From their outdoor activities to their professional means, these locals are fueled by their passion of pursuit and place. It's not always easy living in a mountain town, but from powder mornings to post-work projects, it’s this shared love that creates a community and connects us all. Through drive, sacrifice and creative determination, these locals have chosen passion first. This season, we bring you their stories - stories that continue to inspire us in our ever-evolving pursuit of the mountain life.
Living in Aspen and fueled by a passion matched by few, Christy Mahon takes the concept of weekend warrior to the next level. While working as the development director for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, she became the first woman to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado's 14,000 foot peaks and the only woman to ski the 100 highest peaks in Colorado. This feat - achieved on weekends and holidays - earned her a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nomination. Last summer she ran the 93-mile wonderland trail around Mount Rainier and this year she plans to do the 110 mile circumnavigation around Europe's Mount Blanc. We caught up with Christy to ask her a few questions about living the mountain life.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I am nestled in Aspen, Colorado. Now into my 21st year, I think I’m here for the long haul…
How did you choose to live there?
I’m a mountain girl. I just feel at home in the mountains. Growing up in Denver I had great access to the mountains but by the time I graduated college the traffic and sprawling metro area made the mountains feel too far. I need to be able to adventure “from the house”. I had two girlfriends who had moved to Aspen and it had this small town feeling with the culture of a big city.
What is special about living there?
Big ideas and big mountains. I love living in a tight knit community where you share the same passion for exploring and enjoying wilderness. Protecting the environment that provides us with so much is also a goal shared by many here. I am inspired by people who are constantly pushing themselves to be better in all aspects of their life. Aspen is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful wilderness in the country, the Elk Mountain Range, two incredible hut systems, and four ski areas.
When it comes to living the mountain town life, what are some of the greatest challenges you’ve had to cope with and how have you made it work so well?
Living in a mountain town you learn to live with less, even here in Aspen. Real estate is expensive, so you live without things like garage, storage, or a yard. This can be really hard with a lot of gear. Instead you learn to enjoy the thousands of acres outside your front door like they are yours. You buy less “stuff”. You realize that the most valuable ‘things’ in life are experiences and relationships. For me, simple mountain living redefines what it means to be rich.
What is unique about the community in your mountain town that you wouldn’t find other places?
Aspen is a small mountain town that has an ethereal feel about it, sort of a magnetic energy. It not only has amazing ski history, but it has world-class music, art, literature, food & wine, and culture. And in addition, its surrounded by some of the most breathtaking wilderness in the country. I also don’t know if you can get as much vertical skiing in a one-hour lunch than you can here in Aspen. I’m on a quest to find a place that rivals Aspen Mountain but haven’t found it yet.
Do you do anything to give back to your community?
My community as given me so much so I try my hardest to pay it forward. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the role models that I looked up to when I moved here and the examples they set for me. Because of that I give back as much as I can; from being a mentor to aspiring women mountaineers, to serving on the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association Board, to working at a local environmental non-profit, to showing up and participating in city events, races, and votes. I love giving back to the community that has given me so much.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while climbing mountains?
Early on I realized that climbing mountains is the best place to feel both very small and very large at once. I love being dwarfed by the natural world but at the same time feeling an integral part of it. Connected to the sounds and scents of the forest, the sunlight on the ground, the fresh, clean air — these things give me a sense of comfort and a realization that we are ourselves part of this grand universe and its natural cycle.
How do you find balance between your professional career and mountain pursuits?
Honestly, finding work/life balance has been something I’ve been struggling with lately. It was a goal of mine last year and I did not succeed. I hate failing. But instead of being negative and beating myself up about it, I am implementing some new tools for the year ahead and determined to figure it out. I think in our culture we need to honor our personal goals as much as our professional goals if not even more. These pursuits are what make us interesting and happy people, and ultimately better at our jobs.
What is your favorite aspect of living the mountain life?
Hands down it is the access to the outdoors. It is being able to get up every morning and get in a 3,000 vertical foot skin or an awesome two-hour run in the forest before going to work. Or having 12-hour days in the mountains with friends, disconnected from your phones, emails, and worries. The mountains keep us young and goal-oriented. It is the ability to feel like your squeezing every drop of life out of every day. Time goes by fast and I love knowing that at least I’m making the most of it.