David Bowers has three different lives. A typical day at work involves one of several longtime careers. One as an Exum mountain guide, spending summers guiding in the Tetons and beyond. A second as a professional photographer, whose work has been featured for many years in this very magazine. And a third as a ski patroller
“I have three identities really, all driven by spending time in the mountains,” he says.
A love of skiing and desire to explore the outdoors brought David and his wife Tracy to Jackson in 1989, and he began his pursuit of mountain and wilderness experiences in personal and professional endeavors. David began as a patroller at Snow King Mountain for 10 years, and this winter will complete his 20th year as a patroller at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. After decades working outdoors each winter, his preferred day-off activity remains the same — backcountry skiing in the mountains.
“There is so much energy at the Village, I like to balance that with tranquility,” he explains. “I have my places where I find solitude.”
Though David always knows where to find a quiet backcountry experience to recharge, the uptick in backcountry users in recent years has not gone unnoticed. “There are a lot of people venturing out for the first time,” David says. “But we all have to start somewhere.”
He recalls early days in the Tetons learning from Tom Turiano and Wes Bunch, who encouraged David to begin his career as a guide with Exum in the ’90s. David has since guided hundreds of ascents of the Grand Teton, as well as Gannet Peak and remote areas in the Wind River Range.
He’s taken personal adventures to remote areas, a notable memory being an expedition in the ’90s when David and two Jackson friends hatched a plan to ski across Baffin Island. The trio spent 21 days on a self-supported, 160-mile ski tour, skiing five peaks across extremely remote terrain on the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Island, located in the far northeast of Canada just west of Greenland. The expedition was mostly above the Arctic Circle, in bitterly cold temperatures that were essential to cover distance over sea ice that had to remain frozen to be passable.
“The warmest temperature was 22 degrees on the very last day,” David recalls. “We were skiing across the sea ice shirtless.”
The typical temperature was below zero, and the lowest was 27 below zero. David remembers the dramatic, rugged, heavily glaciated mountains, and ending the trip in a small Inuit village where a chance meeting with a teacher led to becoming guest speakers for local schoolchildren. He also remembers recovery immediately after the expedition. “I had two entire pizzas, a box of Eskimo pies, and a gallon of orange juice on my own.”
David carried rolls of film and his camera to document the journey, always enjoying photography as a way to tap into his artistic side, as well as to preserve a moment in time. “You cannot put a value on a photograph, and being able to have a memory of those who may no longer be with us.”
The Baffin Island expedition was completed in David’s late 30s. By his late 40s, he was attending photography school in Missoula, Montana, continuing his lifelong curiosity and love of learning and officially adding another career to the mix.
“They are all jobs of passion,” he says. “We only get one life to live, so why not strive to expand my skill set and utilize those skills.”
Throughout this winter, as usual, David will be rising early to ride the tram with the ski patrol team, to begin making the mountain safe for skiing at first light. Patrolling has changed as the skis, gear, and avalanche mitigation techniques have evolved over the years, and this suits David and his pursuit of constant learning and growth. After all, he notes, “motion is life,” and this outlook has served him well, in all three careers.