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Cody Townsend's FIFTY Project is a masterclass in how to tell adventure stories.

Skiing the 50 classic descents of North America makes for some wild times, great stories, and sometimes awesome skiing (but mostly, a lot of shitty skiing).

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

Last year, big-mountain skier Cody Townsend set his sights on an ambitious new objective -- climbing and skiing all 50 of the lines and mountains chronicled in the book, “The Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America”. A longtime coffee table favorite of skiers, the book highlights some of the most beautiful and challenging ski lines on the continent. And rather than just count a 'descent' as a success, Cody decided that the FIFTY Project would include *climbing* each one of them (a few of the lines are often skied via heli-drop, rather than a human-powered approach).

It's a spectacular goal, and accompanied by his intrepid videographer Bjarne Salén (himself an accomplished skier and award-winning filmmaker), and a few friends along the way, Cody has been documenting each line on his Youtube channel. Now at 27 lines, it's probably the adventure content I look forward to the most. It's real, raw, funny, and at times gripping. Somehow you come out of every episode feeling like you know Cody a little bit better, and if you're even remotely into skiing, a bit inspired to push your limits.

These aren't sexy helicopter videos of skiers ripping Alaskan spines. Each episode is a real look at the planning that goes into each route, the decisions being made, recognizing how f*cking tough ski mountaineering can be, and the reality that mountaineering involves some pretty shitty skiing most of the time. But hey, as Cody says in Episode 26 -  "Marriage Test in the Mountains" -- "It's called skiing because you have skis on". 

As Cody describes it, "While this project’s completion may stand as one of the biggest accomplishments in skiing, my paramount objective for The Fifty is to have one hell of a good time."

While you should definitely take the time to go through the entire 27 episodes so far, here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order).

This is definitely one of the "gripped" episodes. This is a stout line on Mt Shuksan, in Washington.

Sometimes the skiing is shitty, and sometimes, it's 6,000 ft of pure stoke.

This is a great episode not only because it very intentionally includes a bailed first attempt and the reasoning behind it, but because this line doesn't really exist anymore after a massive rockslide last spring.

A bit different than the rest of the lines, the Spearhead Traverse is worth a watch just for the hilarity of Cody on skinny skis.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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