The Inertia for Good Editor
Freeskier Cody Townsend Discusses Finishing The 50 Project and Balancing Risk as a New Father

Cody Townsend on The Inertia Podcast. Photo: CT via Smith Optics

The Inertia

Last week, professional skier Cody Townsend released his latest episode of The Fifty and announced it would be his last. The news was a bit of a bombshell in the backcountry world because A) the storytelling aspect of the project has become a favorite among fans — Townsend has taken a thoughtful approach to documenting each trip and pulling lessons out of the journey that can be passed forward — and B) he’s very close to completing the task with 46 lines down and just four more to go from the book, The 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America.

There seemed to be some confusion among fans as to what Townsend really meant by the announcement. Was it the YouTube series that was coming to an end? His whole endeavor to hike and ski all 50 lines? Was he still planning to document his swing at the final four lines and throw them into one bigger project, perhaps a larger documentary? Plenty of people came away from the news with similar questions, including the folks at GearJunkie, who reached out to Townsend to clarify and ask the most obvious question: So, what’s next? 

Townsend isn’t showing his full hand, saying that the specifics are still being ironed out but it will be centered around his favorite things: “skiing, family, adventuring, and telling stories.” That sounds a lot like what he’s been up to with the documentary series, but as far as any involvement with The Fifty series, he’s keeping that a separate endeavor.

“I don’t plan on finishing all 50. I plan on attempting, trying, and maybe finishing the last four. But I called off the YouTube series ultimately so there is no exterior pressure to continue to produce episodes on a specific timeline, not to have sponsorship or funding tied to those episodes that may or may not ever come out, and to focus entirely on the mountains and lines themselves so I can do them on my own time, dime and motivation,” he said. “Being a professional skier is a complex job, and I want to make sure the job interferes less with four of the most difficult and dangerous lines in North America”

Townsend explained that he was comfortable with not completing all 50 lines from the start — the same mindset he shared in a conversation with The Inertia last year.

“There’s seven left but they’re a hard seven,” he said at the time. “Who knows how long it will take or if I will finish them at all,” adding that taking on each line would require some level of game-time decision making. “Family life, context, all that kind of stuff will decide whether I finish or not. I literally have no idea.”

“Tying your personal well-being to a checklist is a path that leads to dissatisfaction with life, an endless yet insatiable appetite for more, and an ego that disregards all the incredible moments that truly bring contentment to life. While the goal of skiing all 50 lines is still there, it’s ultimately just an excuse to have incredible adventures, to grow as a skier and a human, and to bond with a community,” he told GearJunkie last week.

So, Cody Townsend may still try the last four lines but he’s not making any promises. The four remaining are a challenging short list that includes Saint Elias, which has taken two lives. University Peak, Mount Robson, and Comstock Couloir are the others, and they’re nothing to scoff at either. If he does set out for any new attempts, he says he’ll be doing so on his own dime and without the pressure and stress that’s come with producing short documentaries following each adventure.


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