The Southwest Scramble: A Bike-To-Ski Journey from Colorado to Utah – Cody Cirillo

In spring 2021, I decided to embark on a couple hundred mile bike-to-ski journey from my home in Telluride, CO to the La Sal mountain range near Moab, Utah.

During the winter season, I’m a professional skier. Usually, I’m traveling around the globe, doing photo shoots and film projects. I will acknowledge it’s quite the privileged life, and I’m very grateful to so many who make it possible for me. The winter window is short, and when I make my career happen. So when things don’t work out during those few months, it feels like a failure and loss of a season. With a film project that wasn’t quite materializing, 2021 was starting to feel just like that I found myself just wanting to get away – from my own winter’s demise and seemingly everything else. So, I decided to pack up my skis and hop on a bike, headed towards the desert of all places, far from any normal ski hill, to hopefully disconnect from it all.

 

 

I’d never ridden a gravel bike before, nor had I been training for this ride. I guess I had a sense of ignorant optimism going into it – the “I’ll figure it out” sort of vibe. (Had I known more about biking I’m sure I would’ve known about chamois butter and other tips, which would’ve been life savers).

I borrowed a bike from a friend, grabbed as many voile straps as I could, snagged a rear-tire rack from Walmart, and got a few bags from San Util designs to kit me out. Not the “planned this for months” style set-up, but it worked. With all my ski gear, camping equipment, food and more, I was ready. And, the bike was heavy.

Day One

It was time to bike into the real unknown. After the first few pedals, I could notice just how inconveniently dangerous and bouncy the rear-tire rack from Walmart was. Additionally the ski edges seemed to rub just ever so slightly against my inner thighs. It was shaping up to be a long one.

It felt good to hit the road though. The chaos of packing and organizing faded, it was time to just do it. I flew up the first big hill between Telluride to Norwood, and put my head down through the strong winds in the farm lands.

After 80 miles or so, I found myself on my first gravel road. An unbelievably stunning stretch, with a hanging flume towering over you as you ride through the canyon walls. I found myself listening to the river’s echoes, the steady purr of my bike, and the melodies of insects and critters alike. This was that “escape” I was looking for.

With the sun approaching the horizon, it was time to set up camp. I don’t think my skis had ever felt so out of place against the backdrop of red dirt and cactus.

Day Two

The results of an off-the-couch hundred miles didn’t do so well for my knees. I started to question my abilities and if I was in over my head (which I probably was). But, with the slow metronome of each pedal, I was once again in the groove and let the pains fade into the gravel.

Directly out of the canyon from the tiny station at Bed Rock to the Utah border begins a long wavy climb. Followed by a few more of course for good measure. This is where I really began to feel mentally tested.

When I got to the La Sal junction, where the sleepy road begins to enter Moab’s travel corridor, I hadn’t accounted for the riding I had to do on the interstate – 6” of shoulder or close to none at all, 75mph truckers – I’d never been so gripped. Some cursed miles later, I ventured off the highway onto what seemed to be a gravel road, but really ended up being a few hour hike-a-bike. But hey, being away from that highway, anything was better.

Day Three

The final, big push. I watched floods of shuttles headed to the “Whole Enchilada” zip by me as I moved from the desert floor to the snowline. Sure would’ve been nice to have a van ride to the top. Sounds of turkeys and the occasional deer sighting kept me company on the way up. That last hill sure was an ass kicker though.

Hours later, I was stoked, exhausted, and ready to shed a tear. The biking was over. After some ski touring and a climb later, I was standing on top of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz ready to point my skis downhill – what felt like a celebration for all I had accomplished.

Often, we use bikes and skis as tools for escape. But in reality, I think we end up even more connected by using them. The bike ride forced me to be present – to be connected to the world around me, feeling and experiencing each passing moment. You don’t need to bike hundreds of miles to feel that sort of connection, there’s moments each and every day to practice being more present and set intentions to do so. That being said, I think I’ll just set the intention to ski and now bike more.

Thank you to Matthew Tufts (photographer) and Colton Farrow (videographer) for documenting this journey, and for countless friends who supported and continue to support me.

Also big shoutout to my ski sponsors for letting me create a bike film (sorry?).

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