Art and words by Ambassador Gretchen Leggitt. Photos by Paris Gore.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of the word “tour” is : a journey for businesspleasure, or education often involving a series of stops and ending at the starting point. I suppose this definition accurately breaks down the components of why I am addicted to bike tours and ski touring.

Gretchen in the snowy Methow aboard her Kona Sutra

First, I can say the business of both is to challenge my physical and mental strength. Staying fit as I grow older, held down with work and obligations, becomes more of a task that I must strategically integrate into my lifestyle to maintain success. So why not ditch the car or chairlift and earn those turns!? The business of sitting in traffic jams and long lift lines is also not something that I care to engage in. 

Next, the pleasure of a tour is indeed hard to deny. I am of the belief that there is nothing more pleasurable than feeling my heart pounding while I torpedo down black, brown or white POW. On tours, adrenaline-endorsed hill bombs and terrifyingly steep couloirs and cliff drops are brilliantly complemented by the long and meditative journey to the objective. Allowing my mind to clear and focus on sounds of my own breath, the stroke of my pedals and the clicking of my splitboard bindings while I quietly travel through space gets replaced by the scream of rushing wind and the mental silence of pinpoint focus as I fly down mountains on my chosen toys. It is the journey that provides me these juxtaposed pleasures for the mind and body, both of which remind me how brilliant it is to be alive. 

Finally, the education of a tour is something to not glaze over. On bike tours, I am acutely oberving and engaging within the changing environments and ecosystems I pass through. My body feels nuances of the terrain and climate, while I simultaneously absorb the diverse sights, sounds and smells of a place, reviving golden senses that I so frequently sacrifice to technology and automation. Likewise, a ski tour encourages me to study terrain and climate in a scientific demeanor that is lost to the average lift rider. When we ski tour, we assess slope aspects, snow quality and climate trends. We scrutenize our surroundings as we punch through fresh snow and we listen for movement. Touring provides me opportunities to intimately engage within and learn from these magnificent environments in which I play. 

Above all, I find that I am most drawn to the element of simplicity that pairs both bike touring and ski touring. The ability to carry all that I need to eat, sleep, live and play on while moving through vast lands at moderate speed with a quantitively low expulsion of energy is just plain magnificent. My scrappy legs transform into powerful pistons that can take me to far more interesting places than a car or lift will ever be capable of. In turn, when weather windows open and ice clears from the roads, There is nothing more pleasurable than strapping my splitboard, hammock and Jetboil onto my Kona Sutra and venturing to the hills.

To see more of Gretchen’s art please visit