Mad Max Romey (Part Two)
Our adventure continues as we learn more about “Mad Max” Romey.
If you missed the first part of our story, you can find it here and read more about the wild character that is Salomon Trail Running’s film maker, Max Romey.
We were able to find beautiful surroundings in which Max could immerse himself during his time with Run the Alps this past June. We explored sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB), starting with a segment from Switzerland’s La Fouly to the Grand Col Ferret on the Swiss – Italian border. This region of the Alps was currently about a month behind normal snow melt, which made our day of exploration more challenging– and fun! The snow was a reminder that we needed to be careful in the mountains as we watched for dangerous snow bridges and crevasses that demand respect.
Since Max was filming for his GoPro video and taking photos for Run the Alps, we ended up playing in the snow more than we were actually running. We spent hours racing, jumping, and sliding through spring corn snow as Max danced around us to get the shots that he wanted. “Okay, who wants to run as fast as they can and slide down the snow on their butts?” Max asked. All of our hands shot in the air and we took off down the hill with Max’s camera capturing it all.
We continued up the trail of footprints in the snow, stopping frequently at eye-catching formations to get another picture or video. The fast-paced, crazy practice of film making was beautifully contrasted when Max looked at the mountains and asked, “Hey do you guys mind if I take a few minutes to sketch this?” The change of Max’s canvas slowed our day as we split chocolate bars, to the sight of an artist recreating a view as seen through his eyes.
Max’s sketch book is filled with what he would consider to be imperfect sketches. Some are incomplete, some have mistakes, and some have been ruined by the weather from painting in unfavorable conditions. To any other person, however, they are brilliant works of art.
“The blank page is the scariest thing,” Max explained to us. “There are so many options available with a blank page. I get scared of making mistakes. Similar to running, it can be terrifying to start and pick up and keep going. But, it’s so rewarding.” Once he gets started, his fears step aside. “It makes you a little bit more brave, because you’re willing to take some risks. With watercolors, you have to be on the ball, but you also have to completely let go. You can’t control everything. You have to let go a little to make a watercolor good. It’s the funny balance that you find in life.”
Over the years, Max has learned to focus on process rather than outcome. He believes that, “Art does not come from a finished product. Art lies in the process.” His sketchbook is filled with examples: visual illustrations of his mental process while he creates. They show what is happening in his mind as he looks at a mountain. It’s common to hear him mumble something like “Ah, what color is that?” as he tries to translate the mountain or building in front of him onto the page. Starting a new painting on a blank page may be scary, but, as Max points out, “The only way to get over the fear of making mistakes is to keep painting.” These paintings are the perfect way for Max to fully observe…to absorb…and to appreciate the scenery. It requires him to concentrate and study every color and shade around him, rather than snapping a photo and moving on. Maybe there’s a lesson in there for all of us?
Our second day with Max literally picked up where we left off, on the Italian side of Grand Col Ferret, along the Tour du Mont Blanc. Today’s goal was to run to Courmayeur, Italy past the Walter Bonatti Refuge. At 2,025m, Bonatti is a noteworthy checkpoint on the TMB. Its outdoor seating area looks over the Val Ferret, stretching along the base of the Mont Blanc Massif from Switzerland to France. Snow-capped peaks towered over us as we soaked up their dominating presence. Snowmelt rushed down the mountains and into the valley, flowing into the Dora di Val Ferret. Birds chirped, the sun was shining, and the bouton d’or flowers were in full bloom. Max continued to show off his skills with paintings, photos, and videos of the Val Ferret and landmarks such as abandoned refuges and stream crossings along the way. With ground that was now nearly entirely snow-free, we covered the distances more quickly, getting to the top of our last descent in time to watch the sun set over the Italian side of Mont Blanc.
The lighting was perfect as alpenglow lit up the mountainsides. Three of us got our cameras out just as Max put his away. It wasn’t a scene he wanted to only freeze in time with a picture. Max wanted to paint.
Max Romey is a free spirit. After school, he quit a secure job with the desire for more adventure. Max wanted to explore the world, and he wanted to do it his way. His position as videographer for Salomon Trail Running has allowed that desire to be fulfilled. Now, he is constantly missing travel connections, wandering off from groups to pick flowers, or having a side conversation with his aqua brush as he paints away during a lunch meeting. His quirky yet thoughtful outlook on life has led him on a unique path; his job requires him to travel the world and play tag with some of trail running’s top athletes. His passion is built on accepting imperfections and adapting to mistakes. His mind is constantly spinning faster than the Earth is exploring, and he slows it down by carefully practicing each mindful brushstroke.
We said farewell to Max with an obligatory dinner at Chamonix’s Poco Loco. Reflecting on the past few days of adventures and sharing ideas for new ones, we realized how much Max had taught us, even if it was unintended. His crazy spirit reminded us that we spend time trail running to have fun and play. It’s not always about the distance or speed. Sometimes you need to hit the pause button, sit back, and find a way to capture the moment. He also taught us not to be scared of a blank page, whatever that might mean to you. The first few brushstrokes may always feel like the scariest, but he says, “the most important thing in life is to just start.” After the whirlwind visit, we said our goodbyes and sent Max off to catch a plane to the Catamount Ultra in Vermont, which was only the next stop in his busy schedule. We wish we had a few more days to explore with him, but for now we can only wait until he comes to visit again.
Our time with Max came and went much too quickly, but we’re excited to follow all of his upcoming adventures. We all could use a little bit of creative inspiration from time to time, and Max is the perfect person to fill that void. If you want to keep tabs on his journeys, or simply want to know more about his work, be sure to follow him here: