Cave Paintings

'Cave Paintings' is a piece I wrote for Snowboard Canada, about Marie-France Roy and her knack for following magic. The story features Nicolas Teichrob as a character, and we used a painting of his as supporting imagery. I mention it because I thought of 'Cave Paintings' today after watching 'Numinous,' a beautiful ski film (available here) that Nick co-produced, co-directed, and edited. The film gave me chills, really. So congratulations Nick, Kye, and the rest of Numinous, and without further ado:

Marie-France Roy said something interesting to me last summer– she told me snowboarding is not her gift.  She said it with confidence, comfortable with the idea, and said she hasn’t quite found what she’s really here to do.  She didn’t mean she’s done with snowboarding; all day we’d been talking about plans for future exploring, ways to extend the adventure of being a snowboarder.  I’ve got no doubt she’ll snowboard all her life.  She just meant she sees something more when she looks to the next phases. 

I’d asked what comes after The Little Things.  “I don’t think I have the strength to be someone like Tamo,” she told me, “and I don’t think that putting environmental problems in people’s face is the answer.  Honestly, I think the best way to give back is to have purpose, to find the complete and joyful state and follow it.  And to help other people do the same.”

When she finished her eco-focused two-year, Marie returned to working on her own life, to making the adjustments she advocated in the film.  She continued to improve her cob house in Ucluelet, where this conversation took place, further integrating herself with the land and the rhythm of the surf.  She filmed for Full Moon, let herself enjoy snowboarding with friends, and began the process of realigning her career for the future.  That meant new partnerships with Arbor and Patagonia, and a change in approach.  More foot power, more exploring, better connection to the places she’d ride.  More joy.

She told me about a trip that made her feel on the right track, a glacier camp in the Tordillo Range.  “It was Alex Yoder, Forest Shearer, Nick Teichrob, Nathaniel Murphy, and Jay Beyer.  We went out for 10 days­– it was so much fun, the best crew.  I only knew Nick going into it, but we all bonded so much.  I feel like we’re best friends now.  Jay’s the best cook, and he’d wake us up every morning to go look for pink light.  Yoder is a pearl; he’s like a brother.  He’s a young Dirksen, so soulful.”

“Did you have any storm days?  That’ll make you close real fast.”

“Yeah– they were crazy.  We were outside wrestling mid-way through the storm.  I had Nick in a headlock and I was yelling ‘Say my name!’  It turned into a huge snowball fight.  We all had to change after, we were soaked… we got kind of wild.  We boiled these gin-gin candies with Whisky– you light them on fire then drink them, it was dangerous…”

The riding sounded surreal.  Shred days started before dawn: “It was still -17°, my laces were frozen.  We’d be skinning when the sun started to hit, Jay was jizzing over the light.  The snow was epic and we’d be at the top of our lines waiting for sun to hit, then we’d drop one after another.  They were such surfy lines, not scary, just walls of ramps and pillows.  I’m going back for sure– that was just an introduction.”

We drank tea as we talked, enjoying the simplicity of mid-day conversation.  “We painted– Nick brought supplies.  He painted this full piece of the mountains in front of our camp.”  Marie was as animated telling me how they filled down time as she was describing the boarding, as appreciative of simple creative expressions as she was of dreamy pow.  Her gratitude and interest were free to wander.  “It was so cool, he’s not a serious painter or anything, but he captured the mood of the trip.  Just simple and awesome.”

Marie’s future will follow her joy.  “Snowboarding has opened so many doors,” she said, “it’s insane the opportunities I’ve had and the things I’ve learned, just by picking up this sport.  The energy that comes out of snowboarding is amazing.”  She continues to channel that energy, setting an example for positivity and purpose.  This winter she’s spoken on behalf of the planet, sharing environmentalist messages and her love for the places she’s experienced in schools, with video projects, and through her social media.  She’s working with her sponsors to create media that inspires, focused on spreading the feeling of discovering nature.  And she continues to explore, appreciating moments as they come and engaging her opportunities with an open mind.  ‘Snowboarding isn’t my gift’ is a funny thing to hear from one of the world’s best riders.  But from someone who’s tuning into new rhythms, who sees value in the kind of connection that comes from sitting with a friend and painting, it’s less surprising. 

That evening we surfed, Marie with calm purpose.  She let waves come to her and moved with focus through her rides.  I followed her lead, let surfing feel simple.  We laughed at each other’s bails and gave props for good waves, neither of us thinking too far past the next set.

Bowly

Three stories from the world's best snowboard park.

StopMoly Bowly

StopMoly was amazing, a chance to work with Cat. She committed about 90 hours, 60 or so while doing a Bachelor of Education and another 30+ working as a full time teacher a few months later. The fact that she doesn't snowboard, but did engage the project passionately from start to finish, speaks volumes to her character as an artist. All to make a bit of magic.

 

The Snowboarder's Journal

Dan's photos reflect both an eye and work ethic. Dude hustled to get these shots, and turned them around like a pro. Pleasure working with you, Dan.

https://www.thesnowboardersjournal.com/exclusive/2017-holy-bowly/

 

Snowboard Canada

Evan's style is next level– dude can put a story in a photo. Didn't want to muddy his gallery with too many words, but had one last thing to say. I was feeling a bit reflective when I threw the feature together, as I'd just started back at my summer gig.

ECS x Holy Bowl-EH

SBC Avalanche posts in Pique Newsmagazine

I recently had some viral success with www.snowboardcanada.com, offering my two cents on Tom Oye's Chocolate Bowl avalanche video.  I engaged with the video over two posts, the first an analysis of the avalanche and basic look at how it could have been avoided, and the second a response to comments with a quick look at Avalanche Canada's forecasting process.  The first post was shared over 50, 000 times, had an organic Facebook reach of over 70, 000 (through SBC alone), and caught the attention of some folks I admire (such as Wayne Flann).  The second did ok, but not nearly as well.  I was happy to see some comments that showed me folks had read it, anyway.

The Pique, though picked up on my SBC posts and called me up for a few statements.  They ran an article in print and online.  Thank you to Lynn Mitges for taking an interest.

Snow Can posts are here: 

http://snowboardcanada.com/yesterdays-avalanche-why-it-could-have-been-avoided/

http://snowboardcanada.com/one-more-avalanche-post-video/

GRUEL: POV from the Freelance Days

I've been in Quebec through the holidays, and a week ago I got a little antsy.  I hadn't boarded in a while, or done anything of note creatively, and Cat and I were in a social vacuum of late nights and draught beer.  My mood was sour after a few too many mornings sleeping in, and a few too many days without good exercise.

I guess I could have abstained from booze, set an alarm, gone running, but as it happened I vented by finally getting around to doing something with the pile of POV footage I collected in my later years as a freelance snowboard writer.  I'm quite happy with how the edit turned out– it's set to Ramones, it's called "GRUEL", and it features some of my most memorable runs.  It's indulgent and it's very me.  Today, TransWorld was good enough to share it, and that made my day.  Thank you to Justin and Andrew for the post.

Jérôme Tanon Interview

Like you, I smiled through The Eternal Beauty of Snowboarding.  I saw it in Vancouver, at Absinthe's /fterforever premiere, and had the chance to meet Jérôme.  We loosely agreed to do something for Snowboard Canada to promote the film's eventual release online.

Time passed, projects mounted up, and I didn't speak with Jérôme.  I watched as snowboarding's corner of the internet responded to his excellent idea of home premieres, and I wished briefly for the time to organize or attend such a premiere myself.  I was swept up by other work, and TEBOS fell from my focus again.  But, on the day of it's online launch, I did myself the favour of asking Tanon for an interview.  Though I was late to ask, he obliged and made the time.  Thanks again, Jérôme.

Our conversation carried the same hints of hyper-self-awareness, of examined and embraced black humour, that make Tanon's narrative in TEBOS so enjoyable.  He's a lovely guy to talk to.  I put an abridged version of our chat and some photos he provided through Adobe Spark, and posted a late contribution to The Eternal Beauty of Snowboarding's big day.

Jérôme Tanon

Snowboard Canada Issue 24.1

I had the privilege of editing the comeback issue of Snowboard Canada Magazine.  The photos you'll see here (thanks to Maurice Arevalo) do a fine job displaying the communal appreciation for the magazine that motivated me throughout the project.  My own connection to the title– teenage fascination that led to first published writing, relationship with an editor, letters of assignment, and so on– is not unique among Canadian snowboarders.  Still, those early milestones felt like personal achievements.  Assembling 24.1 carried a distinctly different character, better aligned with with the shared experience of my people.  

Snowboard2016_Cover.jpg

My editor's note is below.  I was stuck for a moment before deciding to run it with a photo of my riding.  It felt a bit tacky.  In the end I pulled the trigger out of insecurity– I thought I lacked the reputation to justify my position as editor, and I green lit the photo to lend my name a little credibility.  Of course, I've never been exceptionally good at snowboarding and the shot does nothing to overstate my ability.  I just wanted readers to know I'm not a total hack.

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 7.08.32 PM.png

Travis Rice Interview at Vancouver 'The Fourth Phase' Premiere

I was star-struck interviewing T.Rice.  I was also a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera.  Still, things went well and I'm happy with this four-part video.  Conversation flowed naturally, and Travis was professional enough for the both of us.  Before we knew it half an hour had passed in earnest and shared interest.

I posted the interview to SnowboardCanada.com along with my review of The Fourth Phase.  I took a bit of flack for the positivity in that post, and I'm sure critics picked up on the fact that I'm a fan.  Still, I stand by what I wrote– TFP achieved some nuance and the story was compelling.  You can read a flushed out (if not methodically argued) version of that thesis here.

Oh, I spent 7 hours on the title animations for the interview.  Please appreciate how cool they are.

Part 2 won't embed.  It's not hard to find.

Avalanche Canada AST 2 Promo

In 2014, a conversation with Blair Habenicht and Jason Robinson turned to Avalanche Safety, and then to a rough plan for a project with Avalanche Canada.  We wanted to produce a video that highlighted the importance of Avalanche Skills Training, and figured AvCan might sponsor us for a course.  They bit.  A low snow year through winter '15 put the project on the backburner, but it found new life the following February.  Blair, Jason, and I, along with Garret Umphress, got together with Bruce Wilson of Warrior Wolf Guide Services, and a long-anticipated AST 2 course was underway.  The below video, cut to serve as a promo for AST providers, was the final project and does a fine job of succinctly delivering the message we intended.  

Another thank you to Justin Hostynek and Justin Hare, who contributed the opening footage, to Cole Jandrisch, who put in long hours editing, and to Chris McLeod, who helped us into the mountains.  Also, I'll add that the time spent with Blair, Jason, Garrett, and Bruce was another instance of the wonderful friendship snowboarding so easily cultivates. 

 

 

The Rat Race and Adobe Spark

I've been working for a few days on putting a story together with Adobe Spark, a little recap of a very enjoyable weekend working for Snowboard Canada Magazine.  Along with Cole Jandrisch and Brennan Kurchuk, I chased boarding from the Vans Pro Skate Park Series at Hastings Bowl to the Drink Water Rat Race on Mount Hood, Oregon.  Robin Van Gyn was good enough to supply photos she took with a disposable camera, and Cole contributed short videos he shot at the events.

I'm pretty happy with how the Spark format looks, and I'm planning to use the platform for telling stories in the future.  The online app does have some shortfalls when it comes to customization and design, but the available options look good and cutting design streamlines the process of generating content.  I'd like to see better options for customization in the future, as I worry about overusing styles and effects. 

All that aside, the Rat Race was an incredible event, as was the Pro Park Series.  The story takes the SBC voice, but expresses my impressions from the experiences pretty clearly.  Here I'll add that racing was a treat, really a privilege.  I shared the day with a  lot of people I looked up to growing up, and the ol' juvenille admiration definitely fired out there on the Palmer Snowfield.  Another incredible experience I owe to boarding.

The Drink Water Rat Race

Journal Excerpt- Calm in the Naranag Valley (November 2015)

The beauty of Kashmir in November is subtle; hidden in the buds of cherry trees are hints of summer reds, and the high clouds keep the sharpness of the mountains for those with time to read them.  On the river bank, each sixth or seventh stone bears a tinge of blue, with it thoughts of the sea.  This place calls memories; the greys of bare branches take me to Haines, the vast landscapes to Northwest BC.  Still, when the sun breaks through, the land is illuminated with character of its own.

I gave Nassar the money in my shoe, all 40 of the dollars I was keeping for emergency.  In the moment I felt some hesitation- the trek has already blown my budget- but the fact is the man has made my trip.  He's given me exactly what I needed after [the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute], after Varanasi.  Already I'm glad I gave him the money.  He deserved it.

This time in Kashmir has shown me what lies past the limits of my personal greed, shown me servitude and bought deference.  I want to earn respect and comfort, I want favours done in kindness. Khaliq's doting makes me embarrassed.

Following Khaderbhai's tendency towards complexity theory: if balance is an ordering principle, then the absence of an objective good in the past might imply the presence of one in the future.  Given the right timeslice, does that principled and prescriptive kind of good exist?  And does it mark an endpoint in some interpreted progression?  The answer to the last question depends on the 'fulcrum of the universe,' if we insist on balance (doesn't every action have an equal and opposite reaction?).  Balance implies a balance point.  Where and what is it in our world?  Or, is there cold after good?

Maybe balance is not an axiom, but a consequence of the universe.  Why only one fulcrum, when all these points of view?  Maybe the universe is laying on a bed of nails.

"But now we're back at Nietzsche," said James.

"No, now we're at reality," replied the Shapeshifter.

"What does that say of morality?"

Today Ghani and I carried wood back from our trek, a beam that had been left near the gypsy houses.  We walked with it for two kilometres or so.

"Tell me," said the Shapeshifter, seeing James felt some connection to the question, "when you and five others hold a beam, what happens if only you lets go?"

"The beam stays held."

"And the weight the others carry?"

"Increases."

I played with the ideas of balance a little longer, weaving them through the personalities of my Vivid.  It was the first time in years I'd let philosophy take hold of my pen.  The calm in the Naranag Valley came without the grandiose or pressure I'm subject to in North America, and I met with a side of myself I don't often see.  The next night I stayed in Nassar's house, and Khaliq, Ghani, Nassar and I played cards.  We said goodbye the next morning and I returned to Srinigar.

Notes: I spent five days trekking in the Naranag Valley with a guide and cook, Nassar and Khaliq.  Ghani, a friend of Nassar's, joined us for several days.  Immediately before I'd been in Agra, Varanasi, Delhi, and in Sikkhim and Darjeeling as a student at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.  HMI has military oversight, and courses are taught in a military fashion.  I was ready for a break.  James Harris and the Shapeshifter are characters in my novel, Vivid.  In the story, the two of them meet for a conversation while James is in a dreamlike state, and the Shapeshifter helps with troubling ideas.  I've called the book Where the Wild Things Are for 22 year-olds.  Khaderbhai is a character in Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram.

Avalanche Awareness Tours

The story of a life can come in phases, growing and changing as an organism.  Periods apart come to bottlenecks of waning introversion, and time spent alone will end.  I plugged back in, I plugged back in.

My new volunteer gig with Whistler Blackcomb sees me giving Avalanche Awareness Tours.  Interested folks like Justin, Martina, and Coral (pictured below) can join me for a spin around Blackcomb Mountain and talk snowpack, situational awareness, and mountain safety.  I'm new to this sort of thing, and so far I enjoy it quite a lot.  The sense is that people want their heads about them.

 Photo borrowed without permission from wayneflannavalancheblog.com, which is certainly worth following.

Photo borrowed without permission from wayneflannavalancheblog.com, which is certainly worth following.

If you'd like to join me for a tour, I'd love to see you at the top of the Solar Coaster chair at 12:30 on a Sunday.  We'll board together two or three hours, talk and learn, and have ourselves some fun.