Finding the True Spirit of Skiing in Kyrgyzstan

In my last post, I mentioned that snowboarding—to me—is an art form. But after this trip, snowboarding is no longer the sole focus of our international adventures—the people of Kyrgyzstan taught me that snowboarding and skiing should be basic. They taught me about what I believe is the true spirit of skiing.

In the simplest form, a snowboard or a pair of skis is a toy with the ability to create happiness, fun, and laughter. More importantly, it actually bonds people together through a mutual love for the sport and the mountains—all from two sticks or a simple board. When Mollie and my western tendencies met eastern culture, we did not have any similarities to the people in terms of a lifestyle. I have not faced corruption in the way the Kyrgyz/Uzbek people have faced with their government nor have I lived in a war-torn country. I don’t live in a place that has dated infrastructure (electricity, plumbing, airlines). I could only witness the lives of others who have this, knowing that in a matter of a few weeks I would be back in the USA feeling guilty with warmth, reliable electricity, modern amenities, transportation at my disposal, a toilet instead of a hole in the ground, and for the most part, neighbors and government officials who wouldn’t kill me or turn a blind eye due to my ethnicity (Kyrgyzstan erupts into ethnic war).

The turning point on the trip was when I was strapped into my board and finally able to find a similarity to both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek people of Kyrgysztan—it was a simple set of toys that brought mutual feelings of joy to us all. There was a language barrier that could only be broken by the smiles of our faces or laughter with these simple planks. We found the true spirit of winter sports in this central Asia country—a very pure pleasure with no strings attached, and a mentality that the rest of the world could wait and we are all family when strapped in.

Truly, for these people the world is much simpler. And since skiing/riding is simple too, maybe we have it wrong in the west. Earn your turns as the Kyrgyz people do, and experience the snow as if it was your first time every time.

From that, you will surely gain simplicity.

The simplicity of earning turns in the Tian Shan Range.  The sound of wind, your bindings, your breath, and the occasional horse calling out.  Applying skins and bindings in order to tour into a higher zone.



Communication through charades with local villagers over hot tea.  Many beverages served in Kyrgyzstan are served hot as a means of staying warm during the harsh winter months and in order to make the water safe to drink.


We brought in many items donated from our key sponsors on this expedition to give to local villages and guides.  Many thanks to Osprey, Adventure Medical Kits, Utah Avalanche Center, Powder and Sun, Icelantic, Spark R&D,, G3, and Goal Zero for your joining efforts on this expedition to allow us to better serve the communities through the great products that you make and your donations.  Here we are providing Goal Zero solar powered flash lights, lamps, and panel charging systems to guides and villagers around the country in addition to Osprey packs and Adventure Medical Kits.  



A language barrier broken by a smile, curiosity, and a common toy.

IMG_5930  boyandhisskis





What were your first skis like?  Were they PVC pipe cut in half? What about your first pair of boots? Skiing on simple terms…


3 Comments. Leave new

Katie Wheeler
March 23, 2013 7:16 pm

Hi Sean and Mollie. I got linked to your blog through Kasidin’s Facebook and noticed that you guys have recently been to Kygryzstan and also moved to Whitefish. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Karakol and now live in Kalispell. Just thought I had to comment on our very random connection. I hope you’re enjoying MT and had a good winter in KG. take care.


Hey Katie,
How crazy is that!! We met a lot of super nice peace corps volunteers who were working in Bishkek… how long ago did you work there? Do you have a Montana connection? (e.g. Are you from here?)
Thanks for the comment!!


Hey Mollie — I was in KG from March ’09 – May ’11 and moved to Kalispell upon return. I’m originally from Pittsburgh but my brother has been out here since ’99, though I really came here for the food systems work. I split my time between Kalispell an Missoula now, but maybe we can meet up sometime to swap KG stories. I think you have my email address and Sean found me on FB. Take care and congrats on the house! Katie


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