Sometimes it’s necessary to put everything aside and just focus, seize the day and be relentless in the pursuit of a goal. For professional skier Cody Townsend this means doing something that has never been done before and focusing a ski career 15 years in the making on an ambitious pursuit of finishing the Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America. The concept was brought to life in book form by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows, Penn Newhard and many other contributors when they created the tomb in 2010, compiling some of the most iconic big mountain ski lines in North America. Juggling filming and traveling has made the idea of bagging all of them nearly impossible for Townsend, who after mulling over the concept for years has decided to focus on finishing each line. Starting now. “I guess the ultimate thing for me, is taking on a whole new scope of challenge that I’ve never put myself through,” says Townsend who will spend the next three years documenting, and attempting to ski, all 50 lines in the book.
The web series, “The Fifty,” will be produced by Townsend’s production company, Summit Launch Productions, with renowned adventure filmmaker Bjarne Salén of Endlessflow Films. Together they’ll document all of Townsends descents. Townsend will attempt to ski 16 to 17 lines per year while creating four to eight-minute episodes highlighting the adventure, the history, and the people along the way while sleeping out of his truck and following stability and weather trends. “All of them have at least one historical descent, but one person has not skied them all,” says Townsend, “I’ll attempt to ski every line as told in the book and will document the adventure, challenge and fun in the series.”
Townsend started the series off with his harrowing ascent and descent in 2017 of Denali’s Messner Couloir, an experience to which he describes as a “random luck experience” because of the lines testiness. Townsend begins his trip this week by heading to Utah and Colorado and within the next six months will continue a steady trend of ticking off lines as he goes while incorporating his signature light-hardheartedness and ability to push on through the sufferfest with a smile. From my comfortable office chair, I’m wishing him luck on that last part. I spoke with Cody before he left.