University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Go Big, Very Big

Aaron Rice skiing in the mountains
Photograph by Tyler Wilkinson-Ray ’12


Go Big, Very Big

Over the past several years, young alumni Aaron Rice ’12 and Tyler Wilkinson-Ray ’12 have taken to the mountains out west on audacious quests. For Rice, that meant attempting to ski 2.5 million vertical feet under his own power in one year, largely in Utah’s Wasatch Range. For Wilkinson-Ray, it meant a move from Vermont to Telluride, Colorado, aspiring to turn avocation into vocation as an outdoor filmmaker and cinematographer. 

Those two quests become one in 2.5 Million, Wilkinson-Ray’s documentary about Rice’s attempt to not just break the existing world record, but exceed it by 500,000 feet. This is “human-powered” skiing. No lifts, snowmobiles, or helicopters, just Aaron Rice on a pair of backcountry skis, doggedly ascending and gracefully descending day after day after day. 

After setting his sights on the world record, Rice called Wilkinson-Ray about possibly documenting his journey. “Tyler is especially skilled with storytelling in his films,” Rice says. “I’m a good skier, but I’m not hucking forty-foot cliffs; so, I knew this was going to be more about the story.”

In an early scene, Rice pulls his gear out of the back of his Honda Odyssey, green-and-gold UVM Euro sticker on the bumper. With characteristic understatement, he walks past the camera and says, “Day one. I’ve got a lot of walking to do. Wish me luck.” So it begins. Across the next calendar year, Rice climbs on his skins, skis downhill, stares down adversity, and scarfs 6,000 calories daily. 

The film has earned accolades, including a Best Documentary Powder Award, a Vimeo Staff Pick, and a place in this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival, gold-standard of the genre. 

Watch 2.5 Million:

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