26 02 2014

Oh, how my heart broke to hear of another life taken by our mountains. So young and handsome was that young man, swept away by a tumultuous flurry of snow. I think of his mother, his family, his lover and his friends and how they must all be clinging together, in a desperate measure to move forward without his smile and spirit.

I hear too, the angst of opinions regarding back-country touring. I read the comments on the article about his death and was appalled at the brashness of judgment: stupid choices, he should have known better, when will these people learn?

And while I can understand the passion behind this, my first thought was please do not say these things while this young man’s family and loved ones mourn his passing. He died! Regardless of how, the ones who love him must move forward in some manner of normalcy, fumbling around for sense and seeking solace. They never have to hear negative comments, they should not read that he should have known better.

You see, when you love the mountains, you do know all the inherent risks. You challenge yourself, you educate yourself, you knowingly take the risk for the love of life experience. For every life taken too soon, there are countless others enjoying the beauty, the rush, the thrill of the back country. On any given day in the winter, we see trucks laden with snowmobiles, groups of smiling faces placing skins on skis, snow-shoers packing tea and compasses to take with them. They do all this with a passion. A passion of recognizing the risk that the mountains give and yet they embrace it fully with the love of the experience deep within. It’s not like they want to die doing something they love; rather they get off the couch with intent of living their own life with adrenaline-infused experiences that give them something they need.

I ski, and I ski fast. I wonder…. if I crashed and died, would others come down on my choices? Would my death be found riddled with fault? Would I be blamed? I hope not.

As we all live in a place where mountains give us joy, we need to accept that some people take that joy and run with it. They love what they do, they do it wisely. These back-country folks who seek thigh-deep powder and fresh tracks are not uneducated buffoons who trek willy-nilly into the wilderness. They have the avalanche courses, they wear the beacons and they do NOT want to die. It is the risk they take. It is the risk anyone would take doing what they love to do.

I admire them. I hope no more lives are taken but I would never dream of telling anyone to stop. Our lives are our own choices, and to be truly alive with every cell in your body is worth it to so many.

May the family of this young man find solace in one another and his light shine on in the smiles of everyone he loved.

Isn’t it ironic…

23 12 2013

We were all rushing around in our urgency to be on the first chair. We’re a 45 minute drive to the ski hill, so that means getting out the door by 7.30, which allows us to get coveted “rockstar” parking, maybe enjoy an Americano from Freshies and then mosey on over to the lift for first chair.


All the while, I am in the kitchen prepping snacks and thermoses of hot chocolate and I pause to lecture my kids, who both seem to be at ease with taking their sweet time to do things in the morning. “Hey, you are all each responsible for your own gear. I’m pretty damn tired of double-checking to see if you have your mittens and goggles and poles. From now on, you get your own crap together, and I am not going to say this again! You get to the hill and don’t have your stuff, well it will suck big time!”


We all pile in the truck, excited about a day on the slopes. We chatter and laugh and reminisce about epic ski days of yore. Lo and behold, we arrive at Whitewater and get a spot in the FIRST ROW! Yeah! No exhausted 1/2 kilometer hike at the end of the day to our truck, lugging all of our gear.

The tail gate is dropped and I start handing out skis and poles.

And then I ask:

“Hey! Where are my boots?”

Everyone looks at me, and I humbly realize they’re sitting on the shelf in the garage back in Balfour.

Yup. Lesson well-learned.

The marriage of sun and cold

12 01 2013

The light was shining on the peaks of White Queen but as we rounded the corner, we see Ymir Bowl still in the shadows of a low rising winter sun. The snow was lit up from within, beaming white and golden, proudly showing off those back country ski swoops down chutes and bowls. From a distance, these tracks are effortless, lazy and undulating in their pattern, belying the efforts of the skiers who hiked up the mountains  to carve them. Offset by a winter sky, a pure blue surrounds the mountains, a blue that evokes distant memories of me as a child laying on my back looking up into the endless sky never caring how cold it was.

Oh, it was cold today. -17. That kind of cold that cuts into your lungs, frosts up your eyelashes and numbs your toes instantly. Yet we found ourselves seeking the sunshine in spite of the cold. Wiggling our toes and fingers on the lifts to bask in the winter beams. Solar therapy.

The crystals rise up and swirl and hover, sparkling in the light. Between each snow-cloaked tree, untouched powder begs to be skied upon, as our breath fogs away from us, asking the crystal snowflakes to dance. The cold sucks all moisture away, creating a dry snow that puffs away from our skis. We float on the powder, we ski on clouds.

Our toes cry for mercy, thumbs go numb. Cheeks and noses are rosy. Hot chocolate and tea are mandatory supplies these cold ski days.

Still, we see smiles, hear laughter. Off in the glades, unseen, we hear hoots and hollers of utter joy. The cold doesn’t stop any of us, here on the hill.

The sunshine makes its way down along the slopes, buttering up the snow, gently warming it in slight tones. The packed powder runs are softened up. There is no sound as we ski. Only our breath in our ears.

It is heaven on Earth, it is the never-ending quest of pure joy. It is burning thighs and happy hearts and cold, cold snow.