A feature for my local paper, The Pique. This was a double dip on a project we opened for SBC Business 19.1 (Conor Halliwell wrote a fantastic feature for the snowboard industry audience. It's worth tracking that down). My counterpart piece, for a slightly more general audience, was a way to add value for Coast Mountain Brewing.
Three stories from the world's best snowboard park.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I post more projects from '16.
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.
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.
We've been bumping The Kills at our house lately, Cat and I– we both have work to do, and we want to recreate the excitement that Jamie Hince and Allison Mossheart gave us the other week at the Commodore Ballroom (along with their guns and LA Witch, who killed it as well). Cat's an artist and a teacher, and the two of us have similar issues with productivity and faith in the absence of inspiration. It's not that we don't want to work; it's just we need something to burn the same as steam engines, and we get sluggish when we go too long without the kind of coal you get at places like rock and roll shows.
A couple of Tuesdays ago, we were driving south from Whistler, the place where we met and the place we've always thought of as our home. Cat had just interviewed for a job, and I'd spent a few days womping with a dog, Bodhi, who we'd lived with in Pemberton a year or so earlier. Talk of the future has been a running theme and the CR-V was heavy with it– by the time my eyes were stealing glances at Serratus we had talked ourselves within the draws of anxiety. I was thinking quickly with the radio low and Cat was looking for a way in to the show (I f*cked up getting tickets, I was waiting for a cheque). My mind was everywhere from Trump to my magazines to Cat's career, and occasionally on moving all of it to Europe or Tofino or somewhere else with lots of new. I think Cat was pushing back the realization that her reality was about to gain momentum in the shift it started a few years back. Her interview had gone pretty well. She found tickets cheaper than face value, and the world showed us once again that it was there for us. The Sea-to-Sky started, in its ambling way, to once again become a road toward a beautiful and revitalizing night.
We ate at Hungry Guys Kitchen on Granville– finding a bit of decent food made us feel better about being downtown. A lot of nights my net emotional input in the city's entertainment district (in any city's entertainment district) swings into the red– I don't like seeing a lot of what goes down, though I do try to appreciate everybody's reasons for being where they are. It's hard on me, I'm too impressionable to endure so many sights I see as sad. But Vancouver was in her rougue that night, wearing the hints of the perfume she wore at the Olympics and at Game 5 of 2011's final– she looked good. There were enough late-twenties to mid-forties rockers around to give some texture to the flocks of club kids, and against the music crowd's denim even the young and painted looked to have some style. Cat recognized the some of the buskers and street folk– she's been in Vancouver long enough to know it now. We talked a bit about that. There's a lot more in the world that we connect with through shared experience now. It's very cool.
LA Witch was coming on as we got settled. The three-piece played surfy rock and roll with enough grit to give its California sound some edge. We found a spot near the front and the speakers hit me hard. The bassist was driving with a heavy foot and the sound shook my body. Cat loved it, she turned around and smiled a full moment, then looked back with all her focus to the girls on stage. I watched the guitarist, trying to learn her songs, and the crowd moved and whooped. Energy was high and the air felt good– LA Witch had the room warm within a couple of songs, and by the end of their set we were a better audience than a good chunk of those I've been part of in Vancouver.
I heard a couple 'encore's as the girls finished their set, and Cat and I flowed to one of the upper-level bars. I'd forgotten about the feeling the Commodore can give you, the feeling that you're tucked away in a microcosm of a night, framed softly by carpeted floors and simple chairs in a vignette within the room. We traded notes from the opening act and drank beer. Cat saw the freedom we're chasing as we build our life clearly in the moments when LA Witch was lost in the flow and feel of their music. It was right in front of her as the girls pressed power chord progressions through classic amps, as simple a thing as walking or sitting or pushing a pencil back and forth across a page– it excited and frustrated her at once. Why all of the dredging, the difficulty in our progression from blind and encompassing passion towards the refinement we feel we need for the next stage of our life? Why endure the slog when it can be so simple as putting everything we want and feel through the raw power of sound?
The history of Art and Fear in the Commodore's walls, the ambition and inspiration stomped into its floors, let momentum to our feelings and they swilled back and forth between us. Our souls passed into each other through the ether of the beer and the light and our love. As they did they picked up traces of the latent darkness that hides in corners, let loose by strivers as they grip onto refreshing highs. Yet we were numb to it, not feeling as much as observing the desparation inherent to lives of reaching. We saw it curl, rolling like an air mass off of the Pacific, but stayed safely tethered to the music and each other like Odysseus to his mast. Our peers, the other concert goers, sat in vessels of their own. I'm certain that some of them were aware of the Sirens we heard singing in the shadows, but had built sufficient character to block their teasing songs. Others had familiar madness in their eyes, and I'm sure some others were indifferent.
After our drinks we moved to a spot near the stage, and in a few moments the lights came down. We joined the cheering, and as the crowd called for them The Kills came purposefully to the stage. They opened with "No Wow"; Jamie played with precision and Allison established herself as a performer from the first bars. She span and rocked her head with sharp energy, emotive in her movements and trusting herself to catch her marks. She threw herself at the song's rise and I felt the rhythm in my chest; Cat's hips were moving in front of me and I let myself float.
The band took me through a meditation, leading and coaxing me through a series of excited and increasingly manic inner tangents. Jamie's tones and inventive playing set a steady backdrop to my thoughts, which raced and leaned into the deep and distinctive texture of his rhythm. As The Kills played they built me bridges to imagined futures, utopian visions in which discipline had sharpened Cat's and my creativity and let our work come to its own. The thin, confident lines of Cat's artwork grew from the blues of The Kills' dark sound, and I saw consistency between her style and the music– not the themes or subjects of her work particularly, but the style. The element she'd found during focused times of inspiration.
Allison pulled me back into the room when I needed air, finding me with familiar songs and honed stage presence. Her words took meaning from the context of my introspection, and against that background they were comforting and challenging at once. She reached out to the room as if inviting us to join the ranks of rock and roll's endlessly expressive chosen– "U.R.A. Fever" suggested we had already. She dared us to act through "The Tape Song." She showed us the power and volume that come with mastery, in control of her body and her voice while letting both act wild.
And we could tell they loved it every bit as much as we did. They were tired by the end of the show, they worked hard for the entirety of their set and four-song encore, but they were happy. There was no ego or entitlement coming from the stage, rather The Kills looked grateful. They smiled at times, both passively and at each other, and we could tell that they felt a satisfaction they'd been working towards long before they took the stage. They played and indulged, borrowing hip-hop hand waves during "Doing it to Death" and keeping the photo pit happy with spontaneous poses held just long enough. Their guns shone from behind the lights, keeping things tight and jumping between roles to complement loops or amp up bridges.
They closed with "Sour Cherry" ("go home, it's over") and a bow, finishing their show in a way that gave credit to what it was– a production, a refined and developed act built over years on a foundation of the raw energy we saw with LA Witch. Cat and I returned to the side bar. We talked about the way The Kills must have sharpened, how their presence carried so much more than their natural talent and chemistry. We talked about the art we want to do together, about some of the projects we've finished and about the good times we've had playing and creating. We held hands and kissed, and ordered a last beer. After some time my mind was wandering and I thought again about the ballroom. I told Cat about the characters I pictured sitting in our chairs at some moment in the past and thought to myself that we could become any of them, or anybody else we could imagine. We'd been reminded that the future starts slow, that we have time to settle in. We have time, we have time.
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?"
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.
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.
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.