Monday, January 14, 2013

Subdued Sublimation - Cold comes in many forms, I don't discrimiate

It’s nearly impossible to remove the opening days of the Winter season from the vibrant emotions attached to it. The anticipation that leaves you awake well beyond the last light. The love and passion that go into meticulously accumulating and arranging every last piece of gear you’ll want or need. And of course the release of indescribable joy when those first flakes of snow make the journey from under your feet up onto your face. A signal that another season has indeed begun.  A Baptism of sorts as we once again find purpose in why we are here.

I have a hard time remembering an October where I wasn’t trudging through the mud with fellow miscreants. Chasing promises of a freezing level that had dropped just low enough to give the illusion of snow on the highest of slopes. We would leave behind more base material than tracks in our wake, but still brought smiles back with us. Hints of things to come.

Wet, sloppy, and despertate in Squamish
Photo: Aaron Schwartz
Still it is very hard to ignore the realities of this situation. We were essentially torturing ourselves with the promise of snow, when we knew the reality of rock, slop, and blisters was all that awaited. I know why we did it, and I am in no way saying that I would never do it again. But this year I sought a change, something real, something that could serve to truly celebrate the coming Winter.

So as the first massive storms of the season churned across the Pacific and made landfall on the coast of British Columbia, I chose to wait for them not in the high alpine of the Coastal Range. Instead I packed up the car, put Whistler in the rearview and set my sites on the coast of Vancouver Island.

With only 24 hours to go until Whistler-Blackcomb was set to open the floodgates upon its slopes. I found myself pulling neoprene to skin, rubbing wax to resin, and paddling out to greet the first Winter storms on water rather than rock. 

Walking out to check the surf ,  cold cold surf
Photo: Alex Guiry
There was no illusion of something better to come as we had experienced on our past pre-season tours. The Fall swell was in full swing, and the waves were pumping. All the while we watched as the sky turned from grey to black, and opened up on us. The wind began to bite as the rain intensified, and the waves got cranked up right along with it. Winter was here, and even though we couldn’t see a flake of snow in sight, we knew it.

Northwest waves, don't knock em' until you've tried em
Photo: Andrew Narkawitz
With every wave, every duck dive, and even every bail; frigid water washed over my face and with it the excitement in greeting a new season. Face shots had been replaced by cold buckets of PNW surf, but it was impossible to mistake that same feeling of cleansing as purpose was once again made clear. We were here to ride out the storm that Mother Nature had afforded us, and ride we would.

Less than 12 hours after stepping out of the water. I found myself having ridden the storm back to Whistler. Standing at the base of the mountain, surrounded by hundreds of like-minded riders, feeling the same icy rain continue to fall upon our shoulders, and watching as the first light broke on the 12/13 season.  It was finally on, and at the same time had already begun.

First Turns of the season at Whistler-Blackcomb
Photo: Andrew Strain

Monday, August 29, 2011

Coming up for Air /// Part III

Over the past years I have discovered that striving for your dreams will only take you so far. It is only when you find passion and joy in that pursuit that things somehow fall into place.

When Anthony B called me asking if I wanted to go skiing I said ‘Yes’. When he asked me if I wanted to go skiing in his favorite old sled zone I said ‘Hell Yeah’. When he asked whether or not it would be cool if there were no longer sleds allowed and touring was the only access, thus making us the only people there I said ‘Let’s F’ing do it!’. When he asked if I wanted to do it all with Nimbus Independent, Julien Regnier, and for an article in one of my favorite ski magazines, well, I didn’t say anything for a moment, but my heart definitely skipped a beat or two.

One week later, and with 120 pounds of gear each, for our spines, legs, hips, and necks to labor over, our crew began a 20 kilometer tour into one of the few unfrequented areas around Whistler. Our goal, to ski some of the massive pillows that existed there while camped in a snow paradise for 10 days. And while it’s always nice to have a plan in mind, it’s often not the one Mother Nature opts for.

Julien still smiling at 14k into the tour
P// Self

While usually the issue in these situations stems from not enough snow, high freezing levels, or rain, we had a problem of a very different variety. Relentless precipitation that served to turn the landscape into one of the wildest paces I have ever seen. We were met with forty to sixty centimeters of snow everyday, for six days straight to be exact. The result was plenty of snow precariously perched and piled up to twenty feet above the cliffs upon which they rested. Bottomless enough to make forward momentum impossible except on the steepest of slopes, or sheer drops. While this may seem like a wet dream for anyone who makes the pursuit of snow they’re life, a better analogy would be to a drug overdose with no clinic for one hundred miles in any direction. Tents would cave, cook shelters collapse, absolutely nothing would dry, and without constant late night shoveling of the tent, asphyxiation became a very real issue.

One of the many, many, many pillow zones to be had

P// Self

But when the goods of all goods are only one hundred feet from your camp, it’s hard not to at least go out for a spin everyday. All too quickly the world became a wash of snow, below, overhead, in your face, and completely surrounding. The next few days were some of the deepest skiing I’ve ever encountered and with skiers who I’ve looked up to for as long as I can remember to boot. Eventually the call to leave was made on Day 6 as we’d just discovered a new zone of pillow madness. Not because of conditions, or group attitude, but because all the camera equipment had simply stopped working. Long days in the relentless snow had melded with cold nights in the tent to produce overly fogged lenses, frozen mechanical parts, and batteries that would respond to nothing short of a holistic resurrection. So leave we did, but stop we did not as we ventured to the Duffy Pass north of Whistler for the next four days where more pillows were discovered and dealt with accordingly. When it was all said and done, everyone was equal parts stoked, exhausted, and pleased with the results, perhaps a pinch of sore to toss in for good measure. Look forward to the Nimbus episode coming out this September, can’t wait to share the fun, and especially can’t wait to make it back to that magical place.

The rest of the season came sweeping forward as the snow scales once again fell in favor of Utah and I made my fifth trip back home for the season. Eighteen hours of driving, along with way too many cheesy puffs, and I found myself on the tails of a massive storm that had just left Utah and left spring sunshine in its wake.

Twin Peaks at Sunrise en route to an epic day at Wolverine

P// Self

Met up with Carston Oliver and company to shoot hits and lines that would usually scare the piss out of me, but having a good friend on the same level makes everything almost unreasonably comfortable.

Spines do exist in Utah despite popular belief
P// Carston Oliver

Spring pow and hometown homies, nothing better
P// Mike Schneider

“You’re gonna do that too aren’t you?” Cody Barnhill to me after Carston had just tossed a Cork 3 over a thirty-five foot cliff and into a less vertically inclined landing.


“Might make for a better photo if you just straight aired,” piped in Keith over the radio.

“Not gonna happen.”

Carston setting the pace for the day in Utah

F// Self

Final touches on an oversized booter while the sun plays hide and seek
P// Self

That pretty much sums up Carston and I when we go skiing. Unreasonably similar and irresponsible at the same time.

From those days it was back to Whis one final time, where I ‘d plan to transition back into spring shredding and park riding until June as things heated back up. But sure enough I was met with an email when I got home, asking if I wanted to go ski some powder this summer, and if I could speak Spanish. With all questions like this it’s best not to let you brain muddle up the situation with unruly things like logic, reason, responsibility, and financial constraints.

Chili anyone?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming up for Air /// Part II

And inhale. Before you know what hit you’ll realize you’ve been trying to breathe, eat, and drink, nothing but snow for too many days to recall. Your body aches, fat reserves have been depleted, eating patterns digressed into something resembling that of a 5 year old sugar fiend, who’s only drive to eat arrives when there’s no more light to play. And while the smile remains, like any, and I do mean any, junkie on that glorious white stuff will tell you, the need for rest is all too real.

Taking it all in, and taking a quick breath

P// Adam Clark

The mid-season marker has grown to be something that has everything to do with skiing, and at the same time nothing at all. Located in the heart of downtown Denver, under the glow of fluorescent lights, pitter patter of notebook carrying entrepreneurs, and false smiles a used car salesman would be proud of, you’ll find SIA, the snow sports tradeshow for North America.

Hanging with the Surface boys of the US and Japanese variety at SIA
P// Mike Schneider

I could write ad infinium about the ups and down, rights and wrongs, and hilarious times that SIA has to offer. But instead, I’ll just leave it to the professionals with a little insight from the boys over at BroBomb.

Coming back to the real world of skiing, I found myself more excited and refreshed than a 10 year old at a water park. But all too quickly dreams to ride on the backs of snow cats, wings of helicopters, and all to the soundtrack of a two stroke engine slowly disparate just as fast as they came. One trip falls apart due to weather, another due to poor planning, and eventually entire companies can fall apart around you. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty here. But there are a few things you can always rely on more often then others. One being that you’ve still got two legs and a world of possibilities to let them run wild in.

So what to do? Run north and jet around Canada for a month with your best friends, stoking out, and freaking out people and places of all shapes and sizes. The medium for all this nonsense you ask? The Surface Canada Tour Part Deux of course. For five weeks binding screws were turned, free gear was tossed, plenty of new friends were made, and moustaches grew in alarmingly sketchy styles.

Underage, and under-rated. These Revelstoke young bucks are killing it!
P// Scott Titterington

Surface Tour Revelstoke Edition

F&E// Shayne Metos and Scott Titterington

Intermingling that with trips back to BC where some of the biggest storms began to pound the coast, and you’ve got a season in full swing once again. The calendar serves only to take up space on the wall, as responsibility once again falls to the wayside under the boot soles of amazing new zones, even better friends to ride them with.

Coupled all that up with a run back to Utah to compete in the Utah Shootout, a seven day photo competition in my home hills. To make things even better, Andrew Strain, and Jake Cohn from our Deep Winter team had shown up to compete. Icing on the cake came as the draft format of choosing teams commenced and luckily nobody knew who the hell we were so Strain was able to snatch both of us up, and reform Team Steamtrain for a round two.

Getting creative with STEAMTRAIN during the Shootout in the Alta backcountry
P// Andrew Strain

Over the next seven days later we had more fun, more dawn patrols, face shots, wild nights, classy appetizers, shots of crown, and amazing times than I could have imagined. The Kicker? We got awarded with 2nd place, and one thing I have to say on this subject is that absolutely nothing can top going out in something like this and killing it with you best friends. Then you hear it's snowing back in BC, so what do you do? Hit the road running. Well driving, running that far would be mildly ridiculous.

Back to pillow dreamland, Whistler, BC
P// Adam Clark

Whistler pillows at their best

F&E// Self

Then just when it feels as though things can’t get any better, and your standing on top of 1000 feet of untracked pillow lines, your phone rings. (Ring) Your with everyone you want to be with so who could it be? (riiing) Why is this damn thing on anyways? (riiing) Nothing could be as important as this here right now. (riiiing). While usually you would never pick up in this situation, you do, and to say you are glad you did becomes the understatement of the century.

(Riii-) “Hello Please?

(Continued in Part 3)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Coming up for Air /// Part I

The act of forgetting is the best part about coming into a new season. You are able to fool yourself into thinking you left off well beyond your reality. Simply allowing fear to leave, instinct to take over, and that all too familiar cycle of ‘turn, turn, slash, drop’ to just fall back into place.
New season, blank canvas. Time to get paintin'
P// Adam Clark

This past season was no different, with La Nina taking all the hype, literature, and speculation surrounding her and simply backhanding it with a non-stop flurry of early, mid, and late season precip.

End of term finals were re-scheduled, papers were postponed, and doctors notes were forged; all in order to match up with the unruly nature of the winter season.

At this point reminiscing is kept strictly to photos, videos, and my own daily comments, which do the job of bringing me back to those moments in the simplest ways.

(DAY 17) Whistler Classic Pow Shred, VD gnar with Miz, Callum, and Nathe. Epic bonzo lap with former crew plus Leboe and Bibby. FUN!

-Exerpt from my Daily Journal

Day after day of hot lapping with friends new and old, quickly melds in my mind with sled missions, and filming sessions.

Dendrite Studios Winter 2011 Storm Season from Whistler Blackcomb on Vimeo.

Dendrite Studios 'Storm Season' edit. What a storm season it was

Before I know it I’m back in Utah and after 24 hours of straight driving, 0 sleep, managed to score 22 inches of fresh pow, and 1 pissed of Mom who realized I’d bypassed saying and hi and giving her a hug, as I raced up to Brighton to meet all the old friends and Surface crew.

The homies, very similar to a bag of skittles about to get dropped
P// Mike Brown

This tree broke three of my ribs two seasons ago, figured I owed it one
P// Mike Brown

A one-week trip home quickly turned into two and a half, as someone left the snow faucet running. Going dawn to dusk everyday, and shooting with the Surface boys and the perpetually stoked Adam Clark for the new catalog. Always some of the funnest days of my season as it’s no different from adventuring out around the local stomping grounds with your best friends.

Surface Catalogue 2011 from Adam Clark on Vimeo.

Surface Catalog Shoot edit, AC is the only person who can shoot a catalog and an edit at the same time

F&E// Adam Clark

Behind the scenes of making photos look extra sexy
P// Mike Schneider

If you want more than one, you've gotta work for it. Or through it

P// Mike Schneider

Going for the tree 'high-five', and feeling the love
P// Adam Clark

Coupled that with some time with on the Sweetgrass program around Alta and Brighton, where the endless young, middle-aged, and young at heart talent seem to be doubling every season I come back. Not to mention seeing those amazing friends you grow up with, start to break out and strive their own creative path wherever it may be. All you can do is toss out a high-five and a ‘hell yeah’ as you watch the potential run wild.

Vibes B (alternativevision) from Shayne Metos on Vimeo.

Grouphome December edit, look out for these boys killing it for some years to come

F&E// Shayne Metos

Onto the next one

P// Adam Clark

And so went the cycle for the first part of my season, running back and forth from Whistler to Utah, time after time, coffee after coffee. Living a double life for that wintery mistress, and loving every minute of it. Getting of taste of victory in my first comp since I was 14. This time in Whistler with Mr. Andrew Strain at the Deep Winter Photo Competition. We ripped, we roared, lughed, froze, and yelled. At the end of it all we walked out with a 3rd place finish, but more importantly we walked out as a group of friends together. Team Strain. aka Steamtrain!

Team Andrew Strain Deep Winter Wrap Up from Ryan Regehr on Vimeo.

Behind the scenes of Deep Winter with STEAMTRAIN

F&E// Ryan Reger

Homies, lunch in caves, and snowball fights. Best comp ever
P// Andrew Strain

Yeah, pretty stoked, like really pretty uber f'ing stoked!
P// Andrew Strain

But as with all good things, realities of life have to be faced, trial and tribulations dealt with, and rolling with the punches is the name of the game. Now that I look back at it, the act of forgetting is always great, but it’s the act of learning that really defines us.

And the most important thing I learned this season?

“It’s only after everything goes wrong, that the real adventure can begin.”

- Yvon Chouinard

(Continued in Part II)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coming Up for Air /// Intro

In seed time to learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
- William Blake

Recalling the winter season has become an annual tradition of sorts amongst nearly everyone I have met who calls this seasonal sport a passion. A time to take those daily recollections amongst friends and strangers alike, and extend them to an entire winter of trials, tribulations, and travesty. To look back with the 20/20 lens of hindsight and remember the fun times, failed attempts, and experiences you never thought would come about in your wildest dreams.

Day 1, stoked
P///Scotty Titterington

So here in a short medley of parts are those moments, remembered, pieced back together, enjoyed, and probably embellished. I make no guarentee that they will reach the present moment before life sweeps me away again, but that just goes with the territory of the vagabond I guess.

Day 100, not much has changed
P/// Self

Some call it a 'best of', others simply say it's gloating, but I'll be honest with myself and call it like I see it. That is, being swept up in everything and everyone that makes each and every Winter so amazing, and only having the rare fleeting moment to slow down and look back when all you really want to do is keep charging forward.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Splash to the Face

Coming into the winter season, nearly everyone who makes the winter months the center of the rest of their year will tell you about the crushing emotions associated with the wait. The anticipation, anxiety, longing, and the endless attempts to ignore the whole thing in hopes that the season will just sneak up on us without realizing it.

The methods of coping are endless and well documented; the urban ice rink lurkers, the weather report addicts, the shred movie groupies, the a lil' too-early grass and rock shredders, and the notorious and often self-deceiving 'I don't care and it will come when it comes' folk.

I've been guilty of all of the above, and I'm sure I'll try a thousand more before my times up.

But once those first sights of snow finally do show up, it's something magical. A little click occurs in the brain and I feel like a different person, a complete person once again.

With that in mind I headed up these past few weeks to enjoy some early season turns outside of Squamish in the Diamond Head area. Dropping freezing levels and optimistic forecast checking prompted myself and a few hungry friends to hike through the mud, rain, and fog in hopes of finding a thin layer of snow to quench our thirst.
Old Skicks, Fresh Look, Fresh Precip
P///Aaron Schwartz
Strapping up and hoping for snow
P///Aaron Schwartz
A few hours, and several ponderings on what the hell we were doing here, we were greeted with the first sights of snow. A vision that was compounded more and more with each step until we arrived at the conclusion that 'holy shit winter is here!'
First steps, looking real artsy
P///Aaron Schwartz
Snow line, slap dem' skins on
P///Aaron Schwartz
Simply seeing those first fresh layers of snow on the ground, gave the feeling of a fresh start and a new year in myself. A new snowfall, you've ridden it before, but never this exact one. Hell maybe even a few of the flakes in this one have already found their way under your skis or into you face during another pow day of a season past. Then traveling the world via jet stream and gulf stream alike, only to make it right back here to play once again. getting deep on day one
P///Aaron Schwartz
Shredding was accomplished, slashes were thrown, flips and spins stomped, pillows were popped, leg hair was lost, and blisters were gained. At the end of the day it was the same old fun, as if we'd never left. A quick splash of water to the face to wake us all up and offer a kind reminder of why we keep coming back.
First Backflip of the season!
P///Aaron Schwartz
Colin, already stacking that footy
P///Aaron Schwartz
Stoked, just stoked
P///Aaron Schwartz
Big thanks to Aaron Schwarz for all the photos, fresh doodles on the skis, and good times. I'll miss ya this season homie. This one's for you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Twitching Monkey

If you have a passion in life you know the feeling. If you're also hyper and have way too much energy then you really know the feeling.

That severe emotion that follows not the act of doing, but the act of not doing. That little bit of emptiness and unrest that comes from not being able to partake in whatever true joy you may find in your own life. It's a sensation that leaps and bounds around one's mind, startling in it's power to affect your actions, emotions, and overall view of the world.

For me it comes in the dead of summer, right when everyone is out enjoying the sun and bounding about in summer activities, I find myself with a little reverse seasonal mood disorder. No snow equals no ski, no ski equals way too much unfocused energy and a want for something that I know won't arrive for months and months.

Over the years of I've luckily found a way to mature in my dealings with this by well... being extremely immature. Genius right?

Monkey in action

Monkey reaction

Jumping, playing, climbing, slipping, sliding, flipping, spinning, surfing, skating, and a whole plethora of actions that keep me sane during the summer months. Usually this still translates into a vast excess of energy that keeps those around me either highly entertained or increasingly annoyed.

The 'monkey' as he is referred to by those who hang around with me the most, and getting swept up in any and every moment is what he does best. Whatever the consequence I have a good time letting that inner primate run wild in the summer and no matter the ends it always seems to bring a smile to face and a giggle to my voice.

Monkey see

Monkey do

So here's to you monkey, keeping my summer's sane, and stoke for life alive.