Some folks may think they’ve seen all of Marvin Howard, thanks to his infamous year-end tradition of skiing naked on closing day.
The streaking performance lives large in public memory, and Howard is quite accustomed to telling curious fans its origin story. But behind the infamy there’s a trace of nostalgia that keeps this ski bum close to the mountains.
“It ties me back to a simpler time,” Howard said. “You know, really feeling carefree.”
In reality, keeping up the tradition hasn’t been as simple as it may seem. Howard works three jobs, putting in 11-hour days and 60-hour weeks.
“My phone rings 30 times an hour,” he said.
Luckily those businesses — real estate, backcountry tour business Marvin Skis and Mountain Movers — connect Howard to the local community in special ways.
When he first started Mountain Movers it was the only moving company in the valley, making for some pretty outsized partnerships.
It was Howard’s team that moved the police force into its new home. Mountain Movers hooked Jackson Hole Airport up with new TSA machines just before Fourth of July weekend. And the business is still serving big-name clients like Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock.
Howard said Ford gets a new mattress every year.
Whether moving boxes or moving through the backcountry, Howard is an integral part of the local community, a group he said has welcomed him as family. But that acceptance didn’t come overnight.
“Nobody wants to babysit in the backcountry,” Howard said, recalling one time skier Brian Rutter invited him out with the simple instruction to “keep up or die trying.”
By repeatedly demonstrating his passion and love for the sport, Howard slowly gained recognition and the right to ski alongside his idols.
“It doesn’t feel like fame; it just feels like I’m part of the family,” Howard said.
In a town where reputation is hard earned, Howard is most proud of a title given to him by renowned skier Thomas Turiano. When the two linked up, Turiano looked at Howard and said, “You’re the happiest skier I’ve ever had the pleasure of skiing with.”
Decked out in his banana-yellow jumpsuit, Howard certainly seemed happy as he chatted in the cozy Teton Club lounge.
He was with his mentee, Edoardo Pisoni, who left his finance job in New York to come learn from Howard, literally moving in with him during the pandemic.
“Marvin has opened my world,” Pisoni said. “Through him I’ve been able to achieve these goals and dreams that seemed so far away from me before.”
Compared with the “chaotic lifestyle” of the city, Pisoni has found an immediacy and a sense of purpose in the backcountry. When he and Howard get their snowmobiles stuck in deep snow, the next step is clear: Get a shovel and dig it out.
For Howard, lessons from backcountry mountaineering have carried over into a motto for life: “Stay calm, move slow, keep it light.”
But at 53, Howard does question how much longer he’ll be able to stay on the slopes as friends from his generation slow down and move to warmer climates.
“I will take from the mountains as long as my body is willing to hold up,” Howard said.
The happy skier also hopes to make it to a third generation of mentoring. Having skied with Phil Holmes for 15 years, then his oldest son, Brian, Howard knows it’s only a matter of time before Brian’s new son, Jack, will strap on his boots.
“If I can hang on for five more years I get to ski with Jack,” Howard said. “That would be exciting.”
“I will take from the mountains as long as my body is willing to hold up.” — Marvin Howard skier and businessman