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Professional skier Troy Murphy ditched his digs for a month to embrace van life

Tested Tough | RV/AK
Despite the comforts offered by an actual house, thousands of people ditch those familiar confines each year to instead live a life on the road — loosely referred to as van life. For United States Ski Team rider Troy Murphy, embracing this nomadic lifestyle allows him the rare opportunity to take some deserved time away from his grueling training schedule.

This year, Murphy pumped the breaks on what he calls “the daily grind of competitive freestyle skiing,” grabbed a few friends, and hit the road to do nothing but “eat, ski, test gear, sleep, repeat.” To capture this dedicated attempt at getting away from it all, the Portland, Oregon-based outwear company Columbia Sportswear sent a camera crew along with him. Dubbed the Tested Tough series, Columbia joined Murphy and his pals in Valdez, Alaska — specifically around the Chugach Mountains — to get an inside look at how they spent an entire month simply living out of a van.

With a fleet of snowmobiles, skis, and all the Columbia gear they could fit in their van, the group traversed the Chugach Mountains with not the faintest hint of an itinerary. Though Murphy skis professionally, it’s obvious he valued the ability do whatever he pleased during the epic trip.

“Having the freedom to ski whatever you want and not really have any structure to your day, you kind of wake up and the weather is good, and if you have an area you might like to check out, you kind of just go explore it,” Murphy said in the video. “If there’s something there you can ski, you ski it but there’s no agenda for a whole month. You just feel free, out there having fun with your friends”

Along with friends Hunter Bailey (U.S. Ski Team), Keaton McCargo (U.S. Ski Team), Jannick Fjeldsoe (Danish Ski Team) and Blake Wilson (a self-proclaimed “full-time vacationer”), Murphy took joy in the fact they didn’t have to actually compete in any event — all they focused on was skiing purely for fun. And pushing themselves to their limits.

“Coming to Alaska certainly puts your perspective on skiing in check,” Murphy added. “You’re right on top of this massive line that you can’t even see four feet of, you’re like, ‘well, do I have this?'”

After skiing sections of the Chugach Mountains most people will only ever dream of, the crew retired to their decked out van each night to recharge. Though their version of van life — skiing off sheer cliffs while executing perfect double backflips — looks slightly different than the average camper van enthusiast’s, the feeling of desire and motivation to spend time away from home and hit the road remains the same no matter who is doing the driving.