Ben Coleman on the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, which he summited with his friend Logan Dickerson. PHOTO COURTESY BEN COLEMAN

The subtle art of seizing the day

Ben Coleman on fully embracing the Big Sky life

It is not atypical for Ben Coleman to negotiate a real estate transaction while skate-skiing. The guy can squeeze more out of a single day than most people could imagine. Aside from his job in real estate he likes to fly under the radar. In fact, he rarely sees many other humans on his adventures. At 1 a.m., when most folks in Big Sky are soundly asleep, there are mornings when he is shutting off his alarm so he can chug coffee, pack up his gear and head out. He trudges up mountains in darkness so he can ski down in the early morning light. The freedom of it, the beauty, the thrill is what drives him. He has been chasing that adrenaline ever since he came west.

Beehive Peak, Wilson Peak, Lone Peak, Gallatin Peak, Mount Cowen, Mount Whitney, Mount Rainier, the Bugaboos in Canada. With crampons and ice axes, he conquers multi pitch climbs with trusted friends.

Last year he did a 13-pitch technical route to summit the Grand Teton with his longtime buddy Koy Hoover.

“We left Big Sky, summited the Grand and were back in Big Sky in less than 24 hours,” he said.

He estimates he has summited Beehive and Wilson peaks around 75 times each and has observed the vistas from the highest points of all the mountain ranges around.

In essence, he is a beast.

Nine years ago, when he was 40, friends urged him to race in a 24-hour Nordic race in West Yellowstone called “The Rendezvous.” He won the men’s division by traveling 287 kilometers in the allotted time frame, but what he likes to point out is that a female competitor beat his distance significantly – she made it to 298 kilometers.

“That’s just how life is,” he said. “You think you’re all macho and then, ‘Wham!’”

The thrill and beauty of the western backcountry had inspired him in his youth. He booked it to Big Sky as fast as he could. Coleman was seeking an undeveloped mountain town; a community where he could carve out his place and have his adventures. He really wanted to be part of the community and its growth, so even in his early 20s he volunteered heavily with the fire department and with search and rescue – he said he was “committed.” What he did not anticipate was finding a different kind of commitment when he was a snowcat driver for the resort.

He said he and Ariane “Ari”, owner of Ari O Jewelry, just clicked from the moment they met. Their first date was the Fireman’s Ball, their second date was New Year’s Eve during the panic of Y2K. He jokes that they sat in a brand-new snowcat on the top of Andesite and watched the fireworks, anticipating the end of the world together. What they found was the beginning of the rest of their lives.

Before long, his dirtbag trend of finding a job for the season shifted to a career in real estate and his bachelor pad became a family home. He credits Ari with helping him grow up and has remained friends with all his old roommates from the early days – he even sold them all real estate. Friendships formed by playing in the wilderness have staying power, he noted.

The couple has two children: Orrin and Chloe.

Thirteen years ago, Chloe was born at mile marker 59 on Highway 191 when the couple was en route to the hospital. Coleman cut the umbilical cord himself with a pocket knife.

“No cell phones. Nothing. It was just her and I,” he said. “No drug in the world is going to get you higher than that – delivering your own child on the side of the road.”

The remarkable tale made the front page of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Coleman’s recipe for a good life is beautiful in its simplicity:

“You’ve got to love, trust and respect yourself, that happens first. Then, exercise, good friends and good hobbies,” he said. “It’s been an amazing life. I’m so fortunate.”

He and Ari began their lives together with ample travel and have now included their kids in those pursuits. It’s a big world out there, Coleman pointed out.

“We just try to see the world, quietly live in Big Sky and enjoy our days outdoors,” he said.

All their love of mountain sports is balanced by scuba diving. The Coleman family philosophy seems to be: the mountains, the sea, sunshine, adrenaline and the right people – carpe diem.

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