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40 Tribes Founder/Director, Ryan KoupalRyan Koupal First Descent Suusamyr Valley, Kyrgyzstan 2009

Ryan Koupal

Having spent the last 5 winters on the ground in Kyrgyzstan, Ryan has a unique first-hand perspective on Central Asia and the potential for tourism development in the region. Ryan first encountered the Tien Shan Mountains in 1999, living with nomadic families in their yurts near the China/Kyrgyzstan border as a student on an intercultural studies course with Where There Be Dragons. After graduating with a degree in Mandarin Chinese from Middlebury College in 2003, Ryan went on to lead courses for Dragons in China and Tibet. Ryan eventually joined the Dragons office staff as Executive Program Director (’06-’09), during which time he traveled extensively, deepening his interest in the mountains and mountain cultures of Asia. Inspired to combine his personal passion for backcountry snowboarding with his passion for travel, Ryan coordinated and embarked on 2 separate winter expeditions with friends: first to Tibet in the winter of ’06-’07 and then to Kyrgyzstan in the winter of ’08-’09. In Kyrgyzstan Ryan found a perfect balance of local enthusiasm for tourism development, native resources, and endless backcountry potential, thus inspiring him to leave office life behind, chase a wild dream, and create 40 Tribes, which he founded in 2010. Ryan currently calls Boulder, Colorado home, but is stoked to be able to spend 2 months each winter living at the 40 Tribes yurt site while managing operations. Ryan will tail guide alongside Ptor Spricenieks on our ’13-’14 guided tours.

40 Tribes Lead Guide, Ptor SpricenieksPtor Spricenieks Kashmir, Anthony Bonello Photo

Ptor Spricenieks
Lead Guide

Ptor’s 25 years of ski mountaineering and global guiding experience, and passion for unthinkable ski adventures, makes him a perfect match for the 40 Tribes program. His work as a freeride alpinist, heli-ski guide and ski-tour guide has sent him on pioneering expeditions in the far reaches of Pakistan, India, Turkey, and Bolivia, and has helped him develop a name as “one of the 48 most influential skiers of the last 35 years” (Powder Magazine). Ptor has held his CAA Level I Avalanche Certification since 1990, is certified in Advanced Wilderness First Aid and Advanced Outdoor Emergency Care, and has mentored with many famous guides like John Falkiner and Doug Coombs. In recent years, Ptor has been living between his native British Columbia, current hometown of La Grave, France, and Gulmarg, Kashmir, where he was working as avalanche forecaster and tour developer/guide for premiere ski descents in the surrounding valleys. With a wife and new son, Ptor seems to be settling into a nice life in the French Alps, but he will be the first to tell you that Kyrgyzstan/Central Asia is a place he plans to spend a lot more time. In his words: “40 Tribes is a perfect fit as a tranquil and undeveloped mountain scenario that will provide great skiing without an exploding scene for years to come. It’s how I prefer to ski.”

Recent Projects:

  • Exploratory skiing with Sweetgrass Productions while filming for ‘Solitaire’ in un-skied regions of the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru – Premiere ski descents of the Yerupaja Glacier, Sarapo Glacier and E Face of Sarapo
  • Premiere ski descents on 20 day self-contained traverse, St Elias Mountains, Yukon – NW Face Mt. Vancouver (4813m), N Ridge Mac Arthur Peak (4300m)
  • Clemenceau/Columbia Icefields traverse, Canadian Rockies, BC/Alberta – 18 day self-contained with 4 premiere ski descents en route
  • Solo premiere attempt and ski descent from 6000m Gashot Peak (6800m), Nanga Parbat Himal, Pakistan
  • Various premiere ski descents in Gulmarg area, Kashmir, India
  • Trans-Himalaya winter ski traverse attempt via Zanskar

Notable first descents:

  • Canada – N Face Mt. Robson, N Face Mt. Forbes, W Face Mt. Monarch, N Face Mt. Loki, NW Face Mt. Vancouver
  • France – S Face Pic Central Les Aiguilles D’Arves, Col des Pichettes
  • India – N Face Norbu Peak
  • Peru – W Ridge Mt. Tocllaraju, S Face Pumarinri
  • Bolivia – S Face Cerro Korichuma, S Face Cerro Yaypuri

40 Tribes Avalanche Instructor/Guide, Greg JohnsonRyan Koupal Suusamyr Valley, Kyrgyzstan 2009

Greg Johnson
Avalanche Instructor/Guide

Greg lives in the mountains of western Canada and the United States. He works as a snowboard guide and avalanche safety consultant holding accreditation with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) and the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA). He also spends time instructing for the CAA. Greg started his professional career as a student of a world renowned avalanche research program at the University of Calgary and earned a MSc in Civil Engineering. He went on to work in the US for the US Forest Service and in Canada for the Canadian Avalanche Centre as an avalanche forecaster. During that time he spent a few summers as a climbing ranger with the US National Park Service. Greg believes life should never be too routine and stagnant, and this winter he is going to mix it up by letting snowboarding drive his global adventures.

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