The Creation and Destruction of Exum’s Arc’teryx Academy

venus on a splitboardYesterday I stood high in the mountains atop a wind-whipped rock outcrop when inspiration *licked* me like a lightning-kissed Tesla tower.

I was resting on skis and pondering why perfectly serviceable girlfriends consistently skedaddle when a guy like me makes a concerted effort to prevent burning of the bottom,…

…to protect our immediate environment from the offending odors of ruination,…

…and to disintegrate at least some of the clumpy scum consolidating at the top…

…by stirring up and *lightly* seasoning that long simmering brew, our societal stew of collective consciousness.

So there I was bro, gazing out upon the glorious absurdity of the world, and, full truth told, now wondering if jerking off would be worth the frozen appendages — perhaps a sacrificial “sticky mitten” might be in order — when suddenly an internal-monologue-silencing vision of beauty came into view as she crested the ridge below me.

And there she was sis, a backcountry queen beyond comparison confidently striding up my solitary skin track with a sly grin upon her perfectly proportioned and endearingly sunburned visage.

Her eyes!

Her eyes!

Her eyes were hidden behind a tantalizing pair of Pit Vipers, and her strong yet unmistakably feminine form was adorned in a flowing digital camo 3 layer GORE-TEX onesie. Ohhhhh, to be a microscopic organism soaking up all the smells inside that blessed fart bag!

Words failed me, yet my mind raced through its memory banks for an image to describe her gorgeous essence. Art. Classical art. Timeless art. Could she be Venus on the half shell?!

Close… but not quite right!

I studied her as she smoothly piloted a splitboard up through the cornices.  She was most certainly NOT the slender waif immortalized by Botticelli. Bulging quads and shapely shoulders showcased her strength. A modern Venus, no, but surely her spliff-smokin’, squat-jumpin’, gymnastically gifted goddess of a sister.

I steadied myself as she approached, for fear of falling head over heels into the abyss, and didn’t even dare to attempt speaking in my bewildered state.

Upon arrival, she reached into her breast pocket, pulled out a a perfect origami heart folded from two sheets of standard white printer paper, and handed it to me.

As I focused on carefully unwrapping her precious package, my tongue momentarily regained enough fluidity to ask, “What’s this?”

“It’s a fax,” she replied. “Intercepted en route to the Exum Mountain Guides office.”

“A fax?! Who still sends a fax?!?” I asked.

“Just read it,” she replied. “All your questions will be answered within. You’ll know what to do with it.”

I continued carefully unfolding her paper heart, held it up against the wind, and glanced at the header:

FAX
TO: Exum Mountain Guides
Attn: Glenn Exum, FOUNDER and CEO

FROM: Gerald Pozer
FOUNDER and CEO, GLOBOCORPSE INTERNATIONAL

A fax for Glenn Exum!

Dated last week!

But… but… but…

…he’s been dead since March 17th, 2000! Rest in peace, Glenn.

Now far beyond intrigued, I turned my eyes towards the last known location of the backcountry beauty beyond compare…

…but she was gone.

My eyes followed her gracefully undulating track back down the snowy ridge. I caught a glimpse — just a glimpse — as she sent it off a frozen wave of wind-sculpted snow and spun, sooooooo gracefully, down and out of sight.

I let out couple coyote yips, stuffed the fax into my own pocket, looked down at my skis, and confirmed that climbing skins were still attached. My hopes for a hot pursuit? Imploded.  But a simultaneous hope sprung eternal for her imperceptibly silent and unbelievably swift splitboard transition had squealed the deal in my soul.

And there I stood bro, sis, fam, madly in love with life. Thoroughly and teasingly licked by the most compelling feeling of all: divine inspiration.

Yes, I enjoyed a bonafied experienca espiritual, and just like that: POOF!  Back to reality…

The frantic thought of ripping skins, putting that mitten back into my pack, and following her track invaded my mind again, but I knew that would be a rookie move. If she wanted to ride together she would have waited. Plus, I have respect for everyone out there alone in the mountains, whatever their mission might be.

I smiled a whole lot. Took in the view and a bunch of deep breathes. Then the wind died down to nuthin’, and I slurped up the D thanks to afternoon sun on my face.

It was so nice that I figured well heck and stomped out a comfy little bench right there in the snow. Flipped my skis over and sat down on the supple climbing skins, lounged way back against my warm pack, loosened my boots, and unzipped my trowsers all the way…

Then I reached down, whipped out the crumpled fax, and read it aloud to the conspiracy of ravens circling overhead…

FAX
TO: Exum Mountain Guides
Attn: Glenn Exum, FOUNDER and CEO

FROM: Gerald Pozer, FOUNDER and CEO, GLOBOCORPSE INTERNATIONAL

Glen! Old buddy! Old pal! It’s Jerry Pozer! I hope you remember our trip up the Grand Teton together back in the summer of ’69. You guided my first wife Ethel and I up there when we were building our third of many homes in Jackson Hole. I’m sure she would ask me to wish you well, but, tragically, she passed away shortly before our divorce was finalized back in ’82. Whew!

It’s great to see that your guide service is still growing, and I bet you’re leading the charge more than ever before! Like myself, you must be taking advantage of life extension technologies. Who knew that the blood of newborns could be so invigorating?! Transfusions are great, but, just between me and you, drinking it is better than a prune juice and vodka enema!

Here at GLOBOCORPSE INTERNATIONAL we’ve had a team monitoring your growing partnership with AMER SPORTS, and their subsidiary Arc’teryx. This Arc’terycx Academy program you’ve got going sets a great precedent, and it could become so much more!

We know that you’re expanding your partnership with AMER to launch the Arc’teryx Trips program next summer. Again, a great idea and a great development in OUR National Park System. You are blazing new trails, as usual Glen, and on behalf of everyone here at GLOBOCORPSE I’m proud to congratulate the latest in your long line of successes.

Let me lay off the kiss ass and cut to the chase here, Glenn. I know you’re a man who appreciates brevity just as much as I love money and power. Your respected guide service has opened a new door for corporate partnership with and within OUR National Parks.

We’d like you to consider doing business with us as well, Glenn. We encourage you to deepen your relationship with Arc’teryx, and are merely looking to help facilitate that partnership and many similar partnerships in OUR National Parks.

Access for elderly, obese, handicapped, idiotic, and absurdly wealthy people is almost non-existent in the wilderness areas of OUR National Parks. Let’s be honest here, Glen, you could share the beauty of the Grand Teton Mountains with so many more people if you let GLOBOCORPSE help you help the people get “radical” in the backcountry.

You will be able to guide and mentor a lot more customers once your office is located right there at the Lupine Meadows trailhead, and that’s why we’re willing to work with you to make that a reality. We’ve already lobbied Congress to designate the new Lupine Meadows Village mixed use commercial/residential district, and this is your chance to get in — rent free — not just on the ground floor but also owning a dozen condos above your new Exum Academy business complex. We’ll even strap a climbing wall to the side of your building, so you can sell Teton climbing experiences 50 steps from several of the finest restaurant chains in America.

Of course, the new Lupine Meadows Village will be competing with that rundown dump at Teton Village, so we are also lobbying to construct a bigger, better aerial tram to the summit of Teewinot Mountain. It will be just like that one they’ve got there in Chamonix, France but incorporating the latest and safest technologies to whisk 200 visitors up to the top of the Tetons every 15 minutes! “Exum Mountain Resort” could be the name of OUR new ski area, if you’ll be kind enough to sign on for it, Glenn.

Another partner already bought the rights to the Teewinot Tramway summit restaurant, but Exum could get a piece of the action at some other food concessions in Cascade Canyon, up Glacier Gulch, and at the Lower Saddle.

Of course, it would not be sufficiently inclusive if visitors to OUR Parks only had access to Teewinot Mountain, so we’ve had GLOBOCORPSE R&D working on a suite of technologies to assist folks seeking an even more “extreme” experience with Exum.

Last winter we patented our Automatic Skinning System (ASS) and several industry leading ski companies are ready to deploy the product. We want Exum to show the world what ASS skiing is all about, and what better place to do it than in the crucible of North American mountaineering.

Here at GLOBOCORPSE we know the importance of conservation (to keep the greenies happy), and that’s why ASS skis are totally electric: zero carbon emissions! You just strap em’ on, set the autopilot to the peak of your choice, and the GPS built into your ASS selects the safest and most scenic route to the summit. Instead of employing dozens of unreliable and overpaid guides, one technician will be able to monitor your entire ASS rental fleet simultaneously.

Of course, ASS only solves winter access issues to remote areas of the Park backcountry and most visitors cannot ski, so GLOBOCORPSE has also been developing the Mountain Ascent Xtremely Intelligent Personal Access Drone (MAXIPAD) system. Helicopter tours of the Tetons are already gaining approval, and our fleet of fully electric MAXIPAD quadcopters will provide a greener, quieter alternative assuring that everyone can get everywhere any time of year from the comfort of a climate controlled personal access drone.

Our friends in the military industrial complex have taken a special interest in our new MAXIPAD system, and several branches of NATO have expressed interest in partnering with Exum as well. The great water wars of the 21st century will be waged in remote mountain terrain against isolated pockets of terrorist resistance, and that’s why we’re hoping Exum will help train the next generation of American heroes in all aspects of alpine warfare.

A new military training facility is slated for construction within the upcoming Antelope Flats National Security Annex, and, let me tell you Glenn, these military contracts are where the money really starts flowing! Just ask your friends at Arc’teryx: their Law Enforcement Armed Forces (LEAF) line of outerwear and equipment has been a boon to their business in recent years.

Of course all these developments will require the latest and greatest in wireless technology, and that’s why our telecommunications providers will be constructing hundreds of small cell 5G towers throughout the wilderness backcountry.  We are hoping to name these installations after pioneers of Teton mountaineering and conservation.

Once the internet of things is installed in Grand Teton Park all of your guides will be able to check on conditions and update their social media statuses instantaneously and seamlessly. Autonomous drones following all traditionally guided groups will assure the utmost level of safety and commercial viability is provided to your clients at all times. As an added bonus, you can sell the drone footage so clients can relive their magical Teton experience over and over again from the comfort of their homes.

The next Yvonne Choinard, Doug Thompkins, Stephen Koch, or, dare I say, Glenn Exum could be an overweight gamer from Toledo, Ohio, but their potential will be squandered unless Exum helps GLOBOCORPSE help the people gain unrestricted and inclusive access to the wilderness backcountry in OUR National Parks. It’s no exaggeration when I say that the world needs you, Glenn, now more than ever before.

The owners of several other concessions in Teton Park have already approached GLOBOCORPSE about a partnership, but we want to work with Exum. All you have to do to assure your continued successes is sign on with us.

The clock is tickin’ Glenn!

All the best,

Jerry Pozer

END FAX

So it seems the backcountry beauty beyond compare was correct: a horrendous precedent had been set, the corporate whores were lining up to get in the door, and I knew exactly what to do.

venus on a splitboard

An Open Letter to Exum About Their Growing Partnership with Arc’teryx

Dear Exum Mountain Guides:
Attention: Owners, Management, and Lead Guides

Exum is a local guide concession serving Grand Teton National Park. Arc’teryx is a global clothing company with dozens of brand stores and thousands of licensed retailers all over the world. Both companies meet important needs and have a history of excelling at what they do, but their growing partnership sets a disturbing precedent in our national parks and prompts several important questions that Exum, Arc’teryx, and the NPS have yet to answer publicly.

The clock is ticking through the last day before the third annual Arc’teryx Academy gets under way. The promotional beer has been brewed, the banners have been hung around town, funds from the lodging tax and corporate sponsors have been allocated, and the #jacksonhole #arcteryxacademy social media sprayfest is already in full swing.

It seems that no expense has been spared in planning the Academy, getting the NPS to sign off on it, promoting it to a global audience of potential customers, and presenting it to our local community in a positive light.

Despite a well-crafted — and expensive — corporate PR campaign a grumble of discontent is growing. Clouds of uncertainty shroud your Academy, your upcoming Arc’teryx Trips program, and the precedent Exum is setting by partnering with global corporations to promote brands, create customers, and sell an unprecedented number of guided trips into federally protected backcountry wilderness areas.

At a time when the Trump administration is pushing for more privatization of our National Parks and public lands, local conservationists are concerned that Exum and its partners are actively playing a part in this troubling predicament. With significant NPS and NFS budget cuts in recent years, are our public lands being prepared for an era where increased corporate exploitation will run rampant?

Could the Arc’teryx Academy and Arc’teryx Trips programs — and the precedents these partnerships set — be contributing to this exploitation?  Are they part of a push to squeeze every possible cent out of priceless natural treasures like GTNP that were protected specifically so they couldn’t be sold off, overdeveloped, or overused for profit-driven purposes?

I am sure that we can all agree that the one place in Jackson Hole that certainly should not be exploited for profit is the backcountry wilderness of Grand Teton National Park.

I’ve been actively seeking public comment about your growing Arc’teryx Academy and upcoming Arc’teryx Trips programs, and so far only one person has spoken up in favor of these partnerships and the precedents they set.

No one from Arc’teryx, Exum, or the NPS has gotten back to me, but plenty of concerned citizens have. Hopefully, this open letter will help get a legitimate dialogue going because at this point more one-sided corporate propaganda about how your Academy “unites the backcountry ski community in Jackson Hole” is only going to turn local public opinion against your expanding partnerships and growing programs.

One person who did respond to my inquiries is a medical doctor from BC, Canada who said she attended the Academy last year. She signed up for an “Intro to Backcountry” tour and said it was more advanced than she had expected. Her husband bailed on his reservation, and she was glad that he did because she was overwhelmed by the terrain and he has less backcountry experience and skiing ability than her. She found herself surrounded by ~70 other Academy skiers simultaneously ascending the avalanche prone slopes of Whimpy’s Knob. This was on a day that avalanche danger got downgraded from Considerable at all elevations to Moderate at all elevations.

Her “Intro to Backcountry” tour didn’t strike her as exceptionally safe or educational, and I can relate to her sentiments having also witnessed that spectacle on Whimpy’s last winter. In addition to being shocked by the total number of Academy skiers on one slope simultaneously, I was equally shocked by the group sizes: 6-12 skiers per group, when the well-established safety standard for groups travelling through avalanche terrain is 2-4 skiers per group.

According to Utah Avalanche Center director, Bruce Tremper, the “1st Commandment” for “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” is “Thou Shalt Go One at a Time — and Leave Someone in a Safe Spot to Do the Rescue”. This — the most basic and important of backcountry safety protocols — is impossible to attain when one guide service is running several atypically large groups of relatively inexperienced skiers travelling up, down, and across the same avalanche prone slopes simultaneously.

Is this the new normal? Does Exum hope to run more and bigger groups all winter long thanks to all the exposure their partnership with Arc’teryx is providing? One could actually argue that Exum’s Arc’teryx Academy is actually lowering safety standards for all backcountry visitors by treating GTNP like a Canadian cat skiing operation.

Another person who responded is a well-established film maker who has had proposals to film in the GTNP wilderness areas denied because his projects had corporate backing and were deemed too commercial by park administrators. He wondered why Exum and TGR have been able to film commercial projects together in the GTNP wilderness and how the Arc’teryx Academy’s associated #jacksonexposed photo/film contest could possibly be labelled anything but corporate and commercial.

The Academy is certainly corporate and commercial: it involves hundreds of clients paying to play, dozens of guides and pro skiers getting paid to attend, a gaggle of VIPs from sponsors and the ski media, and a least a half dozen professional photographers/filmmakers competing to “capture the essence of the backcountry ski experience in Jackson Hole”. This captured essence is clearly being used to create more customers, promote brands, and sell products. It stands in stark contrast to the corporate PR portraying the Academy as a purely educational experience.

Just this morning a rumor got back to me that this year’s #jacksonexposed photo/film shoots will not include footage or photos from wilderness areas in Grand Teton National Park, but last year’s photo/film shoots certainly did. Anyone who doubts or wishes to dispute this fact need only watch the Red Bull Snow video “Finding Freeski Flow in Jackson Hole | Originate w/ Michelle Parker” to see footage clearly shot in the wilderness areas of GTNP being used to promote the Arc’teryx Academy, to promote professional athletes and photographers, and to sell energy drinks.

Commercial Video Use of GTNP WILDERNESS

Another person who responded has been guiding in GTNP for decades and informed me — please correct me if this is wrong — that there are no official limitations on commercial concession visitation rates in the winter season. If this is true, concessions must be self-regulating, and right now we are not seeing a very high level or responsible stewardship from our friends at Exum Mountain Guides and their corporate partners.

Here are several more public comments for your consideration:

  • Greg Collins: Exum should use CTNF permit areas, mandatory carpooling, staggered start times, and different GTNP parking areas.
  • Paul Turecki: Is that even legal, permit wise? Put an Arc’teryx billboard up at the gate.
    Corporations even own the parks now. Gross..
  • Dorelyn Talcott: I feel heavy hearted with the grave commercialism that is happening all over the valley, especially the park. Sadly, I believe it is inevitable & the power of the damn dollar will continue to perpetuate the situation. Perhaps the park can step in and cowboy up to limit permits… or permit sizes?
  • I understand that the strategy of the Exum/Arteryx partnership, however I do not believe groups of that size represent what a real Teton experience is all about.
  • John Betts: The lightning injuries from the July 2010 incident on the Grand were compounded by the route being overcrowded. Can sheer numbers increase avalanche risks? I’m surprised the Park Service is allowing such high numbers.
  • Michael Ray: I bet we know what Glenn Exum might say. Or what a living legend like Bill Briggs might say. Commercial trips with that size are certainly unsafe and unethical. You can not safely manage a group that size in terrain that big. End of story.
  • Jerry Wallace: Seems like all they care about is making money. That many people at one time in an avalanche area sounds dangerously unsafe. Whoever’s running that show needs to be schooled on what can happen. But anyway stay safe Max peace out
  • Sean McCarthy: Nothing more annoying than people travelling in large wolf packs #greedyhole
  • Greg Cheney: Anytime a natural area is to be commercialized I have to pause and ask who will benefit. I’d say no right off the bat…
  • pattagucci: “The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.” GTNP isn’t Everest, but on the other hand do we extend this type of reasoning to NOLS and the like? No matter what, you’re the man Max.
  • keliblueyez: It’s a travesty. I am so over beta-nerd-hipsters being spoon fed excursions so individuals can social media post and huge companies can make more money.

Here is the one public comment I received that spoke in favor of the Academy, and he makes several good points.

  • Daniel Rogers: Commercial use of the Tetons isn’t going anywhere. If a company like Arc’teryx is involved, you can be sure the permits are in order with the Park Service, (one would assume) and I hope GTNP is smart enough to get their proper cut. If staying off Whimpy’s for a few days means cash moneys for GTNP operations, in a time of dwindling federal budgets, then have at it, I say. If bunching up in moderate terrain means more folks get at least a modest introduction to backcountry travel, and stewardship, amidst an atmosphere of knowledge and celebration, I can live with that. Insinuating that folks are doing the mountain a disservice by hiring a guide service, like Exum or JHMG or whomever else is both short-sighted and somewhat elitist, in my opinion. National parks belong to the nation, not the locals. If someone with the drive, but not the experience hires a guide to go up the OS [route on the Grand Teton], that is 100 times more respectful, and responsible than heading up with a private party that is incompetent. I get as frustrated by crowds as much as the next guy, just providing an alternate point of view. I mean, roads are also dangerous, maybe we should ban tour buses as well. TGR puts out a lot of films that draw people here, let’s stop them too. A couple people drown each year, so lets shut down the Snake to Barker Ewing. I get the sentiment, but I think it’s a slippery slope to be sure…

There are indeed a lot of slippery slopes around. Slopes so steep and slippery, in fact, that they could avalanche both physically and metaphorically.

In my opinion, commercial use of the Teton backcountry IS going somewhere: it’s going UP! I’m not saying — in fact I haven’t heard anyone saying — that we should shut down commercial use of the backcountry, but we should keep an eye on the trend of rapid growth and potentially limit that growth so it doesn’t get out of control. We also might want to think twice about letting a global corporation act like a concessionaire, not just because it will blow up the Teton backcountry but because it could set a sketchy precedent throughout the NPS at a time when budget cuts are a real threat to our parks.

With recreation fee revenue and other mandatory funding sources, total 2020 funding for NPS is $3.5 billion. That’s down ~$400 million from 2019, so the budget has shrunk substantially in one year. This year’s Arc’teryx Academy is bringing ~400 paying clients into the Tetons paying ~$200 per trip, so the total take for the entire week is only $80k. Concessionaires pay ~5-10% to the NPS, so GTNP is going to make an estimated $4k-$8k off of the Academy. Some folks are certainly benefiting from the Exum/Arc’teryx partnership, but GTNP doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the top of that list.

For a lot of people, the hardest part about mountaineering and backcountry skiing is learning how and when to stop oneself, how to objectively assess situations and when to say enough is enough. The same applies to business practices and partnerships, especially amidst the “wealthiest county per capita” in North America.

Operating a guide concession in Grand Teton National Park is a privilege, not a right. Exum’s concession contract is up for renewal on December 31st, 2023. Is the additional money and fame gained through partnering with global corporations worth the risk of losing it all and being replaced by a better guide service practicing responsible stewardship?

Sincerely,

Max Mogren
Alpine, Wyoming
February 5th, 2020

PS If you’re still interested in what I’ve got to say, you might want to check out “How NOT to Ski GTNP: Viral Backcountry Ignorance“.  One Love.  Peace.

Max Mogren's Real News, Resolutionary Views, Trip Reports, and Gear Reviews. Based in Alpine, Wyoming.

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