sharing the human powered ski experience
Human-powered skiing is more than an athletic pursuit – it is an endeavor. It requires the fitness and patience to ascend to the goal; the experience to manage one's own comfort in an often harsh environment; the ability to descend in unmanaged conditions; the skill to navigate wild terrain safely; and the wherewithal to make the correct decision in a dynamic environment.
Independent Descents is a website that honors this endeavor. It is dedicated to the pursuit of traveling in the mountains under our own human-power – physical, mental and emotional – in attempt to capture the ephemeral sensation of floating through powder on our way down a mountain. To do this without mechanical assistance, without the safety net of a on-location rescue service and without the comforts of an urban-like infrastructure, this is a different game.
In reality, it's not about conquering the mountain, but rather understanding ourselves. The "descents" are the draw to this landscape. "Independence" is both the mindset and the reward for our efforts.
My name is Donny Roth. I am a passionate skier, focused solely on human-powered skiing. I am an AMGA-certified ski guide and an ambassador for the sport. This website is a way for you to get to know me – and hopefully you'll find a way to connect, so I will get to know you. There are links to my social media outlets, my writing and my photos; there are descriptions of the places I guide; there is a collection of work I've had featured in the media; and there is a section that showcases the gear I use. I hope you find something here inspiring.
I look forward to sharing some stories. I hope we cross tracks someday.
I post to Instagram regularly – I love the simplicity of it.
I use Facebook and Twitter to share my stories, post updates and interact.
500px is a collection of my favorite photos.
Medium is where I share stories inspired by my travel.
My home. I live near Crested Butte, Colorado and have great relationships with the guide services that hold the permits to the West Elk Mountains (CB and Marble) and the North San Juan Mountains. This is the perfect place to take your backcountry skiing to the next level, whether that's the first steps or steep, ski mountaineering. I am certainly home in December, probably January and possible March and early April. (Click here for more details...)
Maybe the closest to perfection I have ever seen. This place is human-powered skiing heaven. It doesn't get more dramatic. Great snow, incredible settings and long days make for truly epic experiences. I am there for the last half of April until late May. (Click here for more details... )
The place that has captured my heart since 2004. I own a guide service called Chile Powder Adventures. There is no place in the world that offers such adventure, and there is no one else guiding in the this place like I do – 100% human-powered, often exploratory, with local knowledge at the highest standard of care. I am in Chile for the months of August, September and October. (Click here for more details...)
Canada is about skiing powder! And with the value of the Canadian Peso recently, everything is on sale! Rogers Pass is a human-powered skier's Mecca – a place worth the pilgrimage. December and January are the months to be there. (Click here for more details...)
AMGA-Certified Ski Guide
AIARE Level III Avalanche Forecaster
AIARE Level I & II Course Leader
freelance writer and product designer
I don't remember the first time I skied. The earliest impressions have all blended together into this image of playing in the backyard and sliding down the local hill between my mom's feet. By the time my father took me to my first area I was hooked and it has been the center of my attention since then. My childhood was spent ski racing and dreaming of adventures in bigger mountains.
While attending university I started teaching skiing at the local area. It was supposed to be for pocket money; but it was clear from the beginning that it would be much more for me. I had discovered my true talent. I moved to Montana where I worked at Bridger Bowl and eventually began splitting my time between Aspen, Colorado and Portillo, Chile. I enjoyed a successful career as a ski instructor. I learned a tremendous amount about the interactions of skis, the environment and people. I became an examiner for PSIA and nearly made the National Demo Team in 2004.
Eventually, "teaching" (done within resort boundaries) became "guiding" (done in an unmanaged environment). I began to work for guide services, including heli-ski operations, in addition to ski schools. I had gone through every level of certification possible in the instruction world, so I began to pursue my guiding certifications, which I completed in the winter of 2014.
Americans don't hire guides in the same way Europeans do. Americans are independent by nature and want to experience the risk and reward of individual effort. I understand this. I still want to share the mountains – the real mountains, outside the resorts – with as many people as possible. I turned to the place where many of us get so much of our information – the media, particularly the Internet. I created my first blog in 2006 while living in Europe. This opened the door to work with more traditional print and online media. These both lead to small sponsorships, which created their own opportunities. I accomplished a childhood dream by appearing in Sweetgrass Productions' Solitaire and Valhalla. I am now sponsored by some of the best companies in the industry and am focused on smaller, independent media projects.
All this media work is supposed to inspire, inform and educate. It should be an extension of my true passion – guiding. I own a guide service, Ski Mentor Services, which does business as Chile Powder Adventures for the southern hemisphere adventures. I work for a handful of guide services in the U.S. Whether you are a novice backcountry skier or an avid adventurer looking for the experience of a lifetime, I want to help you realize this dream.
I am a ski guide and an ambassador for human-powered skiing adventure. I want to inspire people to find themselves in the wild mountains of the world. I believe that a great ski guide needs to have a tremendous amount of experience – and all that experience needs to fade into the background. I believe others come first and I want them to create experiences of their own while chasing unique dreams.
in the media
Or.. If you want to make it really simple: