Olympic alpine skiier Julia Ford and pro snowboarder Colin Boyd are in their element in the mountains – but we wondered how they’d handle a summit-to-sea effort without snow. We sent the pair of winter athletes on an odyssey taking them hiking up New England’s mountainous peaks and challenged them to go uphill and downhill without their snow gear.
I call myself a New Englander. Growing up skiing in Vermont and then moving to the mountains of New Hampshire, I find comfort in all of New England. As Colin and I trudged through the mud, rain, and slush on our Sperry Odyssey Project, comfort seemed like a funny descriptor of New England. The mountains are cold, ice infested and full of character that seeps into its residence like the cold on a winter’s day. But as we descended the mountain at the end of the day tired and weathered, yet, fulfilled, it is the challenges of New England that bring the sense of comfort.
I leave this region to race and am unafraid of the unknown that lies ahead. Instead, I am excited by the adventure. The Northeast tests what we are capable of and, although the tests are difficult, inevitably they make us stronger. Coming from New England, I find strength in my ability to endure whatever life throws at me – whatever the weather presents or the race course demands, I’m able to conjure a smile and a resolve that has been ingrained in me since childhood.
When I met Colin Boyd, I instantly felt the kindred New England spirit. As athletes, we travel the majority of our days, but those New England qualities don’t dissolve with distance. Qualities like a thirst for adventure, strength in adversity, a desire for nature’s playground, and a sense of pride in where we come from only grow the longer we travel; and those qualities are enjoyed most when shared with others.
Our Sperry Odyssey highlighted many of the facets New England has to offer. From maneuvering a canoe through low waters, biking in the rain and hiking in the wind – just like competing, we never knew what would come next. On our last day, as we ran down Mt. Washington, the snow dissolved to slush, which warmed to rain. As our soaked legs and weary lungs burned slightly, Colin and I plopped our weathered selves into the adventure mobile and chased the fading sunlight to the coast. The Atlantic Ocean welcomed us and I felt that undeniable sense of comfort only a hard day at home can produce.