Like their near relations, serious surfers, big-mountain skiers, and snowboarders are notoriously reticent when it comes to revealing their secret spots—those special places where terrain and conditions come together to create magic. For David Court, a research scientist at UC Santa Barbara and the mountaineer/entrepreneur behind Alpine Exposure, a full-service mountain adventure company based here in Santa Barbara, knowing where the riding will be best on any given day is a lifelong passion that he’s translated into a successful company.
When he’s not at home in Santa Barbara, Court can most often be found hip-deep in powder leading a group to free-ride paradise in the Swiss, French, or Italian Alps. With decades of experience negotiating both the challenging pistes and the tradition-bound villages of Europe’s megamountains—in particular Zermatt and Chamonix— Court can arrange everything from your arrival in Zurich or Geneva to a luxurious hotel suite at the resort, special meals in the private dining rooms and wine cellars of gourmet chalets on the slopes, and, if you are up for it, a sleek helicopter to drop you on your own private Alp for some epic deep-powder descents.
Currently averaging approximately 90 days per season on the slopes—virtually all of them either in Europe or Canada—Court has cultivated an elite clientele who share his taste for the rarefied and the authentic. In part, this explains his 2013 decision to expand beyond Alpine Exposure’s thriving European operation into a new partnership with heli-skiing pioneers Canadian Mountain Holidays. When asked about this alliance, Court says, “I am still primarily an Alpine guide, but when I got a chance to experience what CMH has to offer, I immediately understood that we were interested in the same things.” Translation: deluxe private lodges hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies, helicopters instead of chairlifts, and millions of vertical feet of fresh snow. Perhaps most interestingly, Court credits our conspicuously snow-free city with sparking his ambition to create Alpine Exposure. “There’s no way I could ever have done this if I hadn’t been living in Santa Barbara,” he says, adding that “it was the culture of adventurous life here that gave me the confidence to move onto this bigger stage."