October 30, 2018 3 min read

Around the World w/ Max Taam

“Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” – Carl Sagan

Maax TaamMax Taam in the Deception Alpha Anorak. Photo by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray
Maax Taam jumpingPhoto by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray

A few miles from Strafe HQ, we escape for a quick trail run with local four-season adventure nut, Max Taam. Known in the Aspen community as an incredibly fit guy (hard to miss his bulging quads throughout the photoset) who’s usually winning one of our many forms of sadistic endurance feats in the valley, it’s easy to be caught off guard by his mellow, and unassuming presence in person.

Max Taam running with dogMax Taam in the Alpha Direct Insulator. Photo by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray.

“I only really train, to be fit enough to go on awesome adventures,” a sentiment we can relate to at Strafe even if it isn’t at Max’s level. The plot thickens when you learn that Max is a new father to a son (Ryder) and also a hard working real-estate broker who often takes his clients backcountry skiing or biking. Taking things a step further, when Max met his wife Jessie, an avid traveller, her passion for travel and culture combined with his love of exercise to lead them on some pretty wild international adventures. They cycled through Thailand and Laos, and through the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of China, at the soaring heights of 9,000-15,000 feet near the Tibet Border, considered the Colorado of China. Max echoed a sentiment often mentioned by bike-packing enthusiasts.

"When you’re on a bike, you’re moving at the right speed to experience the physical and cultural geographies of a place. Furthermore people treat you differently, they see you putting in all the effort to literally sweat your way to their little town and they want to engage, barriers fall away, and the most true human, intercultural connections can emerge."

Sounds profound right? Not that we want to make this sort of experience our whole lives. Yet, if encountering other cultures is a fundamental life-changing event (allowing us to see our own culture in context; that all of the values, symbols, and gods of our world are fairly arbitrary, and fall away in the face of another culture) we can often walk a little lighter, pick and chose the parts of our own culture that we feel are healthy and wise versus pathological and distorted.

Max’s most recent adventure trip was hiking with his wife and son through the Japanese Alps (which he reports is one of the most interesting and advanced societies he’s experienced). We like the idea of moving through other cultures in ways that strengthens our bodies but also ignites our curiosity and awareness to the vastness of our earth.

Max Taam in JapanMax with Ryder. Photo by Jessie Young
Max Taam hiking in JapanMax and Ryder in Japan. Photo by Jessie Young

After returning to Aspen, Max’s sentiments are mainly that he wants to see more, the adventures make him more curious about the world, and the adventures it has to offer. In terms of local adventures Max has been thinking about an Elk Mountain Traverse, a self-designed backcountry skiing mission from Aspen to Marble that would take about 24 hrs and where he’d tick off some iconic and dramatic skiing lines along the way. Sounds both epic and physically crushing, better painting a picture of the sort of fitness that he’s trying to achieve to do the things that inspires him.

When asked about regions of the world he’d like to adventure through, he has an offhanded list that includes Taiwan, Scotland, South America, and Western Canada.

Max Taam and John Gaston after Grand Traverse skimo raceMax Taam and John Gaston after Grand Traverse skimo race. Photo by Ted Mahon
Max Taam bikepackingBikepacking purity.