Q&A With Jordan White: Alpine Exploration in Aspen and Beyond

No matter the season, White can be found in the mountains, often with his dog Aja.
No matter the season, White can be found in the mountains, often with his dog Aja. Jordan White
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Jordan White is a local skier who’s earned global cred for finding epic powder stashes and ski lines in Aspen and throughout the rest of the world. He put his name among other hardcore adventurers by skiing the 54 tallest peaks in Colorado, finishing the feat in 2009 and becoming—at age 23—the youngest person (and just the fifth) to ski the 54 tallest peaks in Colorado.

White had started climbing with his dad at the tender age of 5, but perhaps his most life-changing excursion was in 2005, on North Maroon Peak. The father-son team set off in the middle of night toward the 14,014-foot summit.

But when the weather abruptly changed, they abandoned their summit push and headed back down. That’s when tragedy struck. White was rappelling when the line suddenly went slack; the last thing he remembers was free-falling (later he found out it had been a 400-foot fall). When he woke up, he was covered in fresh snow, and there was no sign of his dad. Not knowing if his dad was still above him or somewhere lower on the slopes, White began to descend following the rope still attached to him. At the end of the rope he found his father’s body. He had to calmly continue down to the base to get help.

After being cleared by a doctor, White was determined to come back to his alpine exploration. In 2006, he decided to ski all the 14ers, making the decision not to lose both his father and their shared passion for the mountains all at once. In a journal on a recent expedition, White wrote, “I just want to say thank you, Papa, for getting me started in this lifetime journey as a man, and as a mountaineer.”

RootsRated caught up with White in between trips to talk about his love for the mountains, his favorite spots for adventure in Aspen and beyond, and what’s next on the horizon.

Jordan White nears the summits of Pyramid Peak. 14erskiers.com

You had a shared passion with your father for the mountains. Tell us how you got into skiing.

I grew up as a Front Ranger waiting in lift lines. Then I discovered the backcountry.

You have made some huge strides in skiing since then. What are some of the highlights?

I skied all the 14ers between the age of 18 and 23. And then last year I skied a range called the Alaska Family: Hunter, Foraker, and Denali. It took 33 days to climb and ski all of them. As far as we can tell, we are the only people to have done it.

Jordan snaps a photo of his ski and climbing partner Anton Sponar as the reach the summit of Foraker in the Alaska Range. Jordan White

You ski a lot in the backcountry in the spring. How long did your ski season last this year?

The last day of skiing this year was a new line on the north face of Capitol Peak, in June. It took nine hours of skinning, climbing, and hiking just to reach the summit, but the tough part was still ahead of us. We wanted to ski a face that no one had ever done before, but we had to rappel 200 feet just to reach the snowfield. And it wasn’t exactly pow turns after that, more jump turns on a 58-degree slope.

How do you keep in shape after the snow melts?

I guide for Aspen Alpine Guides so I spend a lot of time in the mountains: hiking up and down peaks, climbing around on rocks, mountain biking. My favorite mountain biking is definitely heading to the trails in the desert in Moab, Utah. But around here, I really enjoy the technical aspect of the Hunter Creek Valley.

I also volunteer at Mountain Rescue Aspen and spend a lot of time training with them. We do a lot of rock climbing rescue scenarios, as well as hanging out of helicopters to be ready for the real thing.

There is always another summit to ski for Jordan White. Jordan White

What’s your ideal day in the mountains?

Double-sport, or triple-sport, or hell, even quadruple-sport days are one of the benefits of living in the mountains. One of my favorite days this summer was skiing on Independence Pass, climbing a multi-pitch rock climbing route, and then mountain biking in the afternoon.

What’s next on the calendar for you?

I am leaving for Argentina [soon] to climb and ski a 22,000-foot peak called Mercedario. Lately my workout and full-time job feels like packing. I decided to dehydrate all my food this time, so that it might taste better than the freeze-dried commercial stuff. My whole apartment is covered in gear and supplies. The Southern Hemisphere is in late spring conditions, and by the time I get back in the valley the lifts are usually spinning.

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