The Fifty Project: The Mountain Why (Film)

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The Mountain Why is the latest film in the Fifty Project series, and it follows professional skiers Cody Townsend and Michelle Parker on a 1,000-mile bikepacking journey to ski three iconic mountains on the West Coast, all by human-powered travel. Watch the full 40-minute film here…

Back in June of last year, following months of scheming up a meaningful physical and mental challenge to replace all of their other plans that had been canceled due to the pandemic, professional freeskiers (and beginner bikepackers) Cody Townsend and Michelle Parker set off on a 35-day, 1,000-mile bikepacking and ski mountaineering journey along the West Coast of the United States. The pair of lifelong friends left California’s Lake Tahoe region and started pedaling north toward Washington state with around 100 pounds of camping and skiing gear attached to their bikes (an Ibis Hakka MX and a Specialized Diverge, for those wondering).

  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker

Along the way, their goal was to climb and ski Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and El Dorado Peak, three of the 50 iconic North American lines chronicled in the book The 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, which Cody has been working toward skiing as part of his project called “The Fifty.” All total, they skied 20,000 feet of vertical terrain, using only human-powered travel to get there, which meant riding as high as they could before getting off their bikes to hike the remaining distance before ultimately strapping on their skis for the well-earned descent.

  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker

The nearly 40-minute film above documents the many highs and lows of their trip as they ride, hike, and ski through some of the West Coast’s most stunning landscapes. Despite their almost nonchalant approach to undertaking this extraordinarily demanding physical and emotional challenge, there are plenty of moments when the cracks begin to show. In that sense, it’s a very real and reflective film that goes well beyond simply showcasing an impressive feat by two accomplished professional athletes. Between exhaustion, mechanicals, unmet expectations, and working through issues in their personal lives and in the greater world around them, Cody and Michelle both put themselves through the wringer to reach the final summit in Washington.

  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker

“I honestly don’t know why adventures like this spark inspiration,” said Townsend. “But what I do know is that desire to find out what’s at the end of the road is a magnetic source of energy, and that curiosity to find out what’s out there around the next corner, or even just what is deep inside myself, is the fuel for my adventure engine.”

The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker
  • The Mountain Why
  • The Fifty, The Mountain Why, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker

You can find a ton of additional videos from the Fifty Project over on Cody’s YouTube channel. Keep up with Cody and Michelle on Instagram @codytownsend and @myshellparker. The Mountain Why was a produced in conjunction with Salomon and YETI and supported by Red Bull.

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