Words: Sam Turner
Photos: Dan Turner
“Kind of a bummer the GoPro ran out of batteries eh?” My buddy Hugh asks me as we hang up our gear in the lodge. I mull the statement for a moment.
We’re at the end of a day that saw us start out before sunrise, and do several hundred metres of vertical in the name of two descents. The day before, we skinned 12k to the lodge through a shifting onslaught of rain, sleet and finally snow. It’s the first backcountry trip either of us has been on, and the desire to capture every moment on chest-mounted camera is chief for both of us.
Refuting the need for chairlifts
A couple years before, after a day exploring Whistler’s outer reaches, my dad had proclaimed emphatically to me that, really, I gotta get into the back country. I rolled my eyes and explained to him that yes, I really did, but I also didn’t have any hundreds of dollars kicking around that I could spend getting trained and geared up. It’s true that ever since my brother and I moved out and away to school, our parents had quietly gone and transformed themselves into gnarlier, more legit skiers than either of us. While I was moping around parks on the East Coast, spinning 270 out, my mom and dad were earning turns the hard way. I knew full well that I needed to get in on the act, but I didn’t have the means or the free time to do so. My days of disposable income and empty-nesting are a ways off.
This year though, my parents cut to the chase. Sometime in November my mom called to inform me that we were doing a BC trip, and I in turn got Hugh on board. We needed the gnar points.
Whistler is somewhere that way
Fast-forward a month and a half and I’m standing on top of what is essentially my first ever pillow line. To call it a pillow line is an overstatement. This is a pillow line if you’re the type of person who sleeps without a pillow, on a tee shirt or your biceps or something (you weirdo). It doesn’t matter to me though. This is my first day outside the comfortable, patrolled bounds of a ski resort and to me everything is gnarly. Three seconds later as I pull to a stop beside Hugh and my dad I may as well have just stomped that line in Tanner Hall’s Lost Seasons. My heart is racing, adrenaline’s pumping and I’m more stoked on skiing than I have been in a long time. This pseudo-line is the greatest thing I’ve ever done and no one but my dad and my buddy will ever see it.
I was choked at the time that I didn’t manage to capture a wide-angled, chest-high recording of my descent. I imagined that everyone would have been floored by the sheer magnitude of my accomplishment as I sort of aired off that little bump and through those two trees. Although, granted, from below it didn’t look quite as impressive. Come to think of it, I was the only one present who was really that hyped on it … huh.
Getting enthused about the experience
Thinking about it later in the lodge it dawned on me that this is perhaps the most important truth of backcountry skiing. This is an experience that exists in a one-to-one ratio. All that poetic waxing that is at once the charm and the infuriating nuisance of every Nimbus feature ever produced is, well, true. The backcountry is an entity all of its own. It is a raw, human experience that belongs to the individual. No photo is going to do it justice, no billion-p POV footage is going to do it justice; you have to see it for yourself. And when you do, you’ll start looking at those Full Tilts a little differently. Selling them now will get you halfway to the price of those touring Scarpa’s.
So yes, Hugh has a point; it’s a bummer about the GoPro. But I’m wondering what the difference is.