This is my online home for sharing some of my life's adventures, many of which include family, friends and the great outdoors. Hopefully you find it entertaining, useful and/or inspiring. Some content is meant for me and those close to me. Other content is meant to be used as a resource or inspiration for your own adventures. However you spend your time here, I hope you enjoy it.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


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DIA - ANC - TLK - Kahiltna Base Camp

"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
-Traditional Gaelic Prayer

The Alaska Range rising up to meet us.
The Alaska Range

Ski Denali - Part 1: DIA

Saying goodbye at DIA
Saying goodbye at DIA.
I was ready to go.  This was the moment I had long been anticipating.  I had prepared for years, sorting out the details of what it took and what I needed to climb and ski from North America's highest point.  

It was something that my grandfather had told me about as a youngster. 

It was a life goal I had written down as a Cub Scout.   

I had stared at pictures, read stories and dreamt about it since my childhood.

I had long prepared physically and mentally for the challenges of such an expedition.

I wanted to do it to continue a family legacy and do something that my children can be proud of.

I had an inexplicable feeling that it was something I needed to do.

So why wasn't I thrilled to get started?  The departure is usually when my heart starts to race and I imagine the fantastic adventure that lies ahead.  But, I didn't have that usual feeling of exhilaration as I stepped out of the car at DIA's massive circus-tentesque terminal.

Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Waiting for the flight...thinking.
Perhaps my lack of excitement upon departure was because this trip was different from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other mountain adventures I've been on.  For starters, I was now a father and I was about to leave my wife and nearly 9-month old daughter for an unknown amount of time.  Would I be gone a couple weeks?  A month?  Longer...?  I already missed them as
the security guard ushered them towards the terminal exit.  Not knowing when I would see them again seemed to amplify that feeling.  Additionally, I had invested so much into planning and preparing for this trip that starting it made me nervous.  What if things didn't go well?  Would I feel like I had wasted all that effort?  Would I feel like a failure?  Would I ever get to attempt this lifelong dream again?  Would my family be disappointed if I wasn't successful?  Would my family be proud of me even if I was successful?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Skiing Denali - Gear and Packing

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The time is upon me.  I get on Denali in less than 24 hours and I have a mountain of gear packed up and ready to go.  It was not an easy process accumulating all the necessary gear, nor was it easy to get it all packed.  Here's what we've go going up the mountain with us.

I hope you enjoy my "MTV Cribs" version of showing you some gear.

Denali Gear Packing from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Skiing North Maroon Peak - Perseverance Pays Off on the North Face

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North Maroon Peak - North Face Ski Descent from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

I've been trying to ski the North Face of North Maroon Peak for several years now.  North Maroon Peak, which is one of the "Maroon Bells," is without a doubt the most iconic peak in Colorado.  It shows up everywhere.  It seemed to taunt me every time I saw it in an ad campaign, movie, website or even on my grocery store card.  Previously, each time I've tried to ski it there have either been issues with my ski partners or I've been turned around by conditions (like in this trip report from last year).  This year things were different.

5/23/14: Getting to Aspen

I picked up Nick Braun from his home in Edwards, CO at around 5:30 pm on Friday evening and we made our way to Aspen and the Maroon Lake TH.  On our drive we encountered a large, relatively

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Denali Training: General Weekly Routine

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Getting in good physical shape for ski mountaineering is much different than getting in good physical shape for skiing.  I've gotten quite a few questions about what I'm doing to train for Denali (aside from skiing other peaks), so I figured it would be a good idea to do a little write-up about my general weekly training routine.

Hopefully this video gives you an idea of what the training has been like.

Denali Training Weekly Routine from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

For starters, my training schedule usually looks something like this:

  • Sunday - Family Day and Rest
  • Monday - Gym Day

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skiing The Grand Teton - A Longtime Desire Realized

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Grand Teton Ski Mountaineering from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.


When I had just finished high school my dad and I went on a large road trip that included backpacking in Yellowstone and adventuring in Grand

Monday, April 21, 2014

Long's Peak - A Big Day of Ski Mountaineering

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For my birthday this year I planned a ski day with several of the kids that I coach on the ski team.  The plan was to climb and ski a true Colorado icon - Long's Peak.  Long's Peak is visible from just about anywhere in the Denver area, famous for its Diamond Face, pictured in thousands of tourism brochures and even featured on the back of the CO quarter.  It is the only 14er north of Interstate 70 in Colorado and the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We drove up to Rocky Mountain National

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ski Build and Teton Testing

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For a skier I'm a pretty big guy and I ski pretty hard.  That makes finding skis, especially ski-mountaineering skis, rather difficult.  I prefer a ski that is light, but because of my size I need some stiffness, which usually adds weight.  That just won't do for Denali.  I will need a ski that is both light enough to not be a hazard and stiff enough for me to ski something serious.

For several months I worked with Folsom Custom Skis (Mike and Ryan are genuinely awesome guys!) to design a ski for my Denali trip.  I rode several pairs of their demo skis, told them what I liked, what I would change, and how I'd like a pair of ski-mountaineering skis to behave on various types of snow.  Below are a bunch of pictures from the building of my Folsom Custom Skis.  I've named them - they're The Longships (built to be fast and pillage).

After getting The Longships built I had to give them an initial test.  What better place to give a pair of skis some testing than in the Tetons?  Jake, Norm and I loaded up in Jake's Suburban and headed north to Jackson for a few days.  We did some really great skiing/ski mountaineering, and saw some friends while we were there.  The story of that trip is told right after the ski building pics.

If you are in the market for a pair of skis I highly recommend checking out Folsom.  Mike and Ryan put a ton of care and effort into their craft, and it shows in the skis they produce.  They take care of their customers.

A short video of the action.

Ski Build and Test from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Marilyn is Half a Year Old

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Fatherhood is amazing.  It feels so natural and I love it so much that it is really hard to believe that I ever wasn't a father.  I was made for this.

It has been the privilege of my wife and I to watch and help Marilyn grow.  Kelly is an incredible mother.  In March Marilyn turned 6 months old.  It has taken me a while to put this post together with the wealth of picture and video.  I'm sorry it is late, but I hope you enjoy it.

Trying to explain via words what the past several months of fatherhood have been like would not do it justice.  Pictures and video can't do it justice either, but perhaps they can help.  Enjoy.

A video full of adorableness.

Marilyn Leah Bettner Months 1-6 from Joel Bettner on Vimeo.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Denali Plan Overview

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General Plan:
I’m planning on arriving in Anchorage on June 1st, where I’ll rendezvous with my ski partner Josh. For the next 2 days we will purchase most of our food for the expedition, consolidate all of our gear and get everything as neatly packed as possible. The expedition truly begins on June 3rd as we board a glacier plane in Talkeetna (weather permitting) to get dropped off on the Kahiltna glacier on Denali’s lower flanks.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Denali Motivation

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Being in the mountains and wild places is in my blood. For generations my family has been living, adventuring and loving the natural splendors of our world. That love was largely passed down to me by my grandfather, Francis. My grandfather grew up in the Alps before and during WWII. He found freedom, peace, safety (literally) and mental clarity amongst the range’s high peaks and deep valleys. While climbing in the Dolomites, in the newly liberated Italy, he met my grandmother - both of them war refugees from their home countries. Later, while standing on the summit of Mont Blanc my