Wednesday, February 22, 2006

So all alone I keep the wolves at bay
There is only one thing I can say
Did you stand by me?
No not at all
Did you stand by me?
No way

Question from Tom: So how about a post detailing how you overcame the perfectly natural fear of premature death to shoot one of those chutes?

Mark is right, it is still scary... but that is what is fun about it, too. I started skiing over 25 years ago, when I was around 10. (I started snowboarding full time 5 or 6 years ago, but the skills translate.) I think it helps to start when you are young, dumb and indestructible. You build your skills and eliminate fear at an age when you have ZERO awareness of things like "consequences," "ACL" or "paralysis."

I think if I had started at 28 or 30, there is no way I would ever take the chances necessary to develop my skills to the point where I would drop into a chute like that.

In skiing (or snowboarding), if you don't push yourself, you never improve. You have to get out of your comfort zone to learn to ride steeps, bumps, trees, moguls or chutes. And that's what kids do best- push themselves and each other to do things they wouldn't otherwise do.

If you're 16, and all your friends are skiing double blacks, you just go with them. Sure, you wipe out, but you learn... you learn to turn, you learn how to fall without getting hurt, you learn to survive things you cannot ski.

I remember my first trip to Colorado, at Breckenridge, getting onto a double black bump run that was waaaaay over my head. It was extremely steep, and the moguls were 4 feet high. I just picked my way down with my buddy, Leo. We fell; we laughed at each other; but when we got down, we were perversely proud.

And we knew we could survive it.

And once you know you can survive it, you can try it again.

The only way to improve is to ski or ride with people better than you, and to try incrementally more difficult runs.

After 25 years of incremental improvement and experimentation, you end up looking at some seriously hairball terrain... just to see if you can survive it.

Then you do it again... just to see if you can navigate it.

And you keep doing it until you know the terrain by heart, when to jump, when to check up, when to turn, when to let 'em run.

By the time you get that familiar with the terrain, it is no longer as scary.

A point of clarification, though: I didn't shoot those chutes. I know my limitations, especially on a board (and a brand new one, at that.) I was very cautious, and my descent was sort of a jump-turning recon mission. I knew I could survive it, so I carefully descended four chutes, testing the lines, learning the terrain. And now I know- Stay The Fuck Away From Chute #3 Because It Narrows To Five Feet And Deposits You On Top Of A Cliff Band.

To Big Sky's credit, it has some of the filthiest in-bounds terrain I have seen (and like Johnny Cash, I've been everywhere, man). It's up there with Whistler's, Alta's, A-Basin's and Crested Butte's toughest. I haven't been to Jackson yet, but I would put the Big Couloir and the other chutes up against Corbett's Couloir. The degree of difficulty can't be that much different.

Straight down is straight down.

And that is way more than enough snowboarding talk.

I'll just stick to the pretty pictures.

Here, cleanse your pallette:

Me & Bells

Sunrise over the Bridgers

Mine & Bells' shadows

A Grizzly

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Me and Barney

The Timeless Art of Seduction