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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Cleanest Line


A small gust of wind disturbs the trees. The sun glistens through the individual crystals of air born cold winter snow like a thousand diamonds in the clear blue sky. The only sounds I hear are the breeze in the tree branches and a crow in the distance. I walk to the edge of the slope and look down. All the lines are there just waiting for me to carve them.

The backcountry around Hwy 88 is my winter playground. For me, it’s all about the backcountry. It’s a totally different experience than riding a resort. I love looking at a fresh slope covered in snow and getting to pick whatever line I want. Not just racing for a fresh line at Kirkwood or looking for the last stashes. It’s all about getting to choose the cleanest line, the most challenging line, or the most aesthetically pleasing line for filming or photos. In the backcountry I get to look at the slope and choose whatever line I want. Each mountain is a wide-open canvas just waiting for us to draw on it.

My favorite way to experience the backcountry is on foot. I was one of the biggest holdouts but eventually broke down and bought a snow machine about 5 years ago. Most of my friends had them and as a professional snowboarder I justified it as a work expense. For a while there, none of the filmers or photographers I knew wanted to hike. If I wanted to go build a jump or ride some lines with the film crews, I had to go out on a sled. It became my guilty pleasure. I love the access, but hate the exhaust and noise. I had always preferred hiking for my turns. I love the quiet of the backcountry. When I hike for it, I really appreciate each turn. It’s more like surfing. You have to work for the ultimate ride. Also, there is only so many places a snowmobile can go. Lots of the places I like to ride are in wildernesses or just plain to hard to get to for a snow mo.

This season I’ve been getting back to the roots and leaving the gas guzzler at home. Snow shoeing used to be my preferred method but now split boarding has opened up the backcountry for me in ways I had only previously imagined. I have always admired the skiers and been jealous of their ability to skin deep into the backcountry. I by far prefer the feeling of riding a snowboard in powder though, so it had always been worth it to me to just carry my board out there. Now with the new split board kits I was able to turn one of my favorite Lib-Tech boards into a backcountry vehicle. I love the new banana rocker. It floats in the powder and the magna-traction helps me keep an edge in even the sketchiest of billy goat lines. Patagonia’s winter clothing has also made journeys into the backcountry warmer, more comfortable and more enjoyable for me.

I rode less this year then most, but still managed to get in all of the best days. I’ve patterned my life for the past 15 years to be able to ride the best powder days in the winter. These days with more responsibilities and limited time I have to make the best of my days in the backcountry. This means finding good lines and riding them with precision. This season I got to ride some of my old faithful spots and also made it into some new terrain that I had been scoping out for years.

This season I took along my camera and was able to snap some photos of a few of my favorite lines. Most of our hills are pretty short around here. I try to look for lines with at least a couple features to them. It’s nice to get a few good turns, a good windlip slash, a rock drop or two and or a good chute. I really like trying to imitate surfing while I snowbaord in powder. I try to find lines that I can ride like a wave. Like the one with an air drop in, set up turn to check some speed, chute (barrel), shoulder slash and exit. If I can’t do that, then the best feeling is to just going fast and catching air.

I’m sharing these photos in hopes they inspire you to grab those snow shoes, build a spit board or just cut a bread crate in half and strap it to your feet and go enjoy the backcountry without contributing to harmful carbons in our atmosphere that may lead to us not having snow anymore some day. 

For some more photos and stories, here's a little end of winter post from Patagonia's blog, the Cleanest Line.  When it comes to snowboarding, I'm always looking for the cleanest line. There's some more shots of some of my favorite lines in the post.   Also lots of other great outdoor and conservation info in the blog too.  Take a minute to check it out.

1 comment:

Yamin said...

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