A Skier’s Search for Nirvana

ILLUSTRATION: Alelli Tanghal

A feverish crowd is riding the tram to the top of Chamonix’s Grands Montets ski area. It snowed two feet last night and three feet the day before. The top of the mountain hasn’t opened in two days, and this morning, the clouds lifted for a brief window of clarity. The operator opens the tram doors and skiers race down the summit staircase, jockeying to get first tracks. Taking his time in the mad rush, Jimmy Rogers keeps his cool.

Clad in muted dark blue and gray, with a frayed olive-green knit hat, Rogers stands out from the powder-hungry hordes—many of them young, brightly dressed, and anxious to charge. As the crowd streams over the backside of the summit saddle, Rogers gestures the other direction, toward the frontside, and three friends follow him, trusting he will lead them to the best snow.

His companions hungrily drop in to the steep, glaciated face and pick up speed in the thick yet forgiving waist-deep powder. Rogers, on the other hand, draws out the experience and makes art on the untouched canvas with rhythmic, disciplined turns all the way down 1,700 vertical feet to the piste. At 64 years old, he outgrew the frenetic energy and packs of boys on a big powder day a long time ago. But his understated reactions to a great run—”that was nice” is a common one—belie a deep-rooted, unshakeable enthusiasm for skiing.

Everyone wants to ski more. The difference between everyone and Jimmy Rogers is that Jimmy Rogers acted on it. PHOTO: Jeremy Bernard

All his life, especially in times following personal challenges, Rogers has turned to skiing as a way forward. He has skied almost every day for 17 winters in Chamonix, and 18 in Taos before that. He does not have sponsors, or a ski career, or a social media following—he carries a flip phone. He lives off a frugal, down-to-the-euro budget funded mainly by his summer work as a builder. His priority is skiing. It is what balances him, what betters him, what drives him, and what brings him joy. Despite some regrets with family that he still struggles with, each step of his journey has brought him closer to an ideal life—to ski every day, find the best snow, and share his gift with others.

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