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A Different Kind of Hardcore: A quest to ride every day is alive at Mt. Baker



Albert Arth bootpacking during the 2014-2015 season, when he rode everyday of operations at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, hitchhiking each way from his home in Glacier. He also rode 100 backcountry runs and did not spend any money the entire ski season. Photo courtesy of Albert Arth.

By Oliver Lazenby

One day in 2013, a soaking wet Albert Arth stood on the shoulder of Highway 542 with his thumb out for three hours before finally catching a ride to the Mt. Baker Ski Area. He missed the migration of employees headed to work, which usually passes by his home in Snowater between 7 and 7:30 a.m. And since it was also raining at the top of Pan Dome, 4,000 feet above, no one was going skiing.

Maybe Arth wouldn’t have been going skiing either. Except, after seven years of snowboarding 100 days a season, he’d set a more ambitious goal: to ride every single day of the season.

Arth isn’t the only one to attempt or even complete that goal. A few others have taken up the challenge as a way to prove to themselves their love and dedication to snowboarding.

But Arth has probably been the most successful. He had so much fun the first winter that he tried it again in ’14-’15 with the following set of goals: ride every day of the ski season, hitchhike each way every day, complete 100 backcountry runs and not spend money all season long.

He pared back his life, which was already arranged around snowboarding, even further. He paid his mortgage in advance at the beginning of the season, stocked his house with food and beer, and caught rides with a friend once a week to the Bellingham Food Bank, where he volunteered and got food. He worked two days a week as security at the ski area.

Not spending money allowed him to simplify his life, but he also wanted to prove that money isn’t a requirement for living your dreams.

That year, it hardly snowed and many gave up on skiing and snowboarding early in the year. Arth found ways to make it fun. A believer in the power of crystals, he put a giant amethyst crystal his friend found in the lodge in a strategic location to make it snow. He repelled a 50-foot cliff with ski patrol to ride a line that’s normally skiable from the top.

“You had to find a way to make it fun,” said Arth, who’s now 35.

For Arth, riding every day during a historic low snow year meant making his own fun. That included body sliding down the hill in a one-piece waterproof suit in the rain and harnessing the power of crystals to make it snow. Photos courtesy of Albert Arth.

Arth made all his goals. Even for folks who have arranged their whole lives around being able to ski or snowboard whenever they want to, skiing everyday seems extreme.

“I work there and I ski fairly often, but even I take breaks,” said Mt. Baker pro patroller Andy Sahlfeld. “So to go every single day is really an immense amount of dedication. It’s like a different kind of hard core.”

Aside from dedication and preparation, it took serious luck, Arth said. He had to dodge the perils of foot pain, injuries, hangovers and the appeal of taking a day off to do laundry, buy groceries or take care of other life necessities. The quest even ended Arth’s
relationship with a girlfriend who didn’t quite understand it.

Arth’s friend Alex Hartley, a furry, gloveless snowboarder who drives the Baker Bus and is known to some as “everyday Alex” and others as “soul surfer,” is on his third season of attempting to ride every day the lifts run and at least 150 days total.

Hartley, who’s 10 years younger than Arth, nearly made it the last two seasons. The first year he went until March 8 and miscalculated the time he’d need to make it to the mountain before rafting (Arth and Hartley both work summers at Wild and Scenic River Tours in Glacier).

Alex Hartley almost never wears gloves and that doesn’t stop him from trying to ride 150 days a year. Or dragging his hand on a toe-side turn. Photo courtesy of Albert Arth.

The next year, his perfect record ended on March 2 after he broke some ribs and hurt his shoulder falling off a cliff. If he makes it this year, it won’t radically change the number of days he snowboards, but it would still be nice to finally make it, he said.

“If I finally get it, then maybe next year I could be more chill. Maybe I’ll just try to ride 120 days instead of every single day,” Hartley said. “I’ve even had the nightmare where I wake up and I’m going through my day and at 3 p.m. I’m like, ‘Oh, no, I didn’t get up to the mountain today!’”

Hartley is going for it partly to avoid the feeling of having missed out, or staying home and second-guessing the

“By the time you get up there you’re always stoked to be up there. You get to the switchbacks and you’re like a puppy about to be let loose,” he said. “I’ve never regretted going up.”

Obviously, Hartley and Arth have an unusual amount of dedication to their craft. Arth moved to Glacier from Indiana and has applied his Midwest work ethic – handed down from his parents – to his ski bum lifestyle.

“One of the things I’m good at is determination,” he said. “It’s easy to sleep in with your pretty girlfriend and miss the powder. But for me, I hate myself if I do that. If I miss one day of snow I’m like, ‘What’s going on? What, do you just not even care anymore?’ You should see me if I don’t get first chair. If I’m, say, 20th chair, I’m anxiety-riddled and hating myself that there are 80 people in front of me.”

The goal added direction to his ski bum lifestyle. It’s a reminder that there’s something he’s supposed to be doing, a passion he’s already made the center of his life, so he’d better go do it.

When I think about lifetime accomplishments – I don’t have a 401K, I have 11 years of snowboarding 100 days. I don’t go home and look at my investments, I look at 11 years of season passes.

“When I think about lifetime accomplishments – I don’t have a 401K, I have 11 years of snowboarding 100 days,” Arth said. “I don’t go home and look at my investments, I look at 11 years of season passes.”

Read more about Albert Arth’s 2014-2015 season in his personal blog: threeeyedraven.blogspot.com