One

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I thought all my photos suck until I brought them home.

I thought some of my photos were awesome until I saw something even more inspiring and polished than what I had captured.

Photography is a deceptively simple form of art; five photos may escape the discard pile out of hundreds. If you get one good photo, you feel good. If you don’t, you just tell yourself that you learned from it and you’ll do better next time.

Just like snowboarding.

One good run, one good turn, one good spot of snow.

One little thing can make your day.

One.

 

 

Snow Day

ridersI haven’t figured out a unified way to edit these photos yet I’m afraid if I don’t do anything with them, they’ll just languish.

The purpose of the trip was to de-stress and take awesome, conceptual photos. Reality hit me right away though, and I struggled throughout the day just to ward off the extreme fear I felt riding with irrational anxiety. On the upside, I have lots of pictures of snowy trees. My anxiety, though, tells me this are nothing special and that I should just delete them and left my camera at home. Life with anxiety: pay for 10+ runs, remember only to ride on half the last one. Anxiety will convince you that you have forgotten how to ride even if you haven’t, and that doubt will be a dark cloud.

To be honest, I haven’t ridden normally at all this season, even if it’s only been a couple other times; the anxiety is palpable, inescapable. In a week my discount won’t be valid any more and I’ll also be turning the last page on this semester. Will I be free to pursue what I want and who am I? Only I can make that happen.

In the meantime, here are some photos:

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Skiing Under Starlight

Last Sunday I had the chance to ski at night. No, I’m not a good skiier.

Nothing is more enticing when someone dangles the prospect of doing something unexpected in front of you, and night skiing was definitely one of them. At nine the night have fallen for a few hours when the trip organizer suggested we ski in the dark.

There was a second’s hesitation owing to losing my headlamp and then in my mind I said Yes. 

Stuffed as turkeys after dinner and desert potluck, we skinned up in the night with new legs, our skis striking the white snow like twin exclamation marks. The red self described gigantic match someone had brought fizzled with danger like a live stick of dynamite, which threw an eerie red light onto our path. At nine I learned that the moon had not yet risen, but that stars pricked the fabric of the night like a bed of needles. Reaching our destination, we fell onto the snow, cooling our warm, tired muscles. Turning our eyes to the sky, the conversation drummed up naturally like a sparse verbal rain, no more filling the vast empty space above us than a drop of water in a bathtub.

 

But to the skiing.
It was the nicest few hundred metres of skiing that day (or technically, night). Using headlamps, we formed our own mini ski resort, minus blinding floodlights. We scurried down the slope with small scoops of alternating skis -right ski, left ski. The night, which at first appeared more static than day, proved dynamic, alive. The run stretched on in the starlight as if we were following the path of light to the ends of the earth. The lack of shadow made the trees and slopes more forgiving. By the time we were nearing the end, it felt like a much longer period than the space of ten minutes had passed because of an invisible speed barrier.

 

The red burning match burned out after fifteen minutes. But the feeling that we had been initiated into something by doing it under starlight made something inside of us burn brighter.

Pre-Trip – Beginner Skiing/Winter Camping

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Throwback to last year-telemark skis + beginner skiier 

I haven’t camped or hung out with some of the people who make me feel my best, whose company I enjoy no matter what, for over a month. The kind of people who loosen the constraints society has put on them and enjoy being wet and cold. Just kidding-no one enjoys being wet and cold. And now, having worn the same jacket for 2 years, I’m a bit worried it’s no longer waterproof. That does not bode well for skiing and then camping in the snow in about -8 degrees celcius. Gear should be gotten if it gets in the way of your pursuits. After not sleeping for the better half of my first camping trips, I’m more than thankful for my thick sleeping bag. Although its bulkiness is counterintuitive for longer trips, I haven’t yet progressed to that stage, so it suits me just fine right now.

 

Although I truly truly love writing and being warm and cozy as I do that, I’ve been quite depressed without the company of wild minded people and the special quality of mountain air. Outdoors – what drew me to it was how it seem to shed the boundaries of everyday life. But what I’m realizing now is to go forward, there are endless things you can do in the city to prepare for them. And I’ve done none of it. Being warm and cozy, I’ve not had the penchant to move, or write.

 

But – and this is a big but – every time I go back to the thought of being outside, away from the city, as far as my unseasoned legs will take me – a world of opportunities and thoughts open up. Literally an entire mental world is opened up. I didn’t even know that my brain had a whole other compartment – and what a diservice it would be to let it atrophy. It’s not even that I have ideals –  I must go outside for X days a year because it’s good for me – it’s a compulsion, a need.

With so much time away, I’m not ready physically but the one thing we can all do is be ready mentally. To embrace the experience and not force interpretations and to be present.

PS The local is just Red Heather-it’s actually insanely easy. However I really have not been active so with an overnight pack on my back and skis on my feet, it will be interesting. Anyways, my greatest regret is being too worried to pack my camera. I think it’ll freeze overnight. It’ll be amazing.

 

 

 

Black Friday and You: Beginner Skiier/Rider Edition

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Ahh..who doesn’t love the snowboarders’ scramble at the top of green runs?

Yes, it’s almost Black Friday and things are going to be crazy. So many things that you don’t need will be on sale. And then you will buy them. For sure. Now let me help: Admittedly, I’m broke, but there’s still something valid to say about purchasing gear anyways, and I’m here to talk about buying stuff to get you started in skiing or snowboarding if you’ve never done it. Though I haven’t got much authority, I’ve seen enough for my third year being a shitty snowboarder. And there’s a part of me that now goes: you don’t need that to do X (death defying, don’t try this at home extreme outdoor) activity!

If you want to get started skiing and snowboarding on Black Friday because of the sport’s exorbitant cost has kept you at bay, great.

But do you really need that as an excuse?
Not necessary.

Let me explain.

THE EQUIPMENT

Scenario one: Person has no ski or board equipment and either buys $XXX set up or is too poor

Results: Person spends a lot of money and tries the sport (Yay) or person believes the cost is too high and never tries to ski or ride.

In this case, skis and boards are pretty expensive equipment but if one is willing to ask around, they will surely find some cheap used skis or boards for sale, or some to borrow. No huge $$$ is dropped, allowing those who can’t afford to plunk down the green for gear tearing down the slopes.

Verdict: You don’t need new gear or expensive gear to get started.

THE CLOTHING

Scenario Two: Person believes they don’t have proper clothing to do skiing or snowboarding and again does not participate.

Results: Person who has money drops $$$ for jackets far above their needs and might even sacrifice looks to do it ($$$ jackets aren’t necessarily filled with flashy graphics; they’re usually monotone and not fun anyways) Or person drops $$$ for nice looking graphics, but only because they think they need that expensive of a jacket anyways to stay warm and decided what the heck, they might as well take fashion into account.

Meanwhile, the person who doesn’t seem it worthy to drop cash on outerwear that costs as much as your hardware again vetos the sport with the reason: I’ll die from frostbite.

Reality: You COULD ski in jeans. It’s really not advisable and I’ve never tried it, but technically, you could. You won’t die. And in fact, even with things that seem to require more strategy (ie, camping), you can get away with lots in many situations. I’m just a beginner at camping, but I can tell you that most people I camp with don’t have expensive gear, and moreover, they do just fine with what they have. Pile on 5 sweaters. Wear that 1980’s heavy ski jacket. These things will not prevent you from going out and getting a learning experience; in fact, you could learn to use them just fine. Until you outgrow this advice – then good on you, you’ve gone out meagrely prepared and come back with more knowledge than you would have in your armchair.

Verdict: Go ski in jeans and a raincoat and shitty ass skis/board.

THE PASS

This is a sore point with me, so I’m not going to go into great detail. Do your research well. Believe what seasoned skiers and riders say to you because they will most definitely give you their most honest, heartfelt opinion on what ski resorts are the best fit, their favourite, or the best deal. Not listening them will result in disappointment. True story. Not really – there’s always next season. And trust me, they’ll be bad snow seasons. The naive “all snow is great snow” attitude you had coming in will disappear fast.

Scenario Three: Person can’t decide between paying per lift ticket or buying season’s pass, or can only justify paying a few lift tickets a year, and decides not to pick up something else.

Results: Person with $$$ does whatever they want. But the person who is not so financially blessed will either likely buy the cheapest season’s pass they can find, or pay per ticket, which gets harder and harder to justify. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Paying per ticket could end up costing more than a season’s pass. On the other hand, there are usually lots of discounts on single or multiple tickets. Do your research. Sometimes it could be cheaper to just pay per ticket rather than buy a season’s pass due to midday or afternoon discount tickets. Maybe purchasing tickets with a group will lead to a coveted group discount. Maybe you even know some employees that could lend you their employee discount. I’ve gotten free tickets just for volunteering (Though, mind you, I’ll probably never use them: snowfall is bad and smaller resorts are more likely to reward you, whereas big money making resorts are more intent on convincing you to reward yourself.) Most of all, make the most out of whatever you choose. Don’t spend time thinking about what you could or should or would have done, just enjoy the moment and ski and ride

Verdict: Get yourself on a mountain.

 

The days of the mythical uber thick and waterproof expensive winter onesie are over. Hand me downs, cheap thrills, and my-neighbour-lent-it-to-me-permanently are in. Though being flashy is awesome, it’s not a requirement to ski or ride. You could wear a trashbag and ski or ride just fine (just don’t do this without clothes underneath). No googles? No problem: sunglasses work just as well. No waterproof layers? Well, just wear enough not to freeze. And don’t fall. If you plan to do that a lot, and don’t have waterproof layers, check the forecast to make sure you won’t freeze to death. You’ll have so much fun you won’t notice. Yes, there are lots of situations where you’ll need waterproof everything, but don’t sweat the beginner stuff.

If you do, you might just end up sweating  lot more under that -35 degree, quadruple layer onesie.

Go seek the mountains.

 

 

 

 

Warm/Cold Light

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DSC_0547A little disappointedly, I found out that yesterday’s conditions – what some called bluebird – were the exception rather than the norm. Can you edit a photo taken in cloudy conditions to make it look like it was endless sunshine? I don’t know, but I should still be happy with the challenge of editing these! I’d like to edit parts of the photo individually but that just seems a little daunting and a lot of work, since even though I did that to some of yesterday’s photos, the lighting was so great my work was minor. Anyways. I have not been in the park this winter; anxiety has made me really stiff and awkward. But they opened up a fantastic swath of snow between runs that allowed for more speed. Cautiously, I ventured onto it when the speed caught me off guard and threw off my anxiety for a few seconds. It was glorious – it was the reason why I decided to snowboard. I could regain a little of the old side hitting, too. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

 

Red Heather Shenanigans

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It wasn’t the powder day I was looking for to kick off the season but it was a good time. Last year an exceptional skier patiently and kindly led a trip to Red Heather on a dreamy powder day. She never left our side. This time I learned how frustrating it can be to induct eager people to the sport while being surrounded by people zooming down enjoying the powder. I frustrated myself with flat/up and down terrain that made for good ski learning but impossible snowboarding but I didn’t fool myself by thinking that I didn’t have my own incompetencies, either. Going quickly I could hide my lack of skill behind reckless riding but going more slowly, I showed my uncanny knack for sinking into powder/inability to turn with a heavy backpack and feel in control. The skiiers eventually had a great time learning to ski – I could see the same joy I felt last year learning to ski. Though not a snowboarding-heavy day, it was still a jam packed day. We visited five gas station at six in the morning before we found a working pump. On the way back, we saved 20 minutes of hiking by packing our 4 bodies, skis and bags into the back of a truck with two girls who kindly offered to truck us down. I can’t say I was too thrilled by the safety of sitting on top of somebody’s lap, with my head hitting the ceiling and a window on one side, and skis on the other. But to be honest, it was a little funny and a huge reprieve after a  3:30 AM wake up time. We arrived back in the city at 7:30 PM after under $5 dinners at the best cheap samosas restaurant in the town.

 

It doesn’t feel official to me yet – being a beginner trip, we stuck to conditions very similar to skiing in your backyard, if it were to snow – but it’s a start. And maybe it will never feel “official” to me until I push my boundaries or improve my skills, which are pretty darn limited to making it down a mountain. And doubly not in powder-I sank my nose like a chip coming down for the dip and had to pull myself out every time I tried to turn. It did sprinkle a little on us-but it wasn’t the luscious heavy flakes that turn any landscape into a snow globe. In those kinds of conditions, it really feels like winter in the only thing you know. After an unseasonably warm summer and autumn, I feel unadapted to the cold. It seems unreal that elsewhere people are in their normal winter-time mood, where snow isn’t an oddity and arrives like clockwork, and are anticipating a long and assured winter. I feel like I need to shake off my El Nino qualms, for if I fear, I won’t progress.

It’s probably the most interesting day of the season I’ve ever had, despite how it feels. Outdoors, in the backcountry; mellow as our spot may be, it’s a special spot, a reminder of how conditions exist in a wild variety everywhere, how there’s snow if you hike for it, how skill takes patience and practice but moreover passion.

Here’s to the first day of the season.

 

 

First Snowboard

I’ve actually owned (and sold) three snowboards (economic issues).

Whoop was my first one.

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Let’s the honest. The design is amazing. A valley full of cloned, demonic bluebirds? I love birds, I love blue and I love weird things. The only thing that wasn’t amazing was the cheap bindings and worst boots on earth. I can’t remember how the board rode, but it was very flexible. 

(Whoop even made it to pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/555139091538035880/ )

I was your typical angsty teen. I was pissed off at my parents. They hated my snowboarding in the few measly trips we had in high school. I had some meagre savings.

Big box sport shop kid’s board it was.

When I look back to it, snowboarding was like my adventure awakening. And Craigslist was my other, sketchier adventures awakening. There was a certain thrill in purchasing a board from someone you didn’t know, in a place you didn’t know, for a price too good to believe. Shoving money over the counter is one thing; interacting with people letting go of the freedom boards is another.

Anyways, pre-Craigslist days, the only place I knew to purchase a dirt cheap board was Sportchek.

The only thing I could afford was a package deal for a kid’s board for $275 after tax, to be bought right before snowboarding with one of my new friends at university. I didn’t want to appear stupid of course, but I also was just over the brim with joy at owning a snowboard. The worst thing about snowboarding on high school trips was having to give the board back at the end of the day. The joy of riding and speed was so joyful to the extent that I wanted to do it everyday. Or at least take the board home and smuggle it and myself back.

At last the day came. I handed over the $275 in cold hard cash and awaited nervously as I was fitted for boots, and told that I was going to have to wait for it to be picked up because the bindings had to be installed. Laugh now, but I had no idea how easy it was to install bindings back then. I nervously told the Sportchek worker to call my cell and that I was paying in cash because I didn’t want my parents to know. The guy laughed, and although he said he was also an Arts major enjoying his time at UBC his second year status seemed to put him skyscrapers above me. When I got back after that day, I couldn’t sleep. I had just bought a board! I was going snowboarding, something i wasn’t sure I could do after high school ended!

I imagined running my hands over the board’s edge. I imagined its blue, blue graphics, promising bluebird days as blue and birdy as its graphics. It wasn’t the best and I knew that, but its cheerfulness seemed to embody all that I felt. And it was all new, which I welcomed after some shoddy rentals that ruined expensive high school trips to the hill. This was it. Through pure chance and tight economics, I was united with a board and we were going snowboarding to start a fresh page. Even though I’ve had mediocre days since then, the memory of snowboarding on Whoop for the first time with my then new friend stands out as one of my best riding memories.

Whoop, you were a piece of crap but I owe you. And I’m so happy I knew to move on.*
*Sold to some kind unassuming lady on Craigslist that somehow was willing to pay me $200 for it.

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Whoop’s super cool but sadly not blue 2014/2015 iteration.

By the way, it’s pretty stupid when nothing changes but the topsheet, but the more graphics, the merrier.

Magical Mercury

Solidarity comes in the form of simple, white light pictures. Just like fresh-snow-day light.

AKA One Week with the DSLR and This Is All I Got.

Read on to find out how this post is actually about snow. Or at least the beginning of posts about snow.poultry

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Last year the mountains opened on Nov 15. The snow was man made, but the below zero temps were Mother Nature’s making. This year, the H2O’s made a crazed rebound but where’s the magical mercury? Is there nothing left to do but wait at Mother Nature’s mercy,  doing other mundane crazy things like learn to use a camera?

A group of people I know and someone I don’t, that exists to me only through Facebook (thus far) are on reconnaissance missions. Wisdom and marks tell me to stay home, so I’ll be relying on their intelligence. Manning Park, Brew Hut and Elfin Lakes are all snow-worthy places that may lie just below freezing level to accrue snow during this daunting rainy weekend. Whistler of course is getting pounded-up high. No surprise there. Wouldn’t it be great if they returned with reports of snow falling into every crevice in the ground and their bodies come Monday? But that isn’t likely the case. I’m jaded here, in my third snow deprived season on the awesome but sadly vertically challenged local mountains. I’m seriously questioning if I will ever, in the near future, board not like an idiot. I’m seriously questioning how shitty my future looks, mountains or no, on the basis of the string of events that I call my life. Snowboarding and the outdoors gave me confidence but I just haven’t put in enough hours. That magical mercury took me to a Wonderland. I haven’t proved myself worthy. *

What I do know, however, is that believing in the power of the outdoors (and of course studying harder) is the key to a happy future. The purpose of my outdoor pursuits has always been life’s happy aspects: strangers that become friends, learning, and feeling at home in one’s body. One day that stuff will pay off. Persistence pays off even when talent dries up.

Human beings are capable of living their dreams if only because they can’t stand to suffer passivity.

Whatever you lose you will get back, only differently and better than before.

Don’t think about how you failed. Think about how many more magical mercury days there are in the future and how you can start working towards them, now.

And be at peace. That’s the most important of all. When that mercury drops, it’ll drop. Don’t fuck with the way Mother Nature made you or the earth because you’ll only fuck yourself back.

You can’t shake them off even when you realize you’re a loser. I have the same goals, only a longer time line or new goals altogether. If there’s anything I learned through counselling it’s that smaller, concrete goals set you up to success, whereas big vague goals lead to disappointment. Some of those goals are:

Last Year:

-Snowboarding off of a bigger drop into fresh snow (Yes, I can barely drop right now: I was thinking an excess of 2 metres 😉 )

-Waking up in a tent to board in untouched snow (Vague; probably could do it at Elfin Lakes)

-Learn to not just do ride on features.

What Actually Happened:

-Through an awesome friend I saw why the next step to progression wasn’t necessarily harder features but learning to finesse on those features ie boardslide. How cool is that? The more you can break down large movements, the better you’re getting. And the more fun you’ll have.

-I hauled up skis that I didn’t even know how to use to fresh snow and I also slept in the hut because I was too weak from hauling ski to haul up 6 pounds of tent. And I never woke up in time, either.

-I hauled up a board in May where I found out most of the snow had softened to curry. And I slept in a hut again.

-I didn’t drop. There were no places to drop from. Low snow on local mountains=only beginner runs open. Didn’t go elsewhere.

-Saw dead ends everywhere. However I did learn, at last ditch, to ride switch into a 180 off a jump made by the people (no park features in low snow conditions) and tried to butter (While procrastinating, I found a video about doing this that proved I’d been doing it wrong but also tells you how to do it correctly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-s466aRmTU)

What I could have done:

-improved switch riding and finesse

Why I did what I did:
Just milking the fun out of the moment, thinking I’d never get it again. Ie let it rip with no regard to learning-man, my riding was terrible.

So, this year, anticipating no snow (seriously) and having about as much cash as 2 days to a resort that actually has snow:

-Do better at school. No pressure.

-Camp. Hike.

-Be at peace.

-Treasure and learn every time you do get to board

-Visualize it when you’re not there.

-Just be grown up about it. The cookie jar eventually runs out and you have to make the harrowing trek to the grocery store to buy more cookies. This is the buying more cookies part.

To be fair, I may be throwing in the towel. I think I’m not, but trust me, it’s not up for me to decide.* (*However, snowboarding and every other passion you care about is like drugs.)  What’s up for me to decide is how to prepare for it. Instead of feeling sad my favourite runs aren’t open it’s better to know that I’ll be ready when they are. It’s up to me to make better plans for future years when I’ll travel further for snow, if I can, and in the meantime pick up hobbies. You know what? All outdoor pursuits are fucking amazing. I won’t privilege one over the other. Snowboarding seems ridiculous, no pain  (except money) and all the gain to be had (You have to trek to reach your desired destination for backpacking) but actually, that’s just the starter price. Put in more pain and the higher the gain. And never lose sight of your passion.

I’ll never forget what a fellow outdoorsman once said: “Once you’re off the bike, you’re not a biker.” Sounds negative until you read it the other way around: “Once you’re on the bike, you’re a biker.”

What will the 2015/2016 Season Look Like?

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Screenshot copyright Cypressmountain.com

By now you must’ve must of heard one of 10 conflicting snow forecasts:

  1. 10 % likelihood of lots of snow

2. 20% likelihood

3. 30% likelihood

4. 40% likelihood

5. 50% likelihood

and so forth…

But really, it’s forecasts like these that capture our interests:

  1. 0.1% likelihood of good snow, 99.9% warmest season on record

and frankly, it’s these forecasts that dominate.

Even if we didn’t look at the sources, I think it’s fairly clear: for someone who started riding (at least buying season passes) basically at the start of this terrible 2+ year drought/heatwave on the BC North Shore mountains, low snow is the expectation. If you want more snow, move out elsewhere or move to Whistler.

The season at Whistler will no doubt be better than the one on the small local mountains. The small local mountains will surely suck. If there was a lack of progression last year on the small local single green runs, there will be even less this year. Or, maybe you can be more creative and somehow learn to do amazing things on flat, slow beginner runs. That prospect doesn’t even sound like death to me anymore; my finances are so bad Whistler isn’t really in the question. School, that crux of my life, takes on more meaning than it ever did before. And so does global warming. The more I hike, the more I see of the beautiful earth. After one year of hiking I could throw in the towel and say I’ve seen enough and the fad is over. But look: the local mountains are melting and nature needs our appreciation more than ever. Even the small local hills. Nature is nature and we need to feed our stoke for it.

If you want to go somewhere with good snow, don’t worry, because there is no shortage of recommendations. Hokkaido in Japan, Big White, Revelstoke, Banff etc, Europe (everywhere?)…and I barely named any. Snowboarding will always be happening somewhere on some facet of the globe, and you don’t have to worry. If you have the means to get there or find that fact comforting, I encourage you to meditate on it. While we in the PNW cry and make sacrifices to Ullr and brace ourselves and the bottom of our boards and skis, snow is falling naively, abundantly, unfairly, thankfully, elsewhere. You needn’t worry.

I never want snowboarding to be a “trip of a lifetime” kind of experience. I want it to be something that I can do weekly, even if it sucks. I want to have something to look forward to everyday without having to pin a lot of importance onto it; I want a steady source of happiness and not a vacation memory I put too much importance on. That’s a function of the financial situation I’m in and how I can maximize my own enjoyment of snow.I hope it differs for you and that you get as much snow as you want, as often as you want, to the end of maximum happiness. The rest doesn’t matter.

I hope that the stoke never dies and that the snow is always, always drifting somewhere on earth. I hope that someone of it drifts near me, but if it doesn’t, I will be on the search for it anyways. When that first chill slips below untolerable and the first flakes begin to fall, I want the snow to know that I will celebrate it any way I can. Snow will not make me jaded. Snow will always be a sign of newness, vitality, and possibilities.