Department

Life According to...Christy Mahon, Mountaineer & Skier

February 2011

 

I grew up in southeast Denver—I’m a native. I moved to Aspen in 1998; I had graduated from the University of Denver and wanted to stay in Colorado, but wanted to get closer to the mountains.

In Aspen, the access to the backcountry is so close. Adventures kind of just happen here. You meet people who are doing these things, and you start getting ideas and soon your list of goals and outdoor activities starts to grow—as well as your equipment list.

Initially, I worked for the Aspen Chamber of Commerce. I brought in ski groups and corporations for conferences. That was a great introduction to town. Now, I’m the special events director for the Aspen Art Museum. It allows me to live in Aspen and feel like I’m reaching my professional goals, and still meet my mountain and outdoor goals.

My husband, Ted, is a ski instructor on Aspen Mountain, a photographer, and works nights at a French restaurant. Our first date was skiing Quandary Peak, and that was in 2000. He was working on hiking all the fourteeners, and I quickly joined him on his trips. He finished hiking the fourteeners, and then, in 2004, I finished hiking the fourteeners. He finished skiing the fourteeners in 2008.

I had already skied about 30 of the fourteeners with him, and I realized I wanted to ski all of them too. That’s when his project became my project. The more you are out there doing things on your bucket list, the longer your list gets.

Having goals is really healthy. It’s not about the actual list, but what you learn along the journey.

Working at the art museum is a job that requires at least 40, if not 60, hours of work a week, depending on the time of year. It was really challenging to fit all the peaks in. A lot of the time you are waiting for prime conditions for peaks. Not only do you need conditions to be right, but you also need them to be right on a Saturday or Sunday.

We didn’t manage to do all the fourteeners without turning around when the conditions weren’t acceptable. I think that says a lot about why we didn’t deal with any avalanches or injuries. We were not afraid of turning around. The mountain will still be there.

Ted and I are each other’s main ski partners, so we are really careful. If something happened, it would be devastating. Being out there with your wife or husband makes you think harder about taking risks.

Fourteeners are becoming really popular, and that takes away from the experience. Get to the top of Longs Peak and there will be 20 people on the summit in the summer. When you are climbing thirteeners, all of sudden it feels like there is no one on them.

To be in a remote place makes you feel like you are out there enjoying the world without the reminders of everyday life. It gives you a sense of freedom, being out in the hills by yourself and your friends. It’s you. The mountains. The animals.

I love being up high; I’m happiest when I’m climbing up to the top of a peak.

I learned I’m capable of more than I think I am, that I really love spending time outdoors experiencing the fresh air and mountain environment. The motivation is how you feel when you’re done. That’s what gets you out of bed when it’s really cold.