Life is better with friends. It’s an adage as old as dirt, but one that holds particularly true in our outdoor realm. From summits, to fresh powder runs, to that long weekly bike ride, our satisfaction is exponentially richer when shared with others (and yes, there’s even science to back it up).
Those who have built their lives around outdoor pursuits understand this point all too well. For professional climbers, skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor athletes, friends are often planning partners and support systems, in addition to stoke buddies. These relationships help define careers, but they also provide necessary balance in a world that’s constantly pushing toward the next big achievement. After all, there are some sports, like sport climbing, that you simply can’t do alone.
As a shout-out to those who’ve found ultimate friends in the great outdoors, here are some of our favorite partnerships across outdoor sports.
Michelle Parker and Emily Harrington
Big-mountain skier Michelle Parker and professional climber and mountaineer Emily Harrington met in their mutual homebase near Lake Tahoe, California, and have forged a bond over long days spent in the mountains together. It doesn’t hurt that Parker likes to climb and that Harrington’s first love was skiing. Cross-training, anyone?
In 2015, they attempted to climb and ski 19,347-foot Cotopaxi, a volcano in Ecuador, but they had to turn around due to weather. In 2018, they returned to Cotopaxi and successfully skied off the summit. (You can follow their shenanigans at #adventuresofmikeyandharry.) Whether they’re hatching plans for a multi-sport weekend in their backyard or planning their next international expedition, their friendship is built on pushing boundaries—something that both Parker and Harrington have focused on in their careers.
“For me, having a female partner like Emily in the mountains is incredibly empowering and without a doubt lifts me up,” Parker said. “We have bonded over our love of adventure.”
Harrington says that Parker is one of her favorite mountain partners. “Michelle’s energy and passion are contagious,” Harrington said. “It is impossible not to laugh and smile around her. When we ski or climb together, she pushes me to be better—just her presence instills confidence. Because of her, I am a better athlete and person.”
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell
Sure, pro climbers Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell each put out hugely successful climbing films this year—Oscar-winning Free Solo for Honnold and Dawn Wall for Caldwell, both based on multi-year projects on El Capitan in Yosemite—but the pair have been linked well before their forays on the silver screen. In 2014, they notched the first ascent of the Fitz Traverse, a seven-peak journey with more than 13,000 feet of climbing across the ridgeline of Cerro Fitz Roy in southern Patagonia.
The two joined forces in Yosemite last year, smashing the speed record on the Nose route of El Capitan, sending the 2,900-foot route in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 7 seconds.
Danny Davis and Nick Russell
The friendship between these two snowboard legends has humble New England beginnings, launching from the frozen halfpipe at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont when they were just 15 years old. Davis and Russell lived in adjacent dorm rooms, and always talked about heading west to snowboard. After graduating high school, that’s where they went.
But the pair’s paths deviated there, as Davis exploded into halfpipe superstardom, winning X Games gold in the SuperPipe in 2014 and 2015 and establishing the standard for style in the stunt ditch, while Russell quietly built a successful career as a backcountry snowboarder and mountaineer. Still, they stayed tight. “Watching [Russell] grow into the snowboarder he has become has been a real trip,” said Davis. “Now he’s pushing me into mountains that I would have never touched, or thought to.”
Recently, Russell has had a big influence on Davis’ riding, bringing the park rider into the backcountry, and even including Davis on the Bolivian high-altitude mission documented in his newest film project, Range of Mystery. After living down the hall over a decade ago, the two are now currently roommates in Truckee, California.
Hadley Hammer and Resi Stiegler
Pro skiers Hadley Hammer and Resi Stiegler have been friends since they first clicked in to two skis at Snow King Resort and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in their mutual hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, nearly three decades ago. But it’s the places those skis have taken them that makes this friendship really impressive. Hammer grew up Nordic skiing and figure skating and switched to a career in big-mountain skiing and ski mountaineering in her 20s. Stiegler was a ski racer from the start, eventually earning a spot on the U.S. Ski Team and competing in three winter games.
Still, the two keep Jackson close to their hearts, training and freeskiing together in the Tetons whenever schedules align. “Resi and I couldn’t be more different in personality (and ski width preference), but we are able to share the same drive to live a life full of adventure, hard work and beautiful mountains,” Hammer said. “As a result, our friendship has grown despite our travel schedules.”
“Hadley and I have known each other our whole lives,” added Stiegler. “We naturally bonded over the excitement for sunrises on top of chilly peaks and full-moon floats on the river. I would trust anything Hadley puts me through. She can read me really well and I know that whatever we’re doing is going to be fun and a life moment.”
Bobby Brown and Gus Kenworthy
When Gus Kenworthy came out publicly as the first openly gay pro freeskier in 2015, fellow pro skier Bobby Brown was among the first people he told. Brown, in turn, became a fierce supporter of Kenworthy in the months that followed, advocating for his friend on social media and contributing interviews to publications. “It’s tough when you have people telling you who to be and how to act in order to keep your job,” Brown told ESPN The Magazine in 2015. “But I’ve seen that the people who flourish stick to their guns and are themselves. Those are the people who live the happiest lives and have the most longevity in action sports. But that’s easier said than done.”
The pair have been ski buddies since emerging on the freeski competition scene as teenagers. Brown, from Breckenridge, Colorado, and Kenworthy, of Telluride, Colorado, have nearly a dozen X Games medals between them. They have filmed many projects together as well, including a recent film called Roots Lead to Water. Despite busy schedules, they still find time to practice tricks on the trampoline in Brown’s Denver backyard.