One Spokane man’s epic odyssey of finding and skiing on snow for 100 consecutive months… and counting!

click to enlarge Nick Pontarolo's audacious goal started with a year of skiing, which even took him to the Himalayas in Afghanistan. - COURTESY PHOTO

Courtesy photo

Nick Pontarolo’s audacious goal started with a year of skiing, which even took him to the Himalayas in Afghanistan.

I recently read an article about a guy who set out to break a Guinness World Record by paddling a canoe, solo, from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico. He admittedly had no business setting out in a canoe for a 5,000-mile-long journey. He didn’t even own a canoe or a paddle. He said he just needed a change and a goal.

In late 2013, I found myself in those crosshairs. I needed a change and a goal.

I also don’t own a canoe, so I opted for a more manageable goal of trying to ski 12 consecutive months. Soon this goal would morph into an addiction, spanning eight years and sometimes feeling like a burden. But this change and goal mentality cemented friendships, created fitness and fostered mental clarity. So, if you’re reading this and you need a change and a goal, here are the highs and lows of skiing every month for 100 consecutive months… and counting.


The first 12 months certainly acted as the most interesting in terms of objectives. I had recently graduated from the Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School and wanted to climb and ski the volcanoes in the Cascades, part of what’s called the Ring of Fire. I found myself sleeping in tents, driving for hours in the dark and walking in the rain by myself. Eventually I skied Hood, Adams, Rainier, St. Helens and Glacier Peak. Farther afield, I was even fortunate enough to hit the Himalayas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Big objectives and, no doubt, fun. In those first 12 months, I developed the key friendships and alpine mountaineering skills to safely gain access to the endless snow-covered mountains in the Cascade Range.

Months 12 through 24 felt more relaxed. This kept the burden of planning, traveling and trying to find partners at bay. I found myself using Shane McConkey-like snow blades to parade around Lost Trail Ski Area, Camp Muir and our local resorts. On a summer day under sunny skies on Mount Hood, I skied volcanic sand and bulletproof glacial ice in the same day, followed by dirty martinis and dehydrated beef stroganoff.

Year three dealt me a physical blow that I thought would derail the open-ended goal of skiing year-round. About 10 minutes into an indoor soccer game, my Achilles tendon decided to take a timeout, rupturing in two. Fortunately, I had August in the bag, but I was not counting on September or October now. Behind the scenes, a covert group bought a sit ski and a bike carrier to pedal me to the Silcox Hut on the lower flanks of Mount Hood. They tied me into their climbing harnesses, using my pole outriggers to stabilize me, and we set off down the snowfield. Like I said, key friendships.

click to enlarge In the summer months, finding snow can be a trick, but the Selkirks in Idaho have some hidden stashes. - COURTESY PHOTO

Courtesy photo

In the summer months, finding snow can be a trick, but the Selkirks in Idaho have some hidden stashes.


Month 58 solved an elusive problem and started a grand, yet brutal tradition. August is notoriously difficult to find snow, especially inland. I’d been snubbed before in the Selkirks, forcing a long drive, but I felt that if I went deep enough into the range, the snow would appear. My brother-in-law and I set out for McCormick Bowl above Priest Lake. Mostly bouldering and bushwhacking our way in, I could find snow deep under the sheer cliffs of Gunsight Mountain. Half snow, half concise fall tucked away in the shadows high up on the cliff walls. McCormick Bowl has never failed me, and thankfully so because the difficult hike, with unlimited route choices and seemingly always inclement weather, takes eight to 10 hours.

Entering my fifth year of skiing year-round, I managed a special first: My dad finally got to see me ski, albeit for a short but steep run down an ice field below Mount Roothaan, near Nordman, Idaho. Our family was not a ski family. We were a ski bus family. Both my mom and dad support my skiing, but they had never had an opportunity to see me ski. As the next month started creeping to a close, I planned a trip into the Selkirks. My dad asked if he could join. In hindsight, I think it was an excuse to see me ski and pick huckleberries all day.

If you’re going to set out to do something that involves at least an entire day, at least once a month, every month, for years, you better think about making it fun for others—specifically your spouse. In year six, I learned to “ski the cusp,” which is linking September and October at Mount Hood. We stay the night stay at the historic Timberline Lodge, and I hike up to the snowfields to make turns on both days, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The shoulder season at Timberline is the best

No crowds, an occasional dusting of new snow, and you’re likely to meet other cusp skiers on the hike up.

click to enlarge For month 100, this February, Nick and Donna brought their 5-month-old daughter, Sunny, along for the occasion at Mount Spokane. - COURTESY PHOTO

Courtesy photo

For month 100, this February, Nick and Donna brought their 5-month-old daughter, Sunny, along for the occasion at Mount Spokane.


Entering year seven, I found out we were having a baby girl. I achieved my original goal of 12 months, which then got me to 50, which then fueled my desire for 100. Knowing that I had a daughter on the way made my desire to achieve 100 even more real. I looked at the calendar and my Complete and Authoritative Guide to Caring for Your Baby and Young Child from Birth to Age 5. It could work, I thought. February 2022 will be 100 consecutive months of skiing. My daughter, Sunny, would be 5 months old. Her mother, Donna, would have her ski legs back.

Last week, on Feb. 1, 2022, we drove up to Mount Spokane. A small group of friends joined us in the parking lot. We dressed Sunny in her pink down puffy suit and baby ski goggles. With butterflies in my stomach, I put her in the carrier and lifted her onto my back. We set out together, as a family for month 100. It was clear and cold. As we skinned up, I would like to say Sunny smiled the entire time and made all the cute baby noises, but she didn’t. She had a little cold, and I had to stop a few times and calm her down. As we crested the first roll, I decided to rip skins and ski down.

It was surreal having my young daughter on my back, her mother right beside us, sliding down snow with sticks on our feet. This was not a big line. No boot top powder or face shots. Just a simple hill, doing a simple sport. Sharing the love of skiing. Mom, Dad, daughter and friends.

I know that in 2013 I needed a change and a goal. I know I have accomplished the change. But have I accomplished the goal? Maybe it is ever-changing. A constant moving target to keep me motivated? To keep me engaged? What I know for certain is that being able to share month 100 with my family makes me want to continue the streak — not for me, but for us.

So, if you’re in need of a change and a goal, set your sights on something manageable. Who knows where it will lead? Eight years ago, I never could have guessed I would ski 100 consecutive months, capping it with having my baby daughter on my back for the century ski. ♦

Nick Pontarolo is a Spokane attorney.

Article Source: Inlander