Pro Photographer, Adventurer Matt Gibson Tells us Where to Find the Best Ski Area in the US

Matt GibsonTo trav­el around the Unit­ed States in search of the sick­est adven­tures and ski slopes; sounds like true liv­ing, does­n’t it? Adven­ture writer and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Matt Gib­son has spent the last por­tion of his life doing just that. Need­less to say, I want­ed the inside scoop.

Alec Ross: Tell me about your cur­rent endeav­or to find the best ski resort in the US.
Matt Gib­son: My girl­friend Emi­lie and I are trav­el­ing around the West­ern USA look­ing for the best ski area. So far we’ve been to hills in Utah, Wyoming, and Cal­i­for­nia. We’re check­ing out the hills and inter­view­ing locals to find out what makes each spot unique. We’re also inspect­ing as many craft beers and hot tubs as possible.

AR: Liv­ing the life! What are some iden­ti­fi­able char­ac­ter­is­tics of some of these places?
MG: It varies from area to area and usu­al­ly depends on the local char­ac­ter. Grand Targhee and Jack­son Hole are very remote and steep and get tons of snow, so they have a very small-town feel and attract a breed of hard­core ath­lete that’s will­ing to live in rel­a­tive iso­la­tion for their sport. Squaw Val­ley and Heav­en­ly on Lake Tahoe, in con­trast, are mas­sive des­ti­na­tions with vis­i­tors from around the world. They have all the glitz and glam of Hol­ly­wood. Utah’s hills, like the state, are visu­al­ly and geo­graph­i­cal spec­tac­u­lar, huge­ly under­rat­ed, and fre­quent­ed by extreme­ly friend­ly locals.

AR: Besides the local lagers, what inspired you to pur­sue such an exten­sive endeavor?
MG: I grew up in British Colum­bia, Cana­da, start­ed ski­ing at 3 and snow­board­ing at 12. After uni­ver­si­ty, I moved to Asia and stayed for six more years. So, when I moved to Salt  Lake City and took over writ­ing the snow­board­ing guide for About.com last fall, I saw the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to tour to all the epic ski hills I’d seen in movies grow­ing up. Salt Lake City hap­pens to be the geo­graph­ic cen­ter of all the best ski hills in the USA.  We can dri­ve pret­ty much any­where in under 8 hours.

AR: You’re also a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. What are the advan­tages of that skill with­in your adven­ture writing?
MG: It def­i­nite­ly has some advan­tages. On the most basic lev­el, it’s one less per­son to coor­di­nate with when plan­ning or doing activ­i­ties, and that sim­pli­fied things a lot. But there’s a flip side to that. Some­times doing both jobs is very demand­ing and it’s hard as one per­son to give both the atten­tion it needs to be done right.

AR: Do you find that doing both these dis­ci­plines gives you a more inti­mate involve­ment with the final product?
MG: Def­i­nite­ly. One of my favorite sec­tions on my web­site is the pho­to essay sec­tion. Since I take the pho­tos and recall the emo­tions that were evoked at the moment. I think that I’m able to tell a more per­son­al and poignant sto­ry than if the pho­tos and text were pro­vid­ed by two dif­fer­ent people.

AR: What is your goal in the work that you do?
MG: To write nov­els that help peo­ple under­stand their lives and the work­ings of the world. Adven­ture trav­el writ­ing is a way for me to earn a liv­ing doing things I love until I am able to achieve that.

AR: Tell me about some of the crazy expe­ri­ences you’ve had dur­ing your travels.
MG: Well… I once drove up the side of Mount Kin­a­balu at night on a motor­cy­cle with no head­lights. That was prob­a­bly the scari­est thing that’s hap­pened. Then, the next day I got caught in a mon­soon on the motor­bike in the mid­dle of nowhere. It took me about 8 hours of dri­ving in the pour­ing rain and wind to get to a hotel. I’ve also swum with whale sharks and once bathed in a pool of burn­ing water (methane gas bub­bling up from a crack in the bot­tom ignit­ed when it reached the sur­face). Those are prob­a­bly the most mem­o­rable experiences.

AR: Incred­i­ble. Life’s expe­ri­ences teach you many lessons. What have you learned in all your travels?
MG: The most impor­tant les­son I’ve learned is when you jump into a sit­u­a­tion where it’s sink or swim, you’ll usu­al­ly swim. Fear of the unknown is total­ly ratio­nal, but it does­n’t account for your abil­i­ty to adapt, impro­vise, and push your lim­its in order to suc­ceed. Adven­ture does not con­sist of cross­ing deserts or swim­ming chan­nels. Adven­ture occurs any time you put your­self in a sit­u­a­tion where the out­come is uncer­tain and you must con­front the unknown in order to come out suc­cess­ful. I guess what I’m try­ing to say is chal­leng­ing your­self is key to per­son growth, and that when you do chal­lenge your­self, you’ll often be amazed by what you’re capa­ble of. Every­one should be amazed. We’re all amaz­ing people.

mg2Matt Gib­son is an adven­ture trav­el writer and pho­tog­ra­ph­er and the blog man­ag­er for the Flight Net­work Blog.  For more adven­ture good­ness, read about more of his adven­tures on his blog or fol­low him on Face­book or Twit­ter.

Writ­ten by Alec Ross