Name: David Steele
Hometown: Kalispell, Montana
Spirit Animal: I find myself wanting to be a wolverine, but the truth is that I’m not that fast, so it’s probably a mountain goat. You can’t project your wishes when choosing a spirit animal, because it’s an honest reflection—not what you want to be.
What are you all about? How'd you find yourself so deep in ski mountaineering?
Anytime you can best your own expectations or safely push your boundaries, in whatever arena, you have to re-estimate yourself. In the mountains, I constantly find that I can go a little further and do a little more than what I thought—and if my own estimation is wrong, then what else could I do? That feels like freedom to me.
There’s so many facets to the mountain life. So many things to learn. Snowpack analysis, placing protection, route selection—it’s a really deep vein to mine. Ski mountaineering offers all the joys of winter camping and faster access without the walking back downhill.
"Skinning with Bear Spray" is your blog. Do you actually skin with bear spray? Any chance encounters?
The shoulder seasons in Montana are always bizarre. As early as mid-April, a day can start on a dry trail, transition through frozen corn, and then find boot deep wind buff up high. Fall brings high snows that take a few miles of walking before you can put on your ski boots. The bears are still out, so I end up skinning with bear spray, which felt strange enough to name a blog after the experience.
Once, some guests at a backcountry hotel saw a bear pass perhaps fifteen feet behind me on a trail while I was walking the other direction. Didn’t even see it, and when I came back, they told me the story with dinner plate eyes. But it’s important to remember that the places I like to play are their home. I’m just a visitor.
Best adventures of last season?
Oh geeze. So many things to improve on. I think one of the best was skiing the south face of Mt. Stimson . Rampant creek crossings, a finicky stove, and huge vert made for a pretty epic time. I went out for some alpine rock this summer, and that was a super neat thing to get into.
Plans for adventures this season?
I’ll be headed to the UK for a few weeks in November, and I’m excited to explore around there. Hoping to do a lot more snow camping once winter kicks into action here at home, and we’re working on some hut trips here in Montana and the Rogers Pass area. Skiing Rainier is high on my list for the spring, amongst some other objectives.
You reached out to Julbo- what prompted your interest?
It’s simple: Julbo makes great sunglasses as well as goggles, and I need both for the terrain I frequent. They’ve taken photochromic lenses further than anyone else I’ve seen. This yields a real difference when skiing or climbing in variable weather. Also, it’s really nice to work with a company that’s so rooted in the mountain world. There’s a focus on things that really work well and look good, and those priorities align with my own.
Anything else to add?