beholden to sponsors and the site will be void of sales pitches. Most importantly, I have been humbled and the site will not be about how “rad” I am or how astonishing some accomplishment is. The site will be about what inspires me or motivates me – this could be anything from a perfect mountain to a time shared with an unbelievable group of people.
I am not really doing this for my own achievement. In the end, as was the beginning, I want to share the mountain life with others – in any way possible. Letting go has reminded to focus on the “human” side, not the “skiing” side, of human-powered skiing – we’re all human after all.
Donny Roth is a ski guide, writer, and athlete based in Boulder, Colorado. He spends the summer months in Chile where he owns the guide service Chile Powder Adventures. He hopes you’ll check out and enjoy his newest online creation – Independent Descents.