Snowboarding, powder, and friends

Warm temps, clear skies, stable snowpack and longer days, normally make April an excellent month for ski touring. This year was different. After an unusually warm and dry March, over the past four weeks, a seemingly endless cycle of cold low pressure systems has brought heavy precipitations to the western Alps.

This is an image I copied from the Meteo France avalanche bulletin website. It shows that during the third week in April only, about a meter of snow has fallen at 2,000m

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The previous ten days or so were not different. Every time I went out in the attempt to do a specific tour, poor visibility and moderate avalanche risk made my life so complicated that being out became unpleasant. So I waited, and waited, hoping that at some point the weather would break for a period longer than just a few hours. In the meantime, all I could do was ski the resort.

Although there was still a lot of snow, I was reluctant to go anywhere near a chairlift. Over the last few years my relationship with mechanical lifts has been deteriorating to the point I started to question whether buying a season pass is still a sensible investment. I couldn’t have imagined that chairlifts were going to be an essential part of one of the best days of the entire season.

Driving back after a day of climbing in Chamonix I was caught in one of the heaviest downpours I can remember in years. I knew that up high on the peaks all that rain was snow. There was only one option for the following morning: first lift up.

When I get to the empty car park I meet my local friend Max. He’s smiling on the way up. He knows exactly the amazing conditions we are going to find up there. Look at the size of his skis outside the window, proper fat powder skis. He’s ready for serious action.

Today is the last day of the season lifts are open. As expected, there’s hardly anyone around. Half meter of new snow, empty chairs, good friends and excellent visibility. It’s going to be a special day.

Max can’t stop smiling.

This is what I’m talking about: non-groomed ski runs. It doesn’t happen very often.         Even the trees look happier today.

While doing laps on the same chair I bump into Danielle and Nick. This is one of the many side effects of powder: it puts a big smile on people’s faces.

One of our all-time favorites. A wide north facing slope with a very gentle angle just off one of the ski runs. I can ride this thing over and over again throughout the day and find a different line each time.

First lift up, last one down. At the end of a remarkable 7 hour day like today I always stop for one moment and look at my board, the Jones Flagship. This is the amazing tool that makes my riding experience so special. I have tried a few boards over the past twenty years, and I can honestly say that if my riding is still progressing after two decades, it’s also thanks to this board.

I feel incredibly lucky knowing that when things are not great I can just go to the mountains, strap a board on my feet and forget about everything. I know that no matter what happens, as long as I am able to go snowboarding and ride powder, I’ll be fine. It’s as simple as that. It worked for the past 20 years and I don’t see why it should not keep working for the next 20 or 30. It puts me in balance, and gives me perspective and an immense sense of inner peace. Although I still believe Telemark skiing is cool and super stylish, sometimes I have the impression I was born to slide sideways on just one stick. It was my destiny.

I very rarely take photos like this but I can feel the silly happy expression on my face and would like to have a memory of it. I know from experience that the highs of a day like this will last and keep me inspired for weeks and weeks.

What keeps you inspired? I learned that to keep open the space for inspiration, we have to accept the chaos and discomfort of our inner lives, the uncertainty of what may come up along the process after we start digging inside. Instead of worrying, I always try to find a way of keeping that space open so that whatever is there can emerge spontaneously. Before I notice what’s happening, I discover something new about myself.

I don’t have many certainties, but one of them is that snowboarding, friends and mountains will always have an important part in my life. They’ve always been a priority, and always will be. If I am not going snowboarding with my friends, it means I am making the wrong decisions.

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