Life on the Ridgeline

Life on the Ridgeline

Stewart, Lucia
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As the warm July breeze chilled the sweat on their backs, Jonas and Kim shifted their skis and boots in their backpacks. It was Independence Day 2004 and their 57th consecutive month skiing. They packed in fireworks and hot dogs for the occasion to enjoy from the ridgeline of the Great One in the Bridger Mountains.

It’s a dream of many skiers to have a winter playground year-round—but that’s easier said than done. Bozeman locals Jonas Grenz and Kim Roff, who live to ski 12 months a year, have made it happen. They’ve followed and found snow stashed in New Zealand, Argentina, Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, Colorado—and more often than not, right here in Montana.

With the early snow in Bozeman this season, Jonas and Kim made turns at Big Sky Resort on Halloween, completing their 60th consecutive month of skiing and checking off that pivotal 5-year mark. But it’s not about the number or the record, they say. It’s about preserving a piece of life that cannot be separated. They’re a couple driven by the skiing lifestyle and a love of the sport. They coin it “reality therapy.”

The two met on the Ridge at Bridger Bowl in 1999. When the snow began to melt, they went on student exchange to New Zealand with plans to ski glaciers and three-meter deep snow. When they returned to Bozeman to ski in November 2000, they decided, “to just keep it going.”

Growing up in Miles City, Jonas knew as a young kid he was going to be an MSU Bobcat. Known for his four-inch goatee, he is often seen running around, wildly enthusiastic about the current activity—and more often than not, with a Red Bull in hand.

Jonas, 27, only skied a handful of times a year until he moved to Bozeman in 1995. He remembers the dumps of the ’96-’97 winter season when he skipped more class than he went. When he would see his professors on the mountain, he knew he picked the right school. But as with all true ski bums, there comes a time to take a break from school to pursue the true passion: telemarking.

“I love the mountains and rivers here,” Jonas says. “The more time I spend away, the more I love this place. It’s the goods with skiing, kayaking, the university, and a growing opportunity for business.” He’ll be volunteering at Moonlight Basin this winter or skiing with Kim and “the crew,” with whom he founded the Cold Smoke Awards, a local wintersports film festival.

Originally from Easton, Connecticut, Kim started skiing when she was two years old. She has vivid memories of being rewarded for good schoolwork with ski vacations. Now 25 and with the nickname “burly,” Kim has a strong manner, athletic curves, and can definitely hang with the boys. Athleticism exudes from her spunky yet mellow demeanor.

Kim originally came to Bozeman in 1997 to attend MSU—mainly because of its proximity to ski areas. After receiving her B.S. in biochemistry, she remained in Bozeman “for the good people and the good skiing.” Graduate school’s on her mind these days, but she’s 95 percent sure it’ll be in Bozeman. As winter descends, Kim will ski patrol part-time at Big Sky, an opportunity to do what she loves while receiving a free ski pass—a ski fanatic’s most prized possession. “When the snow falls, I think more about skiing and less about work,” Kim says.

Kim and Jonas are both sponsored by Wookey Backpacks, capturing epic photographs from their travels for catalogs and personal archives. “They are people who pursue the lifestyle they want to have,” explains Sky Sterry, president of Wookey Backpacks, based in Bozeman. “They make it happen where their vocation works with their vacation.”

They have a reputation for being good at planning for the backcountry and making sure the logistics are in order. They’re also known for going “all out” on just about every occasion. “They look at the mountains as more than a place to recreate,” said Sterry. “A lot of people are here simply because of the environment and they see it as a natural resource we all need to share.”

Jonas enjoys going to Bridger alone and meeting up with different people at random. “It’s a cool thing to share, with anyone,” says Jonas. “I love the individuality of skiing yet the camaraderie of it is great too. There is a different kind of trust with people you ski with. They’ll save my life. I’ve looked them in the eyes. I think any adrenaline sport with high-risk is like that.”

The most recent trip was to Argentina—their first time in a country with a foreign language and a challenge to travel with skis. “Skiing is not that common down there so no taxi cab drivers would allow us to put our skis in the car,” said Kim. “And then we could barely communicate with them.” But the more they travel, they say—both nationally and internationally—the more they’re learning how to respect the mountains.

In the summertime, they’ll be found in their favorite stash spots in the Beartooth Mountains. “You go on long enough hikes to find snow,” says Jonas. “It’s a good excuse to get out and hike our ass off.” Come winter, they’ll spend half their time in the backcountry and other half at the resort. Backcountry holds a particular appeal to them. “He always out-hikes me,” Kim admits.

With a recent purchase of a house together near Four Corners, the couple hopes to create a jump off their 45-degree roofline. “If you have food and beer, you’re always welcome to join us,” Jonas says. Spoken like a true ski bum whose life is spent on the ridgelines of the world.
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