Gathering and remembrance for Ryan Hawks on Hidden Peak. Photo by: Josh Anderson

As we grow older, the years become shorter, seasons fly by, and the memories we hold dearest to our heart stem from the people we meet and the experiences we have had along the way. The last four years of my life have been centered around the winter months. I rescheduled work, school, and obligations in order to spend my winters traveling North America with a group of people I now consider to be my closest friends; my family.

The competitors on the Freeskiing World Tour are fortunate enough to share a lifestyle I’m sure anyone would envy. We share a passion for skiing, lust for adventure, and genuine love for the mountains and each other. Sure, competition adds to the enjoyment while pushing us to be the best we can be, but, it is by no means the reason most of us follow the tour. We ski because we love to ski. We ski on the FWT because we love the lifestyle. A good friend told me yesterday, “I don’t care if I get 1st or 50th, I love this sport and will compete regardless”.

Ladies at the finish of the Freeskiing World Championships. Snowbird, UT 2011.

The compassion and camaraderie found on the FWT is unrivaled. You will not find a group of competitors more supportive of each other anywhere. From the endless shared powder days to the late night beers and crazy dance parties, the memories go on forever. We cram into hotels and vans, sleep 6 to a floor, chase snow storms in the middle of the night, poach hot tubs, weasel our way into free lift tickets and beer, party in resort parking lots until the sun comes up. . . we share a continuous love and support for one another. We are a family.

Photo: Eben Wright

Ryan embodies our family to the fullest. His consistent positive attitude and eagerness for excitement inspired me to never pass up an opportunity for adventure. His passion for the sport rubbed off on everyone around him, along with his goofball laugh, gentle generosity, and pure love for life. Ryan’s the kind of guy that is everyone’s best friend, with his chiclet smile and ENORMOUS bear hugs, he could (and would) brighten any day. And that was his goal. Whether you were an old friend or a new acquaintance, he showed you love.

I am honored to have had such an amazing person in my life, and I am forever grateful to carry with me pieces of Ryan’s personality and strength of character. Thank you, Ryan, for bringing together so many wonderful people and for making this world a better place. You will forever be a part of our smiles, laughter, joy, and, of course, adventures.