Roads, roads, roads...
I saw a lot of road this winter; 11,285 miles to be exact. This road took me up, down and all around. I saw new places, familiar places and some places so much, I thought I lived there. My Subaru became my home, therapist and gallant steed that took me anywhere NOAA said a storm was hitting. And like winter road trips do, eventually led me to summer.
My journey started on a quick whim. It looked like Jackson was about to get pounded, and I had not skied pow since a particularly stupidly placed turn in Grizzly Gulch, Utah, a few weeks prior. It was more than time to get back out, start making good decisions and having fun. I packed up my car with everything I may need (plus additional luxuries like cowboy boots for the possible impromptu line dancing adventures I hoped awaited me) and left, having no idea when I would come back, but assuming it would be whenever Tahoe was graced with some white fluffy stuff.
As most of you know, Tahoe never really got it this year unfortunately. For me, that meant I didn’t come home. My roommates’ diets took a turn for the worse, my cat forgot my name and my fluffy bed became covered in dust (and whoever was crashing there in my absence.). I went from Jackson to Utah to Revelstoke, back to Utah, back to Jackson, to Utah again, to Sun Valley, Oregon, and Washington. I was waking up every morning, looking at the weather and avalanche reports everywhere within driving distance, which for me was about a 20-hour radius.
The adventures were limitless. Beyond countless, dreamy, stormy pow turns and I was just going, going, going, and not stopping. I learned many things on this part of my journey. I have a mental map of the gas stations of the west with the most drinkable tap water and stomach-able cheap coffee. I learned Arby’s gives me horrible gas. Convenience store employees give weird looks when you fill up shopping bags of ice and leave without buying something, and it is much better to have an injured left leg than right for icing on 10+ hour trips, although both can be managed. I discovered Revelstoke is the best place in the west for hairwhips on a Tuesday night and no one will ever mind if you throw an unplanned line dancing party at a dive bar with a crew of hot ladies and one dude in Pit Vipers. Trees hug back if you give them a chance and any cat will do for an evening snug. I developed a long-thought-over-theory that my love of skiing and the insane amount of boot packing I do are 100% responsible for the fact that I cannot twerk. In this span of time, my money when to four main places—gas, beer, ibuprofen and pizza. I worked through an array of emotions, the product of an excessive amount of time left alone with my own mind, listening to a soundtrack of Cher, moody love songs, Iggy Azeala white girl rap, and a bit of that hipster alternative business mixed in. It’s amazing how many different feelings can be generated from my Spotify starred playlist. My car developed an incredible stench, which I am assuming is a key factor in why I am still single. I discovered that 85 mph + ski rack + a headwind do not add up to deliver the great gas millage Subaru promises.
The bliss of skiing powder had returned. I was completely unattached, able to go where I wished, and having killer time. I was meeting new people and fostering new mountain-based friendships. I was also working hard to gain the respect of my peers as well as personal respect for myself; making smart decisions, learning to trust my environment and myself again. Things were going great. As good as I could have ever hoped. I was headed up to Washington, driving through a killer storm that was delivering feet upon feet of snow at Crystal Mountain Resort. I was looking forward to two dream trips in my near future. The first, a K2 girls trip to Revelstoke to film for Pretty Faces, a trip I had pedaled and meddled for months to pull together. The second, a lady shred trip to Irwin in Crested Butte with a team of my idols. I was looking at my first time heli skiing and first time cat skiing in my near future. I was ecstatic for the kind of opportunities I have been working and waiting for since the journey of being a skier began, waiting for me right around the corner. I remember driving through that crazy Washington blizzard in the middle of the night, and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Stoked, psyched, amped… whatever, I was happy.
Two days later, my winter took a big turn. I was up shooting still photos inbounds at Crystal Mountain on one of the deepest powder days of my life, when I hit an air in a treed area of open terrain. Upon my landing, a narrow pocket of snow released and immediately pulled me under and drug me down the slope. I was flipped face down in the snow, head down slope, snow completely filling my mouth, unable to fight against the force, and filled with the dreadful thought, “No. Not again.” Eventually I was able to deploy my airbag and was spit out to the side. The pocket was narrow, with about a one-foot crown, I was carried about 400 feet down slope and eventually found my other ski another 700 feet down in the debris. Once the notion was clear that I wasn’t buried or wrapped around a tree, a sharp pain in my right knee made itself very apparent.
I tore my MCL that day at Crystal, an injury that most definitely changed the course of my winter. While thankfully I did not need surgery, I would not be skiing at all for a while. I was unable to go on either of my film trips, and was devastated to say the least. I was wounded, yet disappointed to let some dreams creep by un-caught, of course. Worst of all? I was shaken as all hell. I thought I had gone through my “scary” experience for a while. I was left in a weird place where the thing I had loved most all my life, now put a fear in my gut like I had never known.
With a bum knee, I still had a lucky streak this winter and was able to spend a hobbly month announcing and hosting for the Freeride World Tour. I talked a lot about skiing, smiled too much, drank a bunch, danced with some Euros and ended up having a pretty fun time. Splurging for the expensive knee brace, I found myself back on skis one month after my injury. From a medical stand point, it was a bit too early to go back, but I found a way to manage. I was unwilling to accept defeat, and I begun scraping back together the momentum.
My search for powder had begun again, and while there was no hucking or even full strength skiing for me the rest of my winter, there were still plenty of toothful right and left turns. I struggled the rest of the season physically and mentally. I was scraping desperately to accomplish something, anything, while battling a knee that wouldn’t bend much and a mind that wouldn’t stop being freaked out. The rest of my season felt a lot like when you come to end of a big bowl of ice cream. There is still ice cream left, you can see it, though you scrape and scrape with your spoon, you never seem to get much more ice cream in your mouth.
I scraped around the west, my car stunk more and while I was getting somewhere, I was aware that I wasn’t going to get where I had imagined at the beginning of the season. Disappointment was the new theme for my journey. It is a fact of life, definitely the name of the game for a skier. Regardless, it wasn’t stopping me, I knew I was going down, but I was going down swinging.
While I do stand on the other side of this season with barrels of frustration and so many dreams and desires unmet, it wasn’t all negative at the end. One of my lifelong dreams did come true one day in April. Heli skiing. Yup, I finally discovered what all the hype is about. It is rad. A few years ago, just after graduating college and deciding to become a ski bum with my degree, one of the only goals I could settle on was to go heli skiing. Now there is a big old check next to that one! I’ll admit, it will most likely be the start of a long and frustrating addiction, but I’m into it. I drove almost 30 hours for one day… totally worth it.
Now looking back at photos and trying to pile my season into appealing emails that will make my sponsors not want to dump me, I have a lot of odd feelings. I find it is normal not to be satisfied at the end of the season, we all, skiers in general, always want more. That is what keeps us at it. I have some demons to short through for sure. To this day the thought of a deep pow turn makes me smile and feel elated, yet shudder in fear at the same time. I cannot even try to explain what an odd dichotomy that is. But now, for me, it is time to get out the sifter, go through the negatives, evaluate them and let them fall through the cracks. What is left is a lot of pow skied, miles driven, laughs snorted and lessons learned. Most of all? A deeper hunger for next winter than I have ever known.
Happy summer. Stay hungry.