AETHER Chasing Winter Video

Dark skies began to creep in from the west as we took a right at Provo and headed up into the Wasatch mountain range  Our fully loaded BMW GSs sped along the canyon road, skis and snowboards strapped to our panniers. Despite our cold-weather gear we could feel the temperature starting to drop. It was going to be close, but if we were lucky, we might beat the snow to Park City. We rolled on the throttle and banked into the next turn. 40 miles to go.

The idea behind Aether Chasing Winter was to combine two of our greatest passions: motorcycle riding and skiing. To get the best of both worlds, we planned a trip up the Rockies in early April, from Telluride to Jackson Hole, hitting the first of the open roads and the last of the spring skiing. We carried all the gear we needed with us on the motorcycles, including poles, boots, and skis. It wasn’t the most practical way to travel, but with the crisp mountain air rushing past and scenic landscape unfolding before us, it was definitely the most exhilarating.

The team consisted of Jonah Smith, Palmer West, and Michael van Vliet of Aether Apparel; Raphael Bertolus of Rawhyde Adventures, the BMW off-road motorcycling camp; and Davide Berruto of Shelter Half, purveyor of handcrafted American-goods. For this journey we rode BMW GSs that were specially modified to carry ski gear, including one, which was outfitted with an off-road sidecar rig.

Our route took us from the idyllic Colorado ski town of Telluride, across the red rock arches of Moab, to the famed slopes of Park City, and up the windswept plains to Jackson Hole. While we had initially rode out in of chase winter, it became clear midway through the trip, winter was in fact chasing us. We battled freezing temperatures, navigation errors, mechanical failures, and a freak spring snow storm. However, despite the hardships, we got to experience the Rockies in a way that few ever have, and probably ever will. It was an adventure, in the true sense of the word, and one we will not soon forget.













AETHER Chasing Winter is Coming


AETHER Chasing Winter

This past April we took a trip through the Rockies, from Telluride to Jackson Hole, hitting the first of the open roads and the last of the spring skiing. We carried all the gear we needed with us on our motorcycles, including poles, boots, and skis. It wasn’t the most practical way to travel, but it was definitely the most exhilarating.

We will be launching a video of our trip shortly. Stay tuned.

Aether Chasing Winter – Jackson (Day 7)

Targhee Lot

After our long ride up from Park City, we were all excited to reach Jackson. The past few days had taken a lot out of us and we were glad to be off the road, but it was sad to realize that our journey would soon be coming to a end.

As we were previously aware, the skiing at Jackson Hole was closed and had been for the past few weeks in order to make safe passage for the annual elk migration. However, there was some still some skiing over in Grand Targhee that we wanted to check out. To get there we needed to travel over the Teton Pass, a winding road through the snow filled mountains. So we loaded up our bikes and saddled up for one last ride out.

The road conditions on the pass were some of the most difficult we’ve experienced so far, with icy patches, melting run-offs, and loose gravel. The temperature was hovering around 32 degrees, so we needed to keep a keen watch out for black ice. However, for the few brief moments our eyes weren’t glued to the road, we got to see some truly spectacular mountain vistas. It really was a fantastic little stretch of road.

As we pulled into Grand Targhee, the conditions on the hill looked pretty good, but an updated weather report now indicated a weather system could be moving in that would make the already treacherous Teton Pass completely impassable.  Not wanted to trust just our smartphones weather apps, we got ahold of an actual ski patrolman who let us look at the resort’s live doppler radar. It looked like we needed to make a decision because there was definitely a chance that things could turn south in the next hour or two.

Standing in a parking lot, looking up at a mountain of with decent snow, it was tough to turn away, but we decided to play it safe and head back to Jackson. We had made it this far without an incident and we didn’t want to push our luck any further. Beside the Teton Pass was difficult enough the first time over.  It was the toughest decisions of the trip, but also the most prudent.

The winter has got to come to an end at some point, no matter how long you chase after it. Do you see it to its very bitter end, despite the risks ? Or do you bring the season to a close on your own terms, with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for having gotten the chance to go this far?

We rode out in search of winter, we caught it, and in the end, decided to let it go. We will see it again next time around. Until then, we will have all summer to plan out the next great winter adventure. And after such an exhilarating trip, we all agree a sequel is in order.


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Aether Chasing Winter – Park City to Jackson (Day 6)

Wyoming road

We awoke in Park City to clear skies and mild-temperatures.  The roads were still slightly wet, but starting to dry. We knew if we were going to make Jackson, we would  have to hit the road now and hope the weather held up for the rest of the day.

This was going to be the coldest leg of our journey by far, with highway-speed wind chill and temperatures in the mid-high 30′s.  None of us had ridden in temperatures this low before for any length of time, never mind the 5-6 hours of travel time our route was predicted to take.

We doubled up on socks, long-underwear, and thermal baselayers. Then underneath our Canyon and Skyline motorcycle jackets we layered Space Jackets and Altos. Some of us even opted for one of each. It was going to be a long haul up to Jackson and we wanted to be prepared for however cold it got.

Out on the road, we quickly got a sense that this wasn’t going to be an entirely pleasant experience.  For the first part of the morning we were straining to scan the road for ice. The temperatures were above freezing, but some melting patches remained off to the sides. The last thing any of us wanted was to catch some coming around a shady corner.  Then, as we approached the high desert plains of Wyoming, the wind started to kick up something fierce and batted us around the road. Heavy crosswind forced us to pitch our bikes at a 45 degree angle just to keep them running in a straight line. Further along, we had to keep an sharp eye out for deer. Countless times we’d spot a group of them off on the side of the road, just waiting for their chance to leap out in front of us.

We knew we were in the homestretch when we saw the Teton mountains coming up on the horizon in front of us, with their massive snow-capped peaks rising steeply from the flat wind-swept plains. The road into Jackson was one of the most picturesque we’ve seen this trip, with the late-afternoon light outlining the ridges and casting deep shadows in the valleys.

The sun was just starting to set  and the temperature beginning to fall as we pulled into Jackson Hole.  We had made it, and just in time too. None of us knew how much longer would could have gone on.  When we got to the hotel we couldn’t be happier to find a roaring fireplace in the lobby. After such a frigid death-slog , we were in need of some major defrosting.

We will spend the next day here in Jackson and see what type of trouble we can’t get ourselves into.

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Wyoming Snow

Wyoming Road WInd

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Aether Chasing Winter – Park City Again (Day 5)

Park City Sign2 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Winter Storm Walda was showing no signs of letting up this morning, dumping another 6-8 inches during the night. We had intended to start our trek up to Jackson Hole today, but it looked like we were going to be snowed in for a while longer.

We all met early  at a coffeeshop to discuss our options and decided to ski the morning, when the snow would be the best, and see if things warmed up in the afternoon. With little delay, we were on the chairlift headed to the top of the mountain.  The temperature drop during the night had taken all the moisture out of the snow, turning it into a fine dusty powder. Fresh powder in April, we couldn’t believe our luck. 

The atmosphere on the hill was near euphoric.  With 1-2 feet of fresh powder covering just about every run, people could hardly contain their excitement. In line at the lift, everyone was hooting and hollering as they finished up their runs.  Shouts of encouragement came frequently from the chairlift as skiers passed below. Even the occasional wipeout elicited warm-hearted cheers from all around.  Every local we spoke to unanimously agreed, this was by far the best day of the entire season.

Around 2:00 PM the sun started to come out and while we were having an absolute blast, we decided to come back down to see how the roads were shaping up. For the most part they were starting to clear, but the temperature was still hanging around the mid-20′s.  We took the bikes out for a brief test ride around town, but concern over icy conditions forced us to return.  We would have to wait another day to see if riding conditions improved.

The weather forecast indicated there would be a window tomorrow. The temperatures would rise into the high 30′s and the skies should be clear for Wednesday, but then return back to a freezing wintery mix on Thursday. We would have to make the trip up to Jackson Hole in one shot, something we had not anticipated doing. So until then, we retired to the High West Saloon & Distillery to strategize  our plans for the next day. 

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Surly Bastads

Warning Experty Terrain Only2 Palmer Park City2

too cold to ride

Mountain High West

Aether Chasing Winter – Park City (Day 4)

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Last night we pulled into Park City under a light drizzle of freezing rain, but this morning we awoke to find snow coming down hard.  We had found winter, or rather, winter had found us.

This freak April snowstorm was a terrific stroke of luck, but it completely ruled out any major travel for the next 24 hours. So we altered our plans slightly and decided to hunker down in Park City to take advantage of the fresh powder. Out on main street,  we unloaded our skis from the bikes, suited up for the slopes, and walked across the street to the lifts.

With temperatures in the high 20′s, a constant stream of new snow coming down, and 8-10 inches of fresh powder already accumulated on the slopes, we were in for an unexpected treat. Skiing in Telluride was most definitely spring skiing, but this felt like it could have been the middle of December. A few times we got turned-around due to low-visibility and ended up on a different side of the mountain than we were expecting. As the day started to come to an end were forced to hop lift to lift to get back to where we needed to be.

After a long day we retired for the day. We checked the weather again and the storm didn’t look like it would be letting up anytime soon, so the next day’s plans were going to depend entirely on the conditions in the morning. We would love to get out and ride a little ways, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we were “forced” to ski another day in Park City.

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Aether Chasing Winter – Moab to Park City (Day 3)

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Early to bed, early to rise. And rise we did, long before the sun got up.  The day’s agenda was to head north from Moab to Park City, but before we did, we couldn’t help but take a detour into the Arches National Park.

With tremendous effort we dragged ourselves from bed and onto our bikes as the skies started to fill with dawn light . While we had seen the iconic landscape in old westerns and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, seeing it in person was truly an otherworldly experience. Stone archways, narrow buttes, and sheer mesa cliffs of blazing red rock spanned across the horizon like the surface of a foreign planet. Captivated by the beauty of the park, we spent most of the morning exploring before heading back into town for a late breakfast.

In town, we got a weather update that a snow storm was moving into Park City earlier than we  had expected.  If we didn’t want to get caught riding through it, then we would really have to jam our way up there.  Not knowing what weather to expect, we suited up in our warmest gear and started our power blitz northwards.

The roads in Utah are straight, well-paved, and sparsely populated, which, to a group of motorcyclists trying to get someplace in a hurry, is an extremely enticing scenario. We won’t go into any incriminating details, but it highly possible we set a new land speed record for Moab to Park City.

As we pulled into Park City, the temperate had begun to drop and a light freezing rain started to fall. It definitely wasn’t the snow we were hoping for, but whatever it was, we were just happy not to be riding in it.We stay here in Park City and will see what the weather brings in the morning.

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Moab Side car

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Aether Chasing Winter – Telluride to Moab (Day 2)

Motorcycles at base of mountain

Aether Chasing Winter – Telluride to Moab (Day 2) 

Having flown in the day before, we were ready to hit the slopes first thing in the morning. From the hotel, we rode into town and snagged a spot right in front of the main gondola entrance – thanks to Telluride’s lenient motorcycle parking rules. Standing on the sidewalk, we switched out our jackets, helmets, and boots; unstrapped our skis, boards, and poles; and jumped on the next gondola heading up the mountain.

Due to our tight schedule, we were only able to do a quick half-day session, but we could have easily spent an entire week exploring the mountain’s extensive network of runs.  Tightly groomed corduroy in the morning slowly gave way to some softer, wetter stuff by noon, with the temperatures hanging around the mid 50′s. A little scratchy, a little slushy, it was definitely late spring skiing at its finest.

After getting a bunch of runs in during the morning, we returned to the bikes for a quick bite to eat before we departed. We knocked off the snow, stowed away our gear, switched back to our motorcycle jackets, and were once again ready to hit the road.

From Telluride we struck out west, riding through pine-filled forests, grassy farmlands, and red rock canyons. It was remarkable how quickly and drastically the scenery changed around us. As we pulled into the dusty desert town of Moab, the alpine quaintness of Telluride felt worlds away.

Here we will spend the night, before turning northwards towards Park City.  After a half-day on the slopes and a half-day on the bikes, we’re all experiencing a full-body exhaustion. So we’ll turn in early tonight,  rejuvenate our strength, and maybe get up early to explore the Arches before we hit the road again….

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Top of Telluride

Palmer top of Telluride

Colorado Road

Road to Moab

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Aether Chasing Winter – LA to Telluride (Day 1)

Boarding the Plan in Telluride

Aether Chasing Winter – LA to Telluride (Day 1) 

In the pre-dawn darkness we departed Los Angeles in route to Telluride.  We had shipped our motorcycles out on a flat-bed two days previous and were going to be arriving just in time to meet them.  In Denver, we switched planes to a turboprop Beech 1900D, an aircraft about the size of a Honda Odyssey. Piloted by recent graduates of the Youth Academy for Aviation, we made our way into the turbulent spring weather of the Rockies.

For any who has ever enjoyed twin prop regional flying, all we can say is that we got the full treatment.  Gusting winds had us bucking from side to side and air pockets had us clinging to our seats as we suddenly dropped. On final approach to the tiny stripe of tarmac known as  Telluride Regional Airport arrived, we could see the runway zigging and zagging through the pilots’ front window.  Thankfully the boy wonders got us on the ground safely, and we could continue on to Telluride.

We proceed into town and where we met up with our motorcycles. After spending the afternoon loading up our gear, we took a short ride around to test out our equipment and cold-weather clothing.  Down in the valley it was dry and fairly warm, but the mountains immediately surrounding us were still covered in snow. Conditions looked perfect.

The town of Telluride is unlike any other ski town we’ve been seen before. Somehow its managed to stave off excessive development from major chain stores and other national franchises. Allegedly there is a Starbucks in it somewhere, but we couldn’t find it. We took a gondola ride into the mountains and from high above the town looks very must like it must have about 50 years ago.

We stay the night here in Telluride, hit the slopes in the morning, and then get on the road to Moab.

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Beech 1900 Engine

Gear Prep

Gondilla to Telluride