Hi FREESKIER faithful! My name is Troy Murphy. I’m a 2018 Winter Olympian and ex-mogul skier who left the sport I’ve pursued my whole life to live out my dream of freeskiing across the world. This year, I’m hitting the road to make that dream a reality. Armed with a snowmobile, camper, camera gear and some buds, I’ll chase snow all winter throughout the North American West. The chronicles of this adventure will be posted here, on freeskier.com. Follow along!
As my buddy Blake Wilson says, it’s not an adventure until shit starts falling off your rig. If you believe in that definition, then we just had quite an epic adventure. On the morning of January 27, we finally finished the camper. By that afternoon Chris and I had set sail, and neither of us had ever driven something this large. For the first hour, we collected a traffic line of homeward bound Sunday River skiers that must have stretched two miles behind us down Maine’s Route 26. We got the hang of it pretty fast, however, and made a non-stop dash for Utah where we’d finish up some last minute details and pack up for Canada. We quickly realized that you can’t move too fast in the rig. For a while, we were trying to push 75 miles per hour, but our fuel efficiency tanked to a horrendous 4.8 miles per gallon. We’d have to stop literally every hour to fill our tanks. Finally, we smartened up and found that the sweet spot is right around 63 miles per hour. This gets our mileage closer to 9 miles per gallon, which is still quite painful but a big step up from the high 4s.
One week later, on Superbowl Sunday, Chris, Blake Wilson and I cruised out of Park City at about 5:30 p.m., so eager to get to British Columbia that we skipped out on watching the big game (Hell yeah, Pats!). The crew who made last year’s ski flick Strictly Business were in Golden, British Columbia, for a few more days and we planned to link up with them. So, with Sirius XM radio relaying scenes from the football game we started trucking north to British Columbia.
We arrived in Golden the next afternoon amidst the brutal Polar Vortex. I don’t think our thermometer would read much more than 0 degrees Fahrenheit for the entirety of our time there. Day one was highlighted by wrenching. We fixed our trailer jack which got smashed on our drive out, changed our clutch weights on our sleds for lower altitude and prepared for the next day’s riding. We made it up to the alpine late in the afternoon and linked up with the Strictly Business crew who had been in the area for about a week and had just finished building two wedges for a jump session the next day. It was too late in the day to click into our skis, but we got a lay of the land, made some nice turns on the sleds, and made a plan with the boys to hit the trail at 6 a.m. the next morning. We’d all meet in a backcountry hut in the zone we planned to ski, build a fire, heat up some breakfast burritos and gather ourselves for a day in the mountains.
The next morning, after a frigid ride up in the dark, we made it to the hut, got the wood stove going and waited for the sun to cast its light over the jump site. Chris, Blake and I took some warm-up laps to get a feel for the snow and then we headed down to join the boys on the jump. This was my first time hitting a real backcountry jump in quite a while, and I quickly took a couple tricks to my back. I tried to convert my air sense from the tiny mogul jumps I’m used to, to the bigger natural hit I was facing. By the end of the day, I got my confidence up a bit and landed a few tricks. I also tossed a mogul-style back full bigger than I ever had before. Even though I took that to my back as well, it was still a real crowd pleaser amongst the boys.
The next morning, in a spur of the moment call, we decided to start cruising west. The Strictly Business boys were headed back stateside for a week of rest (they had been in Canada for a few weeks) and we were seeking out a more stable snowpack in coastal British Columbia. We stopped on Rogers Pass for a quick ski tour and then cruised down to Revelstoke to get food, fuel and, most importantly, stop by the aquatics center for a much-needed soak and shower. My hot tub session was a bit too relaxing; at about 7 p.m. during our stop at the gas station I loaded the F-550 up with 94 octane fuel instead of diesel. I wouldn’t recommend trying this move. Luckily, we noticed before starting the vehicle, I called AAA, and we waited for a tow truck to come and haul it off to have the tank and filters drained. This was the start of a very long night and a string of additional problems.
Coincidentally, while we were dealing with my fuel mistake, our trailer lost power. It was supposed to be charging from the truck whilst we drove, but for some reason, this wasn’t the case. Now we were stuck in front of the pump at the Revelstoke Chevron station with a truck we couldn’t start, attached to a trailer with no power—meaning no generator, no heat, no trailer jack, nothing. We began to estimate when our water tanks would freeze, and we scrambled to find a place to plug in. Our tow truck came by and the driver did laps around the truck in disbelief. He disgruntledly muttered that there was no way his truck could tow us, and said he’d have to come back later with a bigger one. Come to find out he would never come back, but we were lucky to get another company to haul the truck up the road to a shop.
Meanwhile, back at the gas station, we got to work trying to get the trailer unhooked an electric jack that had no power. Once it was free we had it towed to the hotel next door by a good buddy in Revelstoke. Chris got permission from the lady at the front desk for us to plug into their outlets, but once we parked trailer we found that none of the outlets were strong enough to charge the batteries. After running an extension cord along the entire length of the hotel hallway and into the laundry room we found one that gave us just enough voltage to slowly charge. We were up until 2:30 a.m. watching our meter tick up volt by volt until we had enough to start our generator, re-gain heat and finally hit the hay for the night.
We got the truck back from the mechanic late the next afternoon and hit the road on another overnight mission to Pemberton where conditions were green and the snow seemed to be skiing well. Unfortunately, we’d hit our next speed bump that night. Apparently, British Columbia’s infamous Duffey Lake Road has limited services late at night, and we found a stretch without an open gas station. At 2 a.m. our fuel gauge struck 0 miles next to Duffey Lake. With no phone service, there was nothing we could do. Defeated, we climbed back into the trailer for another night of sleep away from our destination.
At 7 a.m. the next morning nature called and I climbed down from my bunk and headed out into the freezing cold to take care of business. I knew we were going to have to hitch a ride to town to either get diesel fuel or cell service, but I didn’t expect a ride to come as quickly as it did. Right as I was walking back to the camper a plow truck came rumbling down the road. I figured this was as good a chance as any, so I flagged him down. He pulled off the road next to our rig and I climbed up on the plow to get high enough for him to see me through his passenger side window. After a brief explanation of our situation, he offered to bring me down to the bottom of the mountain where most people get cell service. From there I could make my second call to AAA in 48 hours, this time asking them to deliver some diesel fuel (not 94 octane—lesson learned) to our truck. On the ride down he told me tales of the road, like the one time he was plowing and got ran off the highway by a logging truck and was stuck in his cab for 15 hours before help arrived. I realized why everyone in the area treated the Duffey with such respect. After some explaining, the AAA agent said she would send some diesel up the road from Pemberton. I hitched a ride halfway back to the truck with a group going for a ski tour and then got another ride all the way to the truck with a crew going sled skiing. If we learned one thing from our mishaps it was that Canadians are super friendly, super helpful people.
Once diesel arrived and we replenished our fuel supply, we drove the remainder of the way to Pemberton. Upon pulling into town for some lunch and supplies we noticed that one of our trailer tires went flat. It sunk in that this day would not be spent sled skiing as we had hoped, but instead, we’d be finding a spare tire to fix our flat. We finally pulled into our intended trailhead at dusk, and after parking and setting up camp we got beta from the local sledders that the wind had destroyed just about every bit of soft snow on the mountain. Again discouraged, we went to bed having made the decision to just go up the next day to scope things out for ourselves.
We rode about 30 miles the next day through whipping winds, and while most of the terrain was brutally scoured, we did find a couple of sheltered pockets where we could get some skiing done. We spent the remainder of the day building a jump for the next morning. After a few nights of low morale, that night we were stoked to finally have a productive plan for the next morning. We knew we could get something done. Come 7 a.m., however, that plan shifted. We awoke to freezing cold temperatures in the camper and our battery meter read 0 volts. Again we had no lights, no heat, no generator. Chris decided he’d take one for the team and head into town to troubleshoot the camper with cell service while Blake and I went out to pillage the jump we’d built.
Again I was humbled at the jump site. I landed a subpar 7 and then committed to trying a double for the rest of the session. I’d find myself slamming into the landing time after time to no avail. Blake landed a couple of nice tricks, and once the landing couldn’t take another slam we decided to call it a day. We rode down the groomer anxious to hear what Chris had done to fix the camper. His face said it all when we parked our sleds in the lot: no luck. We loaded up the sleds and headed into town for service and to formulate a plan. After having our asses handed to us for over the week, we decided to head stateside with our tails between our legs. We’d make a stop to do some storm skiing at Mt. Baker the following day and then cruise to Salt Lake City to fix the camper, gather ourselves and prepare for the next trip.
As I write this on my couch in Park City the camper is being fixed. From the sounds of it, our converter got fried, which is why our generator and truck plugin wouldn’t charge our batteries. A pretty simple fix for a problem that ended our British Columbia trip early, but at least we’re back pointing in the right direction. The plan as of now is to ride some storm snow in the central Wasatch for a few days, then pick up the trailer and head north to Logan, Utah, for a week or so to ski and get our program a bit more dialed before sending on a larger mission. We definitely learned a lot this trip, like don’t put gas in a diesel engine, test your equipment before you have to put all your faith in it and be patient with your plan, meaning don’t just scramble onto the highway at the whisper of better conditions. I wish we had done more skiing this trip; we saw some amazing terrain that I definitely want to come back to, but I knew going into this winter that there would be a learning curve. I’ve taken a lot out of this first adventure, and am psyched and more prepared for the next one.