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Cody Townsend Exclusive: Why He Ended The 50

Cody Townsend has been pursuing his goal to ski every one of the Classic 50 Ski Descents in North America for 5 years. He ended The FIFTY Project somewhat mysteriously at 46 out of 50 — GearJunkie caught up with him to find out why.

(Photo/Cody Townsend)
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Cody Townsend posted a video to YouTube on March 20, 2024, that surprised many of his fans and followers. In it, the 41-year-old pro skier announced that he was ending his widely regarded FIFTY Project at 46 out of the 50 Classic Ski Descents. He posted the final video in the 5-year series, “Bloody Done” and wrapped up the magnum opus of his career so far.

We covered the news when it broke. But questions still swirled around why Townsend had decided to end the FIFTY Project just shy of completing all 50 descents. The following he’d built and the reception the FIFTY Project had was exceptional. His momentum seemed, from the viewer’s perspective, unstoppable. GearJunkie featured many of his videos along the way.

“Bjarne and I, we’ve skied a lot of lines so far, but we haven’t even been to the base of a few of them,” Townsend remarked in the opening to “Bloody Done,” the finale of the FIFTY Project. “The adventures aren’t over. This channel isn’t over. And I’m definitely still going to be in the mountains doing cool stuff.”

But the FIFTY Project was over, he said.

GearJunkie caught up with Townsend not long after the announcement and release of “Bloody Done” to talk about some of the highlights of the FIFTY Project, why he chose to stop it, and where he’s going next.

Cody Townsend Exclusive Q&A: The FIFTY Project

Cody Townsend FIFTY
(Photo/Cody Townsend)

GearJunkie: This project has been huge. What were some of the big highlights along the way?

Cody Townsend: Probably just getting to going into mountain ranges I’d never really spent much time in, to learn from the people that have spent decades refining their craft in those ranges and connecting with a global ski community that has been insanely supportive and directly helpful of the project.

The entirety of the project taught me just how awesome the ski community is, how skiers are so united by a deep passion for mountains and sliding on snow, and that no matter what our level of expertise is, we’re all kind of the same. 

Nick McNutt and Cody Townsend ski Combatant Couloir
Nick McNutt and Cody Townsend ski Combatant Couloir; (photo/Cody Townsend)

What were some of the biggest challenges that you had to overcome?

The biggest challenges were the in-between moments, the hard decisions on whether or not it would be worthwhile to drive 12 hours to chase a line, the logistics of figuring out how we were going not only climb and ski the line, but also craft a story around it and the massive amount of work it was to capture, edit, and distribute more than 50 short films.

If I were just skiing these lines with a buddy, the project itself would have been incredibly easy. But the payoff of adding all that stress, workload, and expense to share the stories was ultimately worth it. 

Were you at all surprised by the response and reception of the FIFTY Project when you started it? People have been very excited about this.

I definitely was surprised by just how big the series got. After publishing that last episode, people started sharing their stories of how the FIFTY changed their lives, or united their families, or inspired them to move to the mountains, or got them off their couches to reignite an extinguished flame for skiing … it honestly gave the project a true purpose.

While the origination of the FIFTY was born out of a self-motivated desire to learn, to attempt to ski all these lines, and to document the whole process, the end of it showed me that it was far more important than a selfish pursuit. I honestly got very teary-eyed reading all the comments on the day of the release of the Bloody Couloir episode. I never could’ve imagined that the series we started 5 years ago would be so significant. 

Cody Townsend FIFTY
(Photo/Cody Townsend)

Did you ever think that it was possible you might end short of your goal?

The only reason I started the project was because I was comfortable with the reality that the most likely outcome was not finishing all 50 of the lines. If my entire focus was the finish, and to finish at all costs, then not only would I be setting myself up for an insanely dangerous pursuit, I would be setting myself up to fail in the pursuit of happiness.

Tying your personal well-being to a checklist is a path that leads to dissatisfaction with life, an endless yet insatiable appetite for more, and an ego that disregards all the incredible moments that truly bring contentment to life. While the goal of skiing all 50 lines is still there, it’s ultimately just an excuse to have incredible adventures, to grow as a skier and a human, and to bond with a community. 

For the obvious one: What caused you to call it off short of completing all 50 if you plan on finishing the last four anyway?

First, I don’t plan on finishing all 50. I plan on attempting, trying, and maybe finishing the last four. But I called off the YouTube series ultimately so there is no exterior pressure to continue to produce episodes on a specific timeline, not to have sponsorship or funding tied to those episodes that may or may not ever come out, and to focus entirely on the mountains and lines themselves so I can do them on my own time, dime and motivation.

Being a professional skier is a complex job, and I want to make sure the job interferes less with four of the most difficult and dangerous lines in North America. There will be more content coming out on my YouTube channel in the future; it will just most likely not have anything to do with the four lines left in the 50. 

Cody Townsend FIFTY

What is next for Cody Townsend?

Well, if I said that now, then I’d be spoiling it for everyone else. I mean, I’m not entirely sure of the specifics of the future, but it will be centered around my favorite things in the world: skiing, family, adventuring, and telling stories. 

Is there anything else you want to clarify or make known to the world?

Just that I thank everyone for watching, for supporting, and for giving this far more meaning than what I thought was just a selfish pursuit. Sometimes, I question the reality that my life and career are centered around these selfish desires. But, when people talk about how what I’ve done has positively impacted their lives, has inspired them to challenge themselves, and has helped make their lives happier, well, shit man, that kind of gives an entire purpose to this life of a diehard skier.

So, thank you all out there. You just gave something irreplaceable to me in this whole process.

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