Snow Journal #5/Last Day/21st Birthday

Sometimes, ideally all the time, I come home after snowboarding and relax by writing it all down. I don’t really pay attention to which parts were boring and which parts were exciting; I just want to capture the minutiae that made the day the day that it was. For me, this is also a good way to figure out how to tell the story before I blab about it out loud to other people in a way that makes no sense.

You should know that this season is severely lacking snow, not as bad as California, but pretty bad. It’s mostly just myself my musing and I out there and whomever I’m carpooling and thus spending the day with. It’s a good way to meet awesome, like minded people. At the same time, the people who like the mountains are a diverse crowd.

If I leave feeling calm or excited though, it was a good day. And I’ve never regretted a day on the mountain!

______________

All around, people were in constant motion, hellbent on getting the one thing on everybody’s minds: the last snow. This was the local mountains’ freak 2 week long window of prime man made snow temps and everywhere people were determined to make the most of it. I made the most of it by spending my birthday weekend there.

Day 1

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Just my luck, the mountain reopens after a month long hiatus for my birthday. The moment means I have to cancel any plans, because I know just how lucky I’ll be to catch some of it before it melts. The last time I went, the snow was really just a layer of slush on mud. I’m not sure what I’m in for this time, but I’m thirsting for some speed. With a high of 9, I quickly realized that 3 layers of shit plus a jacket were not necessary. Having been away from cold weather for several months, I rashly decided to bet on the wrath of nature over experience. Wrong choice.

The carpooler I come up with is a worker at Cypress who’s been laid off for months because of the lack of snow, so he doesn’t have any intel either. We also get up far too early, on account of him having to work, and I sat around and napped and ate until opening. I forgot that I turned 21 and strolled along the open balcony of the lodge, which I’ve never seen open. Then, finally the time came and I made my way to the snow.

It was manmade snow but it was impressive. A few pockmarks here and there, hardly belying the epic fight that the mountain had made with rain a month ago. Oh, did I mention that it was a month since the mountain was in operation? People were hounding the white gold like hounds that hadn’t seen meat in a year. Technically, most of these people probably hadn’t seen any snow for a year, since nothing that fell from the sky this season would constitute “cold”. A few times cypress’s webpage definitely lied about “wall to wall coverage” but by destroying the park the “walls” were actually white.

Just to get some turns under the feet was amazing. With a fresh start after that month long absence, turns felt amazing. Snow “stuck” but I enjoyed it other than that. The rest of the run quickly turned into a congealed consistency. Snow was pure white in the beginning and browned in some spots like a banana near the end of the day.

Another advantage of being off snow was that enough wishing had happened that I just jumped into a press to my surprise. A few times with the help of an incline the press even became a butter. Later on during the day after getting tired and excited to take advantage of success I tried the tripod on the bunny hill, to 0.1% success, while getting in the way of couples in various stages of snowboarding pedagogy.

In terms of the run, with the terrain park bulldozed, the landscape left a handful of rolling hills with a wide berth. Later I realized those hills were once the lead ups to the jumps in the terrain park. You could gather enough speed you could feel the ground disappear as you overshoot the end of the incline. I hadn’t tried to ride up the hills of large jumps like many did to experience the pull then sudden release of gravity. It was quite awesome.

Notable Moments: I had carpooled up with a worker there and while driving we discussed his travelling. He had opened up his home to travellers on a website made for that purpose, and loved to see how people lived. I, too, loved to see how people lived their lives, and felt energized from our ability to connect on such an important faucet of living.

Realizing that I could press. I jumped into without thinking and jumped back out, feeling hardly surprised at my ability because it felt so natural. Back and forth back and forth, I was able to do it for a long time to me until I felt self conscious about it because no one else was stalling their time at the crowded top of the urn. The tripod and buttering was not as natural on a whole but the one time that I did each was very satisfying. There is that turning point in every attempt where success and luck collide to produce a sweet spot that is unparalleled and makes you want to shout “Yes! This is it!”

Seeing the creativity of the people. There were many little kids, and there were many creative skiiers and snowboarding. People were riding switch, riding backwards, going off of any hit, being creative on the hits, perfecting their turns (or maybe they’re just perfect in the first place)…and everybody was smiling. People genuinely loved the hill and were glad that it was open for one last run.

The best of these were some friends that built a small jump under the ropes on the side of the run. A snowcat had run over that area so there was excess snow and snow for a landing. They slammed their snowboards onto the nascent jump to smooth it out and when they first started to jump off it it awakened probably the snow freak in everyone. Though they did not clear the area until 1.5 hours before closing or so, once they did, people hesitantly, then confidently rode in a steady stream over the jump. When even more of people left, it was just me, and a two other riders hitting the jump. It was far from my favourite jump experience (the landing was small and choked with dirt/broken chunks of snow) but the angle of the jump was delicious. So short yet satisfying. Going bigger will not necessarily lead to more satisfaction. Small is good for learning. Side of the run is even better. Somehow, having to duck under a rope to access the one kicker, regardless of size, is as tantalizing as picking up a snack from the fridge every time you pass it.

Bunny hill. Not feeling satisfied and ready to be humbled I headed to the bunny hill. Imagine my surprise when the lift attendant said, “Hey you! You came back!” Thinking I had been mistaken for someone else, he said, “You came back for another season! I recognize you from last year. I recognize all the regulars.” Sadly I hadn’t seen or recognized him at all this season but I only came 1/3 as many times as I did last year. Then I proceeded to try the tripod, press, and ride switch on the bunny hill to no success, as I was tired a fuck.

Free burger, discount on a grossly overpriced parfait (my favourite) from my carpooler and a free cookie to apologize for being late. Need I say more?
Back in the car, I felt tired and beat up, but for once this year, I didn’t feel as if I had already decided in my mind no, that I wanted tomorrow to be a rest day. I’d been dreaming of snowboarding two consecutive days since gr 8 and tomorrow was my chance. As we discussed more random topics that we could find in common, I thought about how I didn’t feel as if I reached a comfortable place today and how as the day went on my bad habits quickly resurfaced and left me struggling to get down the slushy hill. So after I got home I didn’t even have to think about the consequences of taking off for another day and searched for carpools. I didn’t want to forget the creativity and positivity even for a minute, even if I was in the backseat sucking rather than setting the bar for awesomeness.

Day 2

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My carpoolers are a rowdier crowd today, but it is just what we need. All of us are tired. Oh wait, I’m 21? Who cares, how much snow is there left? This is going to be a great day.

We pull into the parking lot at 9:30, 30 mins the opening time. There are a lot of people on the slopes already. It is nowhere near the deserted scene I entered yesterday after arriving 1.5 hours ahead of opening time with my carpooler/mountain employee. I do not get the award for being the “first” person today or yesterday.

I’m impressed. Again. This is turning out to be a sad refrain. Or is it? To my surprise, my carpoolees today are just as impressed. One came back from people-deep powder in Japan, and the other is in his first season. I’m impressed on the whole to be back, the similar enthusiasm, and that there are still free burgers.

Instead of being tired a fuck from less sleep over the last two nights than one night, my snowboarding is better. Like I thought, I lacked practice not skill, and felt more at home (though never fully at ease-nothing compares to racking up 20+ days on the hill). But lack of getting up is no excuse. This carpoolee of mine has only started snowboarding this season and this season sucks.He rides only a little worse than I do. Our driver is doing 5s off of the aforementioned hilly section/RIP terrain park and mentioning tricks I’m hardly following. Nice, this is good because nothing kills progress like admitting there is only 1.5 runs open. I have even less balance going off the hill section, which I’ve noticed-at the beginning of the season or occasional visit balancing is easy, as it’s intuitive, but as you try hitting it more and more it becomes a puzzle of confusion. I also don’t quite have the strength to balance a press. However, I discovered that I can grab the nose by starting a press but whipping it up all the way, without the need to balance for a few seconds. This is fun and awesome because pressing less well was boring, and a friend of mine had done it as if it was easy peasy, to my jealousy, last season. It was indeed easy peasy, and I was encouraged by the fact that this season was not entirely a waste.

I’ve mentioned that there are 1.5 runs; the .5 run being the fork of one run. (2 runs if you include the other .5 run, the bunny hill). Since I’ve got compromised balance and I’ve spent the entire day yesterday on that one run, I take the other fork which is steeper, with some ice. It’s more fun than bombing down the other fork. As usual, having “stuff” to work out on  the run is far more fun than bombing without turning (the acceleration seems to be felt less the more you do it, and also as a function of the snow’s speed). My carpoolees stay on the other slope and I’m glad to get a breath of privacy. I tell them the run sucks and is icy with no features, which is true. I practice bad but fun turns in the steeper and choppier snow. This is already funner than yesterday.

We grab our free burgers at 11, only 1.5 hours after we came up, but it feels like a long time. With people to account for on every run, more gets done, and every run needs to be progress. Exhausted, we fall into our delicious free burgers of carmelized onion, honey bun, bacon, cheese and hamburger. All smoked and or charred to perfection/ambivalence. After we finish it doesn’t occur to my companions to sit down and digest, so we head off again almost right away. (Yesterday, I shamefully spent 1.5 hours sitting and a further .5 hours on the bunny hill to rest.) The burger refuels us. (And drinks, and energy drinks, for my carpool companions).

It’s time to hit the jump. Miraculously, no one at the corporate head has knocked out the poor little jump on the side of the hill and the sun has finally moved enough to spread some buttery rays on the icy jump. It is amazing what a difference the hot sun makes. We take off all our heavier layers, some in just t shirts, and the jump does the same, by shedding its formidable ice. At 12:30 we start to take on the jump; like yesterday, I just do a straight jump off of it that’s terrible and unsatisfying. Driver sees his friends and leaves the carpoolee and me to devise a jump plan. Carpoolee says he will try a switch 180 and I go along, verbalizing how I’d attack it. Then when we finally go down again to the jump I realize he wasn’t just talking, he had actually meant he’d done it before. The 180 looks beautiful and fun, and I want to do it but I am stuck again with a straight air, and even worse than his 180. But the miracle of it all is that he believes I can do it, and if a stranger thinks I can do it, the mountain had better be ready for me.

After my 4th attempt to ride switch to the jump (1st just riding, fail, 2nd trying to ride over, done, 3rd trying to jump, fail, 4th trying to 180, fail) something clicked and the idea of the switch 180 just made sense, and I also felt a bit more comfortable riding switch straight. So I went for it, and I’m super excited to see that the 180 happened naturally, although I went so slow I didn’t know if I could land it with some speed. So we hike back up and noncommittally, we hit it again and again, with more speed, with more trials and with more confidence. As I get more and more confident, my peer gets less and less. It’s again something I notice: the more you do it, the less intuitive it gets. By comparison though I felt like I could never mess up the 180, but I could definitely mess up the switch ride in.

This is the highlight, and it’s a wonder how I spent so much time bombing and turning poorly on one run yesterday. The sense that these things are not hard to do permeated my head. I was tired but I surprised myself each time with the blast of euphoria every time we made a jump attempt. Because I wasn’t trying anything other than the switch 180, I landed at least 5 in a row, which is far better than being discouraged. It was fun to have someone cheer for you and to cheer someone on, which I missed. I hoped that my companion fell sometimes not because I wanted him to fall but so that we would stay longer. But it was relaxed so we took no flak to just riding all the way back down and hitting the jump again and hiking up erratically.

At 3:10 though, the jump is taken down and brings us to an end. Snow patrol moves in and not in the mood to rebel, dislike how people are booing it. The strongest dissenter, my driver, actually seems the most understanding of it afterwards, and realizes we can still hit it, flattened as it is. There are far too many people he says, eager to get something out of their last turns this season, especially little kids, who are hurting themselves. We all want that last bit of excitement, that memory to last us until next season. I think I’ve got it from these past two days, sucky as they were, and don’t want to go on more runs with no features, although I wanted to go down the steeper run to have the memory of turning in my legs, to the protest of my muscles. By now there are more brown spots and churned up brown slush from high traffic turns, but the majority of the run is just like spring skiing. There is really nothing to complain about. So we go down, and the flattened jump is suitable for a 1, so the next and last run I go for it. Driver does a 3, I do a 1 and the backside 1 on the very small flat jump is so satisfying. Because that means next season I can do a 1 off anything that sticks up in the run, and that whole new level of fun will fuel my riding for years to come.

Notable moment: waving to a group of 30~ hikers hiking up the side of the run behind a screen of trees-it feels like we’re in a fishbowl, a girl on the chairlift exclaims-as we ride slowly past them. We get a majority wave back.

Although I wouldn’t have chosen everybody out of a crowd and especially not over my friends, the pros outweigh the cons, and I’m happy to have met some people this weekend. A fair bit of them are international travellers looking to capture a season of skiing in different country. Before they return home, I hope they know that their travel is just as impactful for locals because no traveller leaves his or her environment unblazed. One of them like the many other layers of generations who make up the population of skiiers and riders in this town is the never ending passion for finding adventure. Like one inspiring 60+ year old man said, “I’ve started skiing when I was 4, and I just picked snowboarding up this year. Look at my ski boots in my snowboard. Each time I bring my skis and snowboard but I always snowboard. I want to get as good at snowboard as ski.” His accent and worldly knowledge told me that there were many things in life to come and our encounter with him was only a very small part of the catalogue of experiences we could expect. This made me feel thankful like younger version of me that first started snowboarding because of the world that it opened up. And of course I’m very thankful for all the friends who tried to contact me on my birthday despite the fact that I’ve chosen not to spend this day with them.

Random Thought of the Day: If you only went up 1-2 times, and you come up to get your free burger, that’s a ~$200 burger.

Coda:

It is not sad to leave, it feels like the beginning of something rather. People trickle away as they always do, but when we leave at 3:30, half an hour before closing, there’s still plenty of people on the slopes. As we leave, we see at least two families unload and head towards the mountain clean dry snow gear. What are they thinking? Did they not spring their clocks forward, read the website ahead of time (it’s down today), or…want to get 45 min of snowboarding in with unhurried steps?

When does the season really end? When the slopes close? When the snow gets to bad to ride? Or does the season overlap year after year, erasing the snowless winters in a never ending season?

One thing is for sure. A poor winter won’t kill the stoke in the legions of reliably fanatic and chaotically starved snow sport lovers.

***

I have deduced that you probably don’t want to be on the mountain if the snow sucks too much to ride because having nothing to push you will not give you the heart to progress. But I have been in really bad and can’t complain bad, and although I’d never do really bad snow again, it’s the really bad that continued my stoke for wanting to scope out can’t complain bad sort of conditions. I don’t learn anything and I even waste my time but depending how high my stoke is, I might need that fuel for the fire. It also makes bad conditions seem less bad. No one learns to swim in a puddle but they might get a liking for water. Should I complain?

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