in search of the best powder: a q&a with troy murphy and chris lee
Winter is in full swing which means the powder is calling. For Troy Murphy and Chris Lee, there's no time like the present to explore as much backcountry powder as possible. Living out of a tiny house and adventuring from snowstorm to snowstorm, their goal is to seek out the best powder and, well, enjoy it. We sat down with Troy and Chris to get the full scoop. Here's what we learned.
Rhone: What first gave you the idea to create the #rhonerig and travel the country looking for the best powder?
Troy: To be honest the rig was all Chris's idea. He'd been wanting to chase snow for a long time and planned on doing this after graduating from school last May. I've always wanted to travel and ski backcountry as well so it worked out perfectly.
Chris: I have always wanted to travel the country in search of the best snow. From living in various ski towns across the country, I began to feel tired of my sedentary life. After finishing my studies at Westminster College, I knew I was going to take a year off to travel and what better way to do so then to follow winter across the country. What really lead me to create the #rhonerig was that I had planned to chase snow in a tiny house built specifically for winter camping, and if you’re going to haul a tiny house you’re going to need a big rig to do so.
Rhone: What is your route and which location are you most looking forward to?
Troy: We don't really have a firm agenda on where we're headed, it mostly depends on conditions. We're currently wrapping up our maiden voyage. We went to Golden BC, Pemberton BC, and made a quick stop at Mt. Baker, WA on our way back to Utah. There was definitely a steep learning curve on this first one, but hopefully we ironed out most of the kinks. Every spring I've made a pilgrimage up to Alaska and I definitely hope to make it up there, but if conditions aren't good we won't force it.
Chris: My route is very opened ended. I have coined the words “no agenda” for my winter. Ultimately going where the storms land and to some of the bucket list skiing locations that Troy and I have dreamed of riding.
Rhone: What criteria do your stops have to meet in order for you to “land” at your next location?
Troy: We're looking for good snow, stable avalanche conditions, favorable weather (either sunny or snowing), and inspiring terrain. It can be very challenging to stack the deck with all those though so well be looking for the best possible options.
Chris: It mainly depends on the snow. We look at the weather, past and future, avalanche conditions, and proximity to where we are currently located
Rhone: For how long do you plan to be on the road?
Troy: I'll be cruising around until April or so, Chris plans to travel through the summer.
Chris: I plan to be on the road for the entire winter. If everything holds up over the winter I plan to continue my adventures into the summer, traveling the California coastline and into various national parks across the country.
Rhone: Where did you park for the night and how did you find the best locations? Did you plan them out ahead of time or figure it out on the fly?
Troy: Parking is definitely an on the fly scenario. Usually, we'll hop on the internet before we arrive at our destination to check if there are any free parking spots. If we can't find any we'll drive to the trailhead we're trying to sled out of and hope there's space for the rig.
Chris: Most of the time we are parking at the base of a trailhead that we can use to access snowmobile and skiing terrain. Other times it’s from asking the locals where would be a good place to park for the night.
Rhone: What are the biggest advantage and disadvantage of traveling by the #rhonerig as opposed to a plane?
Troy: The biggest advantage is the ability to change locations at a moments notice, which we've already done 3 times in one trip. The biggest disadvantage is that it's way slower than flying, and there's a lot more potential for things to break and go wrong.
Chris: The biggest advantage is being able to stop where ever you’d like and whenever you’d like, take a few steps back and be in your living room. The only downside is how long it can take to get to new places opposed to flying.
Rhone: What are 5 things you can’t live without on this trip?
Troy: My skis, snowmobile, and powsurf boards are the crucial tools for the trip. After that, all I really need are some warm layers and some nice snow boots!
Chris: My dog, hot dogs(protein missiles), good friends, my powder surfer and finally my camera.
Rhone: What are you hoping to get out of your travels?
Troy: This is something I've wanted to do ever since my first trip to AK 6 years ago. For me, it's a bucket list trip, a transition out of competition, and a way to explore a totally new and free aspect of skiing.
Chris: I’m hoping to improve my film and photography skills this winter while helping my friends document their skiing experiences.
Rhone: What would be one piece of advice to give someone hoping to do something similar?
Troy: After this whirlwind first trip I'd tell someone to test out their rig for a week or two before they send it on a big trip. Also having a snowmobile is a game changer.
Chris: Expect delays and setbacks but once you reach the destination it will have been worth it.
Rhone: Why go on this trip at this point in your life?
Troy: This is the perfect time for me to do this. I just retired from competing and won't have the opportunity to do something like this for a long time (potentially ever). I'm super grateful for Chris having me along and am psyched to use this as a stepping stone from mogul skiing to my next chapter.
Chris: I know I will have to settle down sometime but nows not the time. Currently, I’m still figuring what that might look like, so taking some time off and chasing snow and snowboarding seems like the best option right now. I'm fortunate to have been given this opportunity so there’s no better time than now to seize it.
Rhone: How do you kill time and have fun in-between mountain sessions?
Troy: So far we haven't had an ounce of free time. When we aren't skiing or sledding we've either been driving through the night, troubleshooting issues with the truck and trailer, or wrenching on our equipment (I literally had to stop in the middle of writing these responses to change a trailer tire). Hopefully, in our next go around we'll be more dialed and able to have some free time to relax around the trailer.
Chris: I play a lot with my dog outside, having him chase me on my snowmobile is always a fun time for both of us. There’s always almost something to fix whether that be on the snowmobiles, the truck, or mainly the tiny house. We watch ski and snowboard movies to pass the time as well as playing numerous card games.
Rhone: Do you have certain music/bands/playlists you listen to while on the road for dozens of hours at a time? Podcasts? Audio-books? Road-trip games?
Troy: Chris has Sirius XM in the truck so we're constantly flipping through those stations. I also downloaded a bunch of podcasts before we drove the setup out from Maine where it was built, so we still have some of those to go through.
Rhone: How is it having a dog co-pilot? Would you recommend to a friend?
Troy: It hasn't been too bad for Killi so far but he definitely has to spend super long days in the trailer by himself. It's heated and he has food and water so it's not much different than being at home except it's way smaller. If you've got the option I'd say leave the dog at home, Chris might disagree but he's biased!
Chris: I have a standard poodle named Kili, short for Kilimanjaro. He’s awesome, goes with the flow and is a true powder pup. He loves it and I enjoy his company, the only downside is when I’m out snowboard or snowmobiling in the backcountry for a long time and he’s sitting inside. But I guess that would happen even if I wasn’t on the road.
Rhone: What’s the most epic stop that you’d tell everyone to experience for themselves.
Troy: Hard to answer this one as we've only been to a couple of spots. BC is pretty awesome though!
Chris: For me, I have always loved Alaska. I haven't been back to Alaska for a few years so as of right now it’s on the top of my list for places to go.
Rhone: How does basic hygiene work on the road? Be honest.
Troy: Chris's rig is set up with a sink, shower, and toilet, so in theory, hygiene should be the same as it is at home. However, with the super cold temps up north, we opted to drain the hot water heater rather than have the potential for it to freeze. So for this trip so far, which has been a couple of weeks, we've each taken one shower at the Revelstoke aquatics center.
Chris: Fortunately I built the tiny house with 80gallon freshwater tanks, with running water basic things like brushing teeth and hand washing are a big plus. The house even has a shower so when the time truly comes there is a hot shower available.