"That crazy, liberating, wild feeling of gliding over the snow... there's nothing that compares. The same goes for the hot chocolate at the end of the day."
- Khyber Rob
At first we just nodded. You know, like two strangers acknowledging the common folly of their addiction. But we never stopped to chat. Maybe there'd be a polite hello from time to time. But nothing more. After all, I was a grey-haired old coot and he couldn't be far past 30. I was one of those two-plank guys and he was a gorilla-armed boarder. Besides, there was some snow to be slid on. Priorities.
Still, we kept running into each other. On epic powder days when the snow was falling faster than you could ride it. Deep in the forest, where others rarely tread. On stupid traverses and long, post-holing walks where each step up was an act of will.
Or even just hiding from the north wind behind a boulder high in the alpine and watching the sun dissolve into a sea of pink and gold at the end of the day. The nods turned to smiles of recognition. "Hey - so you know this place too..."
After a few stormy climbs together - faces rimed with icy sweat, bodies tilted against the wind at crazy angles - the young boarder and I got to talking a bit. And I couldn't help but be intrigued.
"My first snowsliding experience," explains Rob Coté, "was totally traditional." He smiles; just a hint of self-deprecation. "It was in my backyard, on a wooden toboggan with a rope and three people sitting down." Like most Canadian kids, he eventually decided to stand up and go it alone. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't safe. But it was damned exhilarating. "That's all it took," he says. "I was hooked on sliding."
Coté grew up in snowy Lennoxville, Quebec. The region - known as the Eastern Townships - is famous for its many skiing opportunities. But for young Rob, that wasn't yet in the cards. "From the toboggan," he recounts, "we graduated to all sorts of sliding implements - flying saucers, GT Racers, Krazy Karpets. We'd build courses with banked turns and jumps and all sorts of stuff..." He sighs. "But my parents didn't ski. And when you're a kid..."
He was 12 or 13, he says, when he first tried "snowboarding." "We took the trucks off our skateboards," he remembers, "rode them backwards on the snow and tried to see if we could jump 'em. We thought we were being pretty rad." The grin he throws my way is too infectious to ignore. So I laugh with him.