I feel extreme burning and twitching in my right thigh—warning me it’s about to start cramping and go into spasm. Must keep moving. I step up, my right foot sinking only a couple of inches, and kick my left foot into the steep pitch of untouched powder. It feels like a decent pack so I put all of my weight on my left foot and attempt to step up. Ooof. It was not a solid snowpack; my left leg is now buried up to the hip. The sweat really starts to flow, bringing my attention to the fact that I forgot to open my pit zips. My breathing rate elevates as I struggle to get enough oxygen from the thin air. Focusing, I gather my strength and dig my board in above me on the pitch, hoping to get some purchase. Three, two, one: pull. I manage to get myself back up on top of the fluffy white stuff. Huffing and puffing, I take a moment to look below and see the boys slowly making their way up in my bootsteps. My gaze rises and takes in the awe-inspiring vista: snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see.
I feel most alive when I am pursing my passion. I am completely in the moment. My senses are tuned to their highest sensitivity. I am living life as purely as I can. When I am in this state, experiencing life at its fullest, my body and soul are gaining copious amounts of an intangible energy. It is this energy that propels me to a higher state of being. And only the pursuit of my passion can provide this euphoria.
I share a passion with Jeremy Jones: earning my turns in big mountain peaks. It’s just that everything is relative. Base camp for me, unlike Jeremy Jones, is not in the seat of the Himalayas or at a secluded camp in the Alaska Range. My base camp is a townhouse in the quiet village of Saanichton on Vancouver Island. There is no inhabited place in our beautiful province that is farther from a ski-able mountain—a tough pill to swallow for a powder junky. That being said, I believe that if your passion is earning turns in big mountain peaks, then the effort of getting there pales in comparison to the returns. I choose to pass on several smaller mountains in the Coast Range for the big alpine lines that are accessible from Whistler and Blackcomb (WB) mountains.
My journey to WB does not involve an ice climb with an overnight bivvy on a cliff before a summit push in the morning, but it is still a mission for me. The pursuit of my passion and thus, the first injection of that intangible energy, starts by walking out my door, snowboard in tow, down the street to catch the 72 bus north to the BC Ferries terminal.
Later, the energy grows; standing on the deck of the ferry, I soak up the vitality that nature provides. I drink in the physical beauty through my eyes. I absorb it as the crisp winter wind cuts into my face, becoming part of me as I inhale the rich, moist ocean air. My soul is already flying higher.
After the beautiful ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia, I catch a couple of different buses and eventually get picked up by my best friend in suburban Vancouver. We stop at a local brew pub to fill a couple of growlers that will help keep our whistles wet when we tune our boards in the garage (after we have a dance party with his kids, read them a story and tuck them in).
The energy really starts building in my friend’s garage as we wax ‘em up, reminisce of bagged lines from past adventures and anticipate which zones will call our names tomorrow. We lose track of time, and the growlers are empty. We feel like we could climb Everest without oxygen, but instead hit the hay for a short five hours.
About halfway through the two-hour drive to WB, we stop and pick up a buddy in Squamish, grunt to each other between sips of coffee and enjoy the silence that only 5:30 can bring. I think it is impossible to measure this intangible energy that builds inside when we pursue our passions. Mix the power of the mountains with camaraderie, and you have an energetic reaction that exponentially increases the experience. There is nothing like getting to a higher state of being with other like-minded folk—nothing.
Near the end of the drive up the Sea to Sky highway, dawn starts to spread over the mountains and we get a glimpse of the snow line. Energy builds.
We all know what the next bit of the journey entails. There’s no need to go there because it is simply a means of getting to the bottom of the first boot-pack, which brings me back to the concept of relativity. Yes, we are at a ski resort, not in the middle of the Himalayas, and yes, we are boot-packing to our lines, not split-boarding. But it is just as stoking to us as the latter options are to Jeremy and his pals. Plus, if I was split-boarding in the Alaska Range, I wouldn’t know what to fantasize about anymore.
I find being in the mountains incredibly powerful and grounding. Up there, where one lost edge could be a fatal mistake, I am reminded of how precious life is and how grateful we should be for each day. The massive scale provides me with perspective; it reminds me just how insignificant our daily-life worries are. The simplicity of life in the mountains bestows a freedom that I am hard-pressed to experience in the world of neon lights, concrete, smart phones, emails, deadlines, and other everyday nonsense. Lastly the mountains remind me of our connection to nature, that we are just one small part of it and that it is our duty to respect it and protect it.
My thighs are still burning and my heart is still pounding from the journey to get up here, but there is a cloudbank moving in and we want to use the good visibility while it lasts. Check the bindings, take a deep breath, focus and drop in. Sharp heel slide cuts into the deep pow and I choke on it as it flows over my head. One tight toe-side turn sends me flying out of the entry chute into the open bowl. Wooooooo! I am feeling the flow as I rip down the mountain floating massive turns, popping off spines, boulders and wind lips. When the momentum of the line finally runs out, there is nothing but elation, smiles, laughter and man hugs. Intangible energy levels are peaking.
The day ends with a couple of après bevvies in Merlin’s at the base of Blackcomb. Once we’re rehydrated, it’s time to load up the truck and start the journey home.
The return trip takes over six hours, but it flies by as I ride the high of the day. Before I know it, my journey is near its close as I ring the bell to request my stop.
It’s dark and peaceful in Saanichton when the bus drops me half a block from home. Streetlights act as beacons that guide me back to base camp. I stroll up to my doorstep with a soul full of positive energy. My batteries are at maximum capacity and my backup generator is charged as well.
I feel like a superhero and a Zen Buddhist in one, like I could handle anything that life throws at me and I could do it while being present, grounded and calm. This higher state of being benefits me but, more importantly, it benefits those people with whom I share my life. I bring that energy to them and share it with them, just as the mountains share their energy with me. It is a cycle, as many things in nature are.
This cycle continues as I go about my daily life. Slowly the intangible energy in my batteries gets depleted as time stuck indoors, dealing with tech devices, battling deadlines, traffic, and all the mundane tasks of everyday life pile up. I am a little less grounded, grumpy at times, not as calm in times of turmoil. These are some of the warning signs that it is time for a recharge. So you do the thing that will fill those energy stores back up to capacity. You go pursue your passion. You walk out the door, snowboard in tow, and make your way to the bus stop to catch the next 72 heading north to the ferry terminal.