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WRITING

Words I put in order. Check out this page for links to more of my writing

One Year

Cy Whitling

If you’re just here because you want to buy a radical fanny pack or some flip flops, just click this link and treat yo self. Otherwise, here’s a look into what’s been going on around here.

A year ago I walked out of my last day at my “big kid job” and sat down on the START Bus for my last commute home from Jackson Hole. I didn’t have any real future plans, just a basement I knew I needed to finish remodeling, and a rumor I’d heard about somebody starting a new youth bike program.

The next day I walked into an informational meeting about that new bike program, realized I really, really wanted to be involved, and walked out the Program Director. I spent the next month finishing the basement, the new tenant moved in with the paint still drying, and I flew off to California to learn how to yell at little kids on bikes.

With the basement done I was sure I was done with adult jobs so I struck out to be a starving illustrator. The starving part was easy, the illustrating part wasn’t so bad, but it turned out that the hard part was finding people who wanted to pay me, on time, for my doodles. But the ones that did want to were awesome.

So I’ve spent the last 365ish days drawing stuff for people and brands. I love it more than any job I’ve ever had, and I’d like to think I’m not too terrible at it. Starting out I figured I’d end up spending about equal time swinging a hammer to make enough to live and working a pencil to justify it. Luckily for my aspirations as a professional drawer, and unluckily for my construction calluses, I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time at the art desk than the jobsite, but I’m lucky enough to have a great construction boss who lets me pick up hours when I need them.

A year in, one mountain bike season, one ski season, and one adopted and very needy dog later, I’m hooked on this art thing. I love it, and I can’t wait to keep doing it. So here’s some random highlights, in no particular order, as I look back on this first year, and forward to what’s next.


A few personal pieces I was stoked on:

Last spring I got aggressive with the apparel line, added a bunch of designs, and drew some of my favorite stuff. This spring I’ve added some new products, some new art, and kept the old standbys. If you like my art, buy clothes from my website. I love seeing something I drew on somebody cool, out in the mountains. That might just be the most exciting thing about this.

Last spring I also started a free sticker service. Just send me an envelope and I’ll send you stickers. Disclaimer: I’m often a little slow at sending them back, because you guys send a lot of requests, and I don’t have that many stickers on hand and I don’t check my PO box that often. Sorry, but also, not really sorry, since this is a free service. I lose money on the sticker thing, but I just can’t quit it. I remember too well how it felt as a 12 year old kid sending sticker request envelopes to every brand I could think of. So I’ll keep sending out stickers as long as you guys keep sending me envelopes to stuff them in. And if you put a couple bucks in your envelope, or art, or a nice note, you’ll be getting VIP sticker treatment.

Since I started this program last year, I’ve sent out over 2500 stickers. That’s an insane amount. Thanks everyone that sends me requests. This year I’ll be working on responding to requests more promptly, with more sticker variety. Thanks for your patience. And also, if you don’t have an envelope and a stamp, because apparently us younger generations aren’t into those things anymore, you can just buy apparel off my website instead. It’s not that expensive, it’s way bigger than a sticker, and if you do I can afford to buy my needy dog the fancy food she really likes.

The biggest driver of everything I do is client commissions, individuals or businesses that want me to draw something for their brand. I love commissions. Working with people to come up with something beautiful that helps tell their story is one of my favorite things. If you or a brand you manage ever needs any sort of visual assets created, shoot me a note. Let’s make your swag awesome!

Here are a few commissioned highlights:

I did ten pieces for the Hub and Pisgah Tavern in North Carolina. Rad, rad folks running a great outdoor shop in an incredible place. I can’t wait to visit this fall. Working (and skiing) with Sam and Jordan is a huge highlight of my winter.


Logo for Teton Valley Sprockids. More kids on bikes, with cool stickers to vandalize their parent’s cars with, what’s not to love?

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Stickers, website, and apparel for Yeti’s Post. When a new donut shop opened just a few blocks from home I was hooked. A few of the best breakfast and lunches I’ve ever had later, and I left an envelope full of stickers on the doorstep when they were closed, paying my respect from afar. It turns out that Seth, the mind behind their incredible bacon, is a rad dude, and my donut habit grew into an apparel line, some stickers, and a website redesign. And yes, I can make magical things happen on your website if you so desire.


Speaking of websites… If you like bikes and bike trails, and hate trash and downed trees, you should head over to Teton Mountain Bike Alliance. Rad riders doing great stuff for riding in the valley. I cranked out their website, a poster, and some apparel.

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Derek at Inspired Van makes big vans into beautiful homes. And I got to make him some stickers for those homes. I love projects where the client has a few straightforward ideas that work really well. If you don’t feel like cutting a hole in the roof of your new van to install a fan, call Inspired Van.

When Garage Grown Gear asked me to do a few designs I jumped at the opportunity to crank out a few stickers for them.

A little rabbit for Chatham County

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A few stickers for the Children’s Grand Adventure

A few shirts for Friends of the Teton River

This little guy for the first ever Teton Valley News Turkey Trot

And finally, a big highlight of the year, my first mural. I can think of no better first canvas than a Forest Service vault toilet. A conglomerate of local non-profits commissioned me to paint the bathrooms at the Teton Canyon and Horseshoe Canyon trailheads. The Teton Canyon bathroom is all finished and open to anyone who feels the call of nature, while I’ll be finishing the Horseshoe bathroom in the next few weeks.

On the non-art side, in the last year I’ve built three decks, learned how to plumb a bathroom, poured four concrete counters, installed two hardwood floors, demoed innumerable walls, done some terrible drywall work, and some much better finish carpentry work, painted more rooms than I’d like, installed less trim than I’d like, and managed to not cut off any digits with the table saw, yet.

I’ve also skied more pow, run more miles, and ridden more new trail than any other year in my life. Thank you clients, friends, partners, and dogs. I can’t wait for another year of making stuff and doing things.

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Retrospective: 2018-19 Ski Season

Cy Whitling

My first few seasons skiing I was so obsessed with the sport that I kept a little notebook with a few sentences summarizing every day I got to spend on the hill. I’d note the conditions, what runs we skied, and any new progression or big crashes. Looking back, sure, I was a nerdy high school kid, but it’s also neat to be able to remember when I first hit some cliff, or tried a new trick. So, 6 years of skiing later, here’s a summary of this last winter, complete with highs, lows, and maybe some takeaways. It’s pretty dorky, but I love breaking down my goals and what I’ve learned.

Inbounds Highlights

As long as Targhee continues to deliver sleeper powder afternoons I will continue to buy a pass. My favorite type of inbounds skiing is heading up at one after a productive weekday morning, skiing deep snow with no lift lines, and heading home.

This year I had a couple of goals in mind at the start of the season:

I wanted to do a 360 every day I skied inbounds. I first landed one years ago, but have been wildly inconsistent since then. This year that changed and I feel like I’m finally comfortable spinning off natural hits into variable snow. Now I’ve just got to make them actually look good.

I’ve been eyeing the Diving Board out Scotty’s Gate since I moved here, and I felt like this was finally the season to hit it. So the morning after a big storm, Tyler and I headed out to check on it. No one had hit it yet this season, it was a little earlier in terms of snowpack than when most folks hit it, but I felt really good about the landing, so I stomped in what I thought was going to be a long enough run-in, and sent it. I barely had enough speed, and ended up pole-planting off the lip to make sure I’d clear out over the rocks. I went over the bars on the landing, lost a ski, and blinked out a contact, but everything felt great, and I wasn’t sore at all the next day. Putting in the bootpack back up Scotty’s ended up being the worst part of the ordeal. Later this season someone else came out and measured it with a laser gun at 111 feet, lip to landing, with a much deeper snowpack. I’m pretty stoked to have skied off it, and now I have no motivation to try going that big ever again.

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Finally, I’ve never had the sort of legendary day at the Village that folks rave about. I’ve never quite understood the hype over there. Thanks to the patience and guiding skills of Nate, I finally had that day, ducked out the gates and skied some great, safe pow, and got to know that hill a little better.

Other, smaller highlights: Big Sky mobbing with Pat and Shannon, Making the most of the worst at Sun Valley, rekindling my love for snowblading.

Backcountry Highlights

Last year we skied one day in Grand Teton National Park, the year before we skied two. Part of that’s due to the fact that the first winter I lived here I skied in the Park a lot, and made a lot of mistakes. I was a liability who didn’t know it, tagging along with often unprepared partners, climbing much better than I skied, and tumbling down a lot of consequential lines. I eventually woke up to how unsustainable that was, but instead of fixing the underlying problems (less than ideal partners, and lack of experience) I just stopped skiing in the park. This year I didn’t really have any plans to change that, but a quick walk up Wimpy’s and out Peaches in perfect conditions reminded me how much I love that place, and how much potential it has. So we ended up skiing the park a lot, and had some great days, some long days with great views, and some pretty dang mediocre days. Here’s the truncated breakdown:

Peaches with JT: Face Shots all the way down, easy exit

Shadow alternate route with Dapper, JT, Brendan: Bad route, bad snow, long day, long exit. Never skiing those specific Shadow couloirs again, that’s the third time someone in my friend group has had a bad day in there.

4 Hour with Tyler and Dapper: Cool line, don’t ski south facing stuff when it’s warm and hasn’t snowed in a while. Gross.

The Spoon with JT and Dapper: Went for redemption for tomahawking most of the line a few years ago. Were met with high winds and very firm snow. Still skied it better than last time, and the turns out the exit were wonderful.


Son of Apocalypse with Sam: Nothing better than looking into a new line, worried about snow quality, then dropping in and getting face shots on your first four turns. What a blast of a line.


Turkey Chute with JT, Dapper, Bones: Not our first choice for the day, but got sent that way thanks to border wall funding battles. Got lucky with not-so-sloppy seconds. Great snow, great group, cool line.

SW Couloir of the Middle Teton with JT, Bones, and Dapper: Set out for redemption for JT, ended up with a little more exposure and down-climbing than we may have bargained for. No summit, no problem. Mediocre skiing home after a long day.



Fallopian Tube: JT, Bria, Andrew: Thought we were done with skiing for the year, watched an episode of the 50 Project, and went for it. Great intro to North Park skiing, great views of Moran, climb with just the right amount of spice, a ski that was just flat enough for me to deal with the bad snow, and a heck of an exit. A perfect end to a great season.

The Park always wins.

A few other non-Park highlights:

Every time I get to ski with Sam and Jordan. They go hard out of the car, are fast and competent, and great company. Jordan’s first day skinning, Sam’s first Park day, Jordan’s first birthday couloir, Glory gut laps off the plane, Shoshone sending, party shred the Poop Chute. What a blast.

Finally having a good day on Mail Cabin. For years I’ve felt like I was skiing Mail Cabin wrong. There’s all this super playful pillowy terrain in there, that I always feel like I’m just walking past. We figured out a few laps in there that scratch my itch for tons of small airs into great snow. What a great place, and what a fun area to ski with the dog.

Which brings me to: Skiing with the dog. Jolene was a new addition to the regime this year, and she mostly fit right in. It turns out that she’s fast uphill, really slow in deep snow, and really good at not getting ski cut. She got to ski a fair number of pass days, and did just fine, mostly. I think she’s found her top end skiing, and is content to stay in the car on days that won’t work for her. But blasting down the gut of Glory with her hot on my heels was pretty incredible.

After the Best Yurt Trip Ever a few years ago, we’ve wanted to get back out with Amanda and Co. Skiing with Nate and Amanda is always a blast, even when most of it is just a luge track exit.

After a few years of looking at Stouts and wanting to ski it, we hit it in prime spring pow conditions. What a fun Idaho lap.

Also, I’d be remiss to mention our mission to clean up an abandoned tree stand on Brewer’s Butte. I’d rather never try to ski a two person tree stand out of the woods again, but it worked out just fine, and my brother got a new toy for Christmas.

Takeaways:

Preparedness: This year I decided that I wanted to be an asset and a leader during backcountry days. This meant being prepared, having a plan, and having navigation dialed. This was a big step for me, since in the past I’ve been very content to just do my best to keep up. Overall, I’m really thankful to all the partners that let me practice on them, and I am excited to keep progressing here.

There were a few vital ingredients to this:

Pack More: I carried more food, water, and gear than I ever have this year, and it payed off bigtime. Sure, I never had to use the bivy, or sam splint, or extra skin that lived in my pack all year, but I’m really glad they were there, will continue to be. Same goes for pointy things. I see no reason to enter GTNP without a whippet. And a Shaxe and crampons make a ton of sense on a lot of missions there. I love not quite needing crampons, but being able to slip them on anyway and feel really safe.

Navigation: In the past I’ve generally just gotten on a skin track and hoped it went where I wanted. This year I went ham with Gaia, and it made a huge difference. It’s huge to have topo, satellite, and slope angle, especially when you’re dropping in blind, or dealing with low vis. The Smiley’s GTNP ski atlas download is the best money I’ve spent on skiing new lines safely.

Being Picky:

I realized this year that I can afford to be really picky with my backcountry partners, and I love it. I used to just jump at any chance to get out, without really vetting my group. That was fine, but I had too many days where we “got away with it.”  This year I was lucky to have a great core group that shares my priorities and sensibilities, as well as risk tolerance. This group was a huge factor in making this season awesome. Thanks guys and gals!

On that note, having a consistent ski partner that I fully trust was the single biggest ingredient this year. Julia sees the mountains and their hazards in a unique way that is a huge aid in decision making. She keeps my risk taking grounded, while also pushing me and the group to travel more efficiently and intelligently. I can’t imagine a better partner, and it’s been awesome to learn from her, while also getting to watch her grow in confidence on more exposed terrain, and in competence with pointy things.

Gear

I have struggled massively with finding the right gear, and then sticking to it. I hate days where my gear is a limiting factor, which leads me to experiment more than I maybe should. This year I felt like I finally figured that out. Quick list of things that are making me happy:

Moment Deathwish: This is my favorite ski ever. I don’t really feel like skiing anything else inbounds, ever.

Moment Deathwish Tour 112: New for next year, I got on these a little later in the season, and fell immediately in love. They feel so intuitive, have great edge hold, and are a blast in any backcountry  conditions I’ve found.

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Big Sky Mountain Products Skins: They’re cheap, and perform better than options that cost three times as much. Hard to beat.

Flylow Women’s Foxy Bib: I love bibs, but most men’s bibs are cut way to loose for me to tour in. The Foxy bib has a great pocket layout, and a flattering fit.

Scarpa Maestrale RS Boot: Every year around January my feet start to swell and my formerly great ski boots become unbearable. Ben Swanson spent a long time doing “science” on my feet and finally got me into these. Light, stiff, great ROM, and a perfect fit for my monstrous feet.


I was blessed to have more great days this year than ever before. I learned so much, got to ski so many new lines, and built a bunch of skills that I hope with help make my backcountry process safer and more sustainable. Now it’s time to ride bikes with small children!




















Small People on Bikes

Cy Whitling

Show me your mountain biker faces!

Show me your mountain biker faces!

She’d had never gone mountain biking on a real mountain before. Both she and her older sister were very adamant about it. The tires of her tiny-yet-somehow-still-too-big bike had never touched real mountain dirt before. But she’d helped split wood the day before, so her arms were feeling super strong. A nearly month-long drought had finally broken the night before and the trails were in perfect condition, you could smell the moist earth from the parking lot. And now, eight weeks into Sprockids, she was about to go real mountain biking. On a real mountain, with cool views of other real mountains to look at. She was a little excited, I was a lot more excited.

Eight weeks ago we’d had our first meeting. Fortyish kids, and not enough adults running wild at the Victor Bike Park. We’d started off with maybe too much energy. Nobody wanted to listen to anyone, the older boys just wanted to go hit dirt jumps, and the younger kids just wanted to avoid making eye contact or having to talk to anyone. That first week is a blur, I remember making a lot of animal noises, making some kids do a lot of pushups, trying to figure out who the troublemakers were, who I could trust, who actually had to go to the bathroom and who just wanted to slow the group down.

I left that first practice excited, exhausted, and hoarse. I wasn’t sure I was actually a mountain bike coach, or a program leader, or whatever I was pretending to be. I was just a hairy guy with no kids, and little experience with kids, yelling at a pack of yahoos in the park. The summer before I’d helped coach two weeks of mountain bike camp, and I’d fallen in love with it. It was the highlight of my summer, and I’d resolved to coach more the next year, even though I wasn’t quite sure how to do it yet. Then, in one of the most serendipitous weeks of my life, I walked home from my last day at my real, fancy, adult job, and the next day, walked into the MBT office to ask if they wanted any help from a lanky guy who liked riding bikes with kids.

From there, everything moved quickly. We met with parents, came up with a rough gameplan, and then I flew to California to learn how to coach kids with a bunch of other people. I came home excited and frustrated. I felt like a lot of people I took the training with were in it for weird reasons, trying to foster future olympians with regimented ride schedules and fixed diets from a young age, or trying to further their streetcred as a real housewife / philanthropist. I wondered how you’re supposed to deal with kids when you can’t deal with the fact that the only non-dairy milk substitute at the gas station is almond-based?

But back home in Teton Valley things started snapping into place. We had enthusiastic parents who wanted to make this happen. We had a board who wanted to push a youth program, and we had a community that was just excited to get more kids on bikes. We hashed out the details, the age groups, the schedule, the practice facilities, and then we finally opened registration. I’d designed fancy posters to hang all around town, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough kids interested to be worth running the program, so I was ready to drum up support. We sold out the 30 person program in four hours. Then we sold out the 10 person waiting list. I never even got to hang my posters.

That first practice was a little rough. We were loud, too excited, so many of us, and I hadn’t worked into my schedule how long it takes for forty kids to all get ready to do anything. But the next week ran smoother, and soon we hit our rhythm.

Get loooooowwwwww

Get loooooowwwwww

More parents volunteered to coach, and we assembled an all-star cast of parents, local riders, and even a few high-school kids with siblings in the program. Our coaches found their stride, figured out which kids needed to do pushups, and which kids needed a little extra push on their seat to get up the hills. We had a remarkably strong girl squad, a bunch of young ladies who weren’t as loud as the boys, didn’t greet me every week with tall tales about how big of jumps they could hit. Instead they just rode their bikes really fast, encouraged each other, helped each other, and left slow boys in the dust. Loo kout gentlemen, the future of women’s mountain biking is faster than you.

Again and again, the community here proved to be the lifeblood of the program. We had parents barbequing together as we practiced, and kids would show up talking about the rides they’d done with their friends, or how they’d been using their hand signals over the last week. We got faster, we got stronger, and we even got a little bit better at not having to go to the bathroom 15 times an evening. I coached two and a half of the weeklong day camps again, and got to ride with some of Sprockids for eight hours a day, diving deeper into skills we’d barely touched on in the evening practices.

On my 25th birthday I was a broken man before I got to practice. I’d been stung by several bees right before I left home, and as I drove on the highway I started to break out in hives, my face and neck started to swell, and I started to have trouble breathing. I got to the bike park and called Poison Control. They told me to go to hospital and I told them not to be silly. One of our Sprockids moms was dropping her kids off at practice, realized I was feeling like I was about to die, and brought me drugs and water. I made it through the evening, and she emailed me later that night, just making sure I was still alive. The next week she brought cookies, and I realized how blessed by these kids’ parents I was.

That feeling of community only grew throughout the summer. I got to know some of the parents as I got to know their kids. The little girls group liked to play “Who’s dad is the oldest” every time we stopped for water, and then I got to ride with those dads at Family Friday at Targhee. Midway through the season we had a cleanup day at the bike park. We had a huge turnout, with several families showing up with all the siblings and adults, ready to rake trails, cut weeds, and fill trash bags. I couldn’t believe how invested these families were, and how they were so ready to step up and help, carting cooler after cooler of food to the tables, making sure we all had enough to eat and drink, helping me get the grill home afterward. They added so much to the program just through their willingness to show up and be engaged.

Raking berms!

Raking berms!

On AJ Day I drank my pre-race beer to earn my time deduction from my race lap as some of my Sprockids dads encouraged their kids to cheer me on, chanting “chug, chug, chug!” like some sort of root beer-fueled frat party entirely populated by people under four feet tall.

For the last official week of the program we headed up to Grand Targhee to take the kids “real mountain biking.” We’d been riding at the bike parks in town all summer, and while some of the kids came up and rode lifts at Targhee a few times a week, many had never really put tire to dirt before. Which is why Presley and her sister were telling me about how they’d been chopping wood to get ready for this.

Before we dropped into Greenhorn I promised my group that I’d warn them about anything on the trail. “Rock! Root! Downhill! Sidehill! More Rocks! Mountain Sharks!” I hollered. I could hear my directions being passed back for a while, before gravity got the best of my group, and they broke out into high-pitched squealing. The dirt was perfect. The trail was perfect, and they’d grown so much as mountain bikers that they were ready to handle anything Targhee had to throw at them. They pushed me to go faster, they wanted to ride further, they didn’t want to be done ever. We rode The Core, hollering its name in our deepest voices, making mountain biker faces, and yelling at each other to make sure our butts weren’t on our seats on the downhills. At the bottom I was worried that we’d lost someone, but as I got ready to ride back up and find her, I heard a high-pitched “weeeeeeeeeee!” as she surfed out of the last corner.

The Coooooooooooore!

The Coooooooooooore!

After that Targhee day the kids weren’t over it, and I wasn’t either, so we had a bonus week. We rode again, much further this time, and faster. We had a few more crashes, but the stoke remained just as high. As I gave out my last high-fives and admonitions of the summer, I realized I didn’t really have anything to say to the kids. I was used to ending with an update on what we were doing next week, where we were going to be, what we were going to do, and what kind of attitude we were going to have about doing it. But that last week all I had to say was Thank You. Thank you Sprockchildren. You guys are awesome, you made me fall for mountain biking all over again, you make it clear that the future of riding here is strong. Thank you parents, for making sure that the future of riding here isn’t highly skilled kids who also happen to be jerks. Thanks for having the coaches’ backs, along with your kids. And thank you coaches, for showing up, for dealing with pouty kids and disorganized moments, hot days and skinned knees and full bladders. Thank you for investing in other people’s kids, thank you for making this valley even cooler than it already is. Look out 6-12 year olds of the valley, we’ll be back!