Featuring Local Utah Adventurer and Ski Mountaineer: Adam O’Keefe

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I have been trying to figure out some new directions to go with my blog. I have been mostly writing about my own personal adventures and I have begun to feel a bit narcissistic in a way. So, as a result I am making a section of posts called “Utah Adventurers” featuring other people that I have come in contact with over the last few years that I have spent in Utah.

40079_141490515883592_6678862_nI met Adam O’Keefe online through a mutual Facebook friend. His amazing backcountry skiing and winter mountaineering pictures caught my attention right away! Over the past few months he has given me helpful mountaineering advice and has made an effort to encourage me in my own outdoor endeavors. He was kind enough to answer a few questions that I sent his way, as well.

Adam started young with an appreciation for the outdoors and even noticed that people who were outside more often were happier. After moving from a flatland region to the mountains he became inspired by the beauty and the challenges that they offer. Mountains provide him a unique opportunity to gain achievements and find personal reward by reaching his climbing and skiing goals.

He moved to Utah from the Tetons area in Wyoming to settle down with a girl he had been seeing long distance. Although their relationship did not work out, he found an even deeper love and appreciation for mountains in the Wasatch Range of the Salt Lake area.

A variety of freelance jobs that Adam has pieced together over the last few years provides him with enough cash and freedom to fully pursue his true passion in ski mountaineering.

377225_10151417888132304_1409660408_nHis hardest adventure mentally was being stuck in a wind and snow storm for 7 days in the Alaskan backcountry. Physically, he hiked the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim, on a broken foot.

Adam has been all over the US skiing off the tops of mountains. He said, “Although, I’ve really, really, enjoyed individual lines in the Wasatch, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, the Tetons are my favorite mountain range so far. While access there seems to require huge days, this is only so until one considers what it takes to get anything done above 17,000 ft in Nepal or even in Montana.”

His love for skiing began early in life. He stepped out of bounds for the first time in 2003 which led him into the realm of ski mountaineering. Consequently, ski adventures have taken him for a pretty serious ride over the past 10 years.

5389_735228668778_1465965667_nBeing caught in an avalanche in Laurel Canyon was the most dangerous skiing situation that Adam has been involved in. The face of the headwall broke free and nearly pulled him over the 80 – 100 foot cliff below. Luckily, he was able to arrest and avoid an unsurvivable fall.

Adam’s goal in ski mountaineering is to live a long life despite all the risks and exposure to extreme weather and inhumane conditions that one frequents when stepping deep into the most remote and desolate places of the world.

His advice to fellow ski adventurers is to take in as much information about the backcountry as you can. It is obviously essential to learn about avalanche risk and terrain traps, but Adam emphasizes the risk of icy slopes. There are numerous examples of extremely experienced backcountry skiers all over the US and world that risk steep, icy slopes, lose an edge, and die or get seriously injured.

Adam says, “Skiing adverse, icy conditions at about 42° of angle or less is fine. Above that, it quickly becomes stupid. 706077_923243141887_1138102674_oAvalanches get all the attention and headlines, but I don’t know that they’re the biggest problem. New backcountry users should try to learn about the full gamut of issues they’ll face and master mitigation techniques.”

If you are interested in learning more about Adam’s adventures skiing in the Wasatch and many other ranges, check out his personal adventure blog: Tetons and Wastach

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