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Living Large

The culture of extreme skiers



Page 9 of 10

He stops here and hesitates before going on.

"Actually for me it’s… you could almost say it’s a religion, it makes me who I am and what I have developed into as a person. I’m never going to lose that passion for what I do. My girlfriend says that to me everyday."

What about your girlfriend, how does she feel about it?

"If you’re asking does it put stress on a relationship, then yes it definitely does."

He also mentions that she has recently made a career decision to move to Vancouver, which prompts me to ask if he has friends outside of extreme sports.

"First of all we don’t really like that word so much, but yes, most of my friends that are close, or at least the ones that I keep in contact with, are into the mountain lifestyle."

What is it about the risks that are so attractive?

"I’m not going to kid you and say I’m not in it for the adrenaline rush, but that’s only part of it. The thing about ripping big lines in the mountains (is that) there are so many variables on how to make a good descent, everything has to fall into place. A week will go by and I’ll feel the need to be in the zone. It’s like going to mass. I just need to experience it."

These are heartfelt words and there is no disbelieving his intensity. So much so that I wonder if he and his peers don’t experience something akin to what soldiers at war experience, a brothers-in-arms sort of thing.

"We’re a tight knit group. Part of that is because when you’re in the mountains you want to be with someone you have a relationship with, a bond with, so when the shit hits the fan you know you can trust your partner."

Speaking of risks and the possibility of things going wrong, how does he feel about the difference in attitude towards risk between Europe and North America?

"You look at Europe and I really believe they have it figured out. Here people will light off of Blackcomb peak with a cell phone in their pocket, get stuck in some drainage and ask to be picked up. In Europe they’ll say it will cost you so much, do you still want a pick up?"

When he mentions inexperienced people getting caught in the backcountry, I ask if I’m not wrong in my impression that many of them seem to be snowboarders, which I attribute to the current popularity of the sport and its steep learning curve, creating a situation where people who might not otherwise even be in the mountains are going out of bounds. He agrees with me, but is quick to stress that he doesn’t feel that skiing and snowboarding are mutually exclusive of each other.