Immovable Objects and Humility

I’m going to hit this tree and die! I tried to adjust my snowboard, but the patch of hard snow I’d hit only added to my momentum toward that tree. My next thought was:

Whatever you do, don’t smash your face into this tree!

In a split second, I leaned my face forward and tried my best to avoid hitting the tree head-on. My snowboard barely cleared the roughly one-foot diameter pine tree, but my left arm, shoulder, and rib had hit directly. It all happened so fast. The shock wave traveled through my body so powerfully it made a whoosh sound that I could hear in my head. 

My shoulder felt as though it had been yanked out of socket, the force of hitting the tree while the rest of my body was still propelling forward evident. My rib felt as though I’d been hit with a baseball bat. I came to an abrupt stop in deep powder, just past the tree. My first thought was, I’m going to need Ski Patrol to come get me. 

I had just hit a tree, and I was hurt. Luckily, I hadn’t hit my head, especially because I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Yes, that’s right: no helmet. Stupid, I know. 

My left arm, shoulder, and rib were throbbing immediately, tightening up my range of motion. Within seconds, my husband Ron caught up to me. Desperate to make sure he saw me, I shouted, Help! Help!

He stopped next to me, and I told him I’d hit a tree, but hadn’t hit my head. I felt it was important to let him know that right away after telling him I’d hit a tree. He helped me take off my jacket and assess my arm, which was already bleeding and swelling where I’d hit the tree, just below my elbow. My ribcage was red, but no blood. My shoulder was definitely strained in some way, if not dislocated, but I was basically alright. Here are some pictures of the scene of the crash. That little pine tree doesn’t look like much, but it stood there like a concrete wall when I crashed into it. It didn’t give one bit.

I’ve been snowboarding for nearly thirty years, and I’m pretty ripping for an average rider. It’s my main activity on the weekends in Winter, and Kirkwood is my spot. I love riding in the trees, carving fresh, creative lines through a maze of evergreen. I’ve had some close calls with trees in the past, getting a good scare; a few times I’ve encountered branches whose skinny little limbs grabbed me like an octopus’ arm, smacking me to a complete stop. Trees don’t move. Even their relatively small branches hurt. 

I’d had my first really close call with hitting a tree last Winter in 2020 up at Kirkwood. It was Superbowl Weekend, the first weekend of February, and would end up being my last snowboarding weekend of that season. I almost hit a tree; I had even pushed off of it with my hands at the last minute. I wasn’t going very fast, but it was close. It spooked me. 

When I first started snowboarding as a kid in 1992, pretty much no one wore a helmet. As the years went on, helmets became more commonplace, which makes perfect sense considering the heightened risk of head injury that comes with an outdoor sport like skiing or snowboarding. From icy slopes, to trees that don’t move, to rocky outcroppings, there’s no shortage of hard surfaces to potentially hit your head on should you lose control for a split-second. That’s all it takes: a split-second. I learned that intimately when I hit this tree on February 6, 2021.

My Baby

I’d been meaning to get a helmet since my near-miss in February 2020, but my life as I knew it was put on hold to face one of the biggest immovable objects I’d ever faced: breast cancer. I was diagnosed with it the day after I’d almost hit that tree up at Kirkwood, on February 3, 2020, and went through months of chemotherapy and radiation afterward. 

Now, barely over a year later, here I was, back at Kirkwood, and Bam! I hit a tree.

I’d been meaning to get a helmet, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet this season. I felt unbelievably lucky that I didn’t hit my head, even though my body was knotted up in pain. 

After the crash, I got emotional. I almost hit my head! I could have died! I could have smashed my face in!  I started crying a bit, taking in the gravity of the moment. There are few times in my life where I’d thought I was actually about to die, and this was the most intense, by far.

How did this happen? How does an experienced, expert snowboarder hit a tree?Ask any skier or boarder that question, and if they’ve been at it long enough, I guarantee you they have a story of their own to tell – a close call, if not a direct encounter. It’s like any precision outdoor sport; there are multiple factors that go into it. All it takes is for one or more of those factors to go awry, combining in a perfect storm, derailing your flow and grace. In my case, it was a combination of a few different things. 

First and probably most important, my stance was off. My binding screws had come loose, so my front foot had slid all the way up to the front of my board. I decided to do just one more run before I would stop to adjust it. Basically, I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to take a break from riding to fix my binding. Even though my stance was widened, and I could feel the loss of control from my awkward positioning, it was still rideable, and I wanted to get just one more powder run before I took the two minutes it would take to adjust my bindings and tighten the screws. I should have fixed my bindings right away; it’s a safety issue. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Second, I was going a little too fast for taking a slightly new line. Though I know Kirkwood like the back of my hand, I still uncover new subtle nooks and crannies every now and then. Ron had shown me a new sideshoot of an area we frequently ride, and though I knew where we were, I hadn’t directly ridden this particular section before. I was going too fast for not having ridden it, in retrospect. You’re always supposed to be looking ahead when you’re snowboarding (or mountain biking, for that matter), and my body had gotten in front of my eyes. I was moving faster than my eyes could scan the horizon and assess what was coming next. Suddenly, I saw that little pine tree in front of my path of travel; I didn’t have as much time as I usually might to react. Riding in blindly to this section, I hadn’t anticipated this tree lying beyond the knoll.

The third and final kicker was hitting the exit-path out for skiers that crossed just above this tree, between me and the powdery section I’d just come from. In an instant, the snow texture changed from soft and light to rock hard, frozen bumps, chunky from skiers and snowboarders riding it over and over. With my feet out of my normal stance, my board wasn’t as quick to respond to my corrective movements. Instead, I slid on the ice even further toward the tree. And I was going fast. At that point, I knew I was going to hit, and thought to myself, I’m about to hit this tree and die!

It was absolutely terrifying. In all my years of snowboarding, and outdoor sports for that matter, I’d never had such a close call. I’ve had few moments where I thought consciously that I was about to die. I’ve been scared before, and done things that were life-risking, but rarely have I thought I was literally about to die in the next second. This was the scariest experience I’d ever had snowboarding. 

It was really humbling. I’m a big fan of humility all around, which is the balancing trait to the confidence that comes with doing outdoor sports, but sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when it hurts you. It’s a balance of charging, and conserving. This reminded me how dangerous things can be, and how quickly things can turn. Moreover, it reminded me how important precision is with outdoor sports. Your equipment and gear need to be just so, fitted just right to you and your needs. It makes a world of difference when you are set up well, as opposed to trying to maneuver an ill-fitted board. I usually have my board set up perfectly, and I should have stopped to fix it as soon as my front foot had slid forward out of alignment. 

Additionally, it reminded me that sometimes, we can lose control. I’ve done a lot of snowboarding in my life, and even with all that experience, I hit a tree. I was probably going too fast for the new terrain, and didn’t give myself enough time to scan the horizon. Of all the times I’d ridden fast through the trees, I usually kept a good look ahead, no matter what. But all it takes is one time to lose control, and possibly, lose it all. It is fun and exciting to challenge yourself outdoors, but not at the cost of your life. 

‘Bout to Drop

This crash was the final impetus for me to buy a helmet, already. Crazy enough, on the chairlift up to that fateful ride, I had been thinking that it was high time already for Ron and I to get ourselves helmets. I bought myself a helmet, and will wear it every ride moving forward. 

I should have gone to the doctor, but I was afraid to get more radiation from x-rays after all the radiation I had last year from cancer treatments. After a week of soreness, I emailed my doctor pictures of the new bump on my left clavicle, and my bruised arm that hurt like fire to the touch. She inferred that I might have a hairline fracture on my arm, and should get x-rayed. I was out of town the next four-day weekend for President’s Day, however, back snowboarding at Kirkwood. Last week, I had other appointments in the afternoon, so I never ended up getting it x-rayed after all. I feel better, though, with less soreness in my shoulder, rib, and arm, and am sure I’m healing. 

Life will throw immovable objects in your path. Some of them are slow-moving, like cancer, while some will be sudden and abrupt, like crashing into a tree, or something else. They may be near-death experiences, or catastrophic and fatal. In both cases, the best defense is prevention, but there is inherent risk regardless of your preparation. Outdoor sports are risky, and the stakes can be high. Accidents happen, even to the best of us. Awareness, anticipation, and agility are all essential for a safe snowboarding experience, but none of them are possible without your brain. It is wise to protect it. Fortunately, I didn’t learn that lesson the hard way – this time. 

Scratching the Surface of the Canadian Rockies

I love the mountains. I’ve spent my life exploring them on bikes, snowboards, and my own two feet. This California girl has seen a lot of mountains, but I hadn’t ever been to Canada. I only scratched the surface of the Canadian Rockies on my maiden trip, but I was blown away by what I experienced. For someone who loves the mountains, it was no wonder I felt like I’d been missing out all my life.

Dramatic, stoic, imposing. Majestic, dynamic, towering. These are some real mountains, alright.

My husband Ron’s father, Ron Sr., lives in Invermere, British Columbia. We got a fantastic deal on plane tickets to go see him from January 17 – 22, and booked our trip excitedly.

Flying into Calgary at roughly midnight, we were picked up by Ron’s stepmother Cindy’s daughter Michelle – a real trooper picking us up at 1 a.m. from the airport, taking us to her house for the night. It was about -30°C (or -22°F) that first night.

Early the next morning, we set out for Invermere with Michelle, her boyfriend Sheldon, and their adorable dog Kasey, who would rest his sweet head on my lap every now and then along the beautiful drive. As the sun came up, we stopped in Canmore for a quick coffee. I was stunned by how gorgeous the landscape was revealing itself to be, and so excited for the trip!

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It was about a three and a half hour’s drive from Calgary to Invermere, where Ron Sr. and Cindy have a nice condo. Cindy’s kids Angie and Garrett, along with their spouses Pipes and Katie, and their children, joined us for what would be a fun weekend of snow, adventuring, and getting a taste of Canadian life.

We settled into the beautiful condo, and set out to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, about fifteen minutes down the road. With kids and family in tow, we had a great time frolicking among the slopes. Ron and his father skied their first run together in 25+ years, which was an awesome moment to capture. Fairmont is a great family resort, with about 1,000′ vertical descent, and just a few runs.

The icing on the cake was playing on the sledding hill at the base of the mountain with all of the kids at the end of the day; Ron even served as a sled for them all to ride atop! We had a great family dinner that night with everyone, and went to bed happy and content.

The next day, Ron and I went for a morning adventure with the kids and Ron Sr. out on Lake Windermere. I’d never walked upon a frozen lake, and it was such a cool experience. The lake boasts the longest ice-skating track in the world at 34km. We watched as some competitors hied past us along the ice before returning back to the condo.

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Next, Ron and I set out to Panorama Resort. I’d already been in awe of the mountains I’d seen so far, but driving up to Panorama I was like a kid in a candy store. The steepness! So dramatic! All that snow! I could tell we were in for a treat.

We spent the day excitedly exploring as much of the mountain as we could. Although there was a lot of good snow, it hadn’t snowed much over the last week or so. There were some moguled sections that we avoided although they were soft on impact. There were some nice off-piste lines, but the trees were generally densely packed, making tree-skiing difficult in most areas.

There was some genuine champagne powder over at Taynton Bowl, though, and it was worth the effort. You have to do a short hike, about fifteen minutes, from the Summit to the bowl. It was by far our best, and longest, run of the day. Panorama boasts 4,300′ of vertical descent, and charging down from Taynton Bowl all the way to the base was definitely a journey, bringing a smile from ear to ear.

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I Couldn’t Put My Camera Away – So Many Stunning Moments!

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Breathtaking Views Abound

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Happy Face

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Heaven on Earth

We finished off the day exploring different chairs and runs, and I had an insane run down the Downhill, just carving fast from top to bottom. This is an Olympic training run, and it doesn’t disappoint! The angle will get your heart pumping if all those turns don’t. So much fun! We had such a blast at Panorama, and headed back to Invermere for dinner at the Copper Point Resort, which was hearty and complimented by the latest football game on multiple televisions.

The next day was Monday, January 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As I listened to U2’s song “Pride (In the Name of Love)” on the radio, I thought about his innumerable contributions to society, his selflessness, his inspiration to others. Although I’m sure he’d rather inspire others to act in defense of others, I felt inspired that Monday to really seize this day, to make the most of our biggest adventure yet: we were heading up to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, BC.

We’d spent the previous night looking at trail maps and YouTube footage of Kicking Horse, giggling like school children at all of the black and double-black runs, but most of all, we were ridiculously excited to snowboard over 4,300′ of vertical descent! Our longest runs at our home mountain Kirkwood boasts about 2,000′ maximum vertical drop. Little did we know just how much longer these runs would feel!

We got our tickets and boarded up the Golden Eagle Express, a high-speed gondola that whips you up to the top of the mountain at 8,218′ in just a few minutes. I was so impressed by the quality of amenities at all of the resorts we’d been to so far; compared to Kirkwood, which has awesome terrain but sometimes lacks in conveniences, it was eye-opening to see so many high-speed quads, mid-mountain cafes, nicely maintained facilities, even warming Yurts on the mountain. Canadians do Winter better than we do, that’s for sure. Then again, their version of Winter is a lot more intense than ours, especially when it comes to temperature.

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Breathtaking

We were lucky it wasn’t super cold during our trip, about -5°C most days. Everyone kept asking if I was cold, which I found comical as I spend most of my weekends snowboarding. California may not get Winter like Canada, but we get Winter weather, down into the negatives, too. The coldest I’ve snowboarded in at Kirkwood was -7°F (-22°C), and the solution was to bundle up more. I’ve been skiing since I was 3, so I’ve got some experience when it comes to keeping warm among the cold. I did come prepared with good snow clothes, layers, jackets, gloves, boots, and a hat. I’m pretty prepared when it comes to Winter activities, and felt that way in Canada on the slopes.

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When we got to the top of the mountain, it was howling windy with limited visibility. We high-tailed it down to the Stairway of Heaven chair, which accesses the famous Ozone wall. There was a ton of amazing terrain in this area, and good tree riding. This is one of the few zones where the trees are well-spaced out; most stands were densely packed, which made finding tree-spots extra special.

We bounced around the mountain trying run after run, smiles growing wider by the chair. It was sunny at the top of the mountain, and then it snowed mid-mountain. There were ferocious winds with blinding, blowing snow, followed by leeward slopes laden with fresh, champagne powder. We were just blown away by how awesome the mountain was. All of the variety it had – from bowls, to groomers, to chutes so steep you feel like the bottom might drop out from under you – was overwhelming, in the best way possible. We’d never skied such a big mountain like this, with such expanse, dramatic drops, long vertical descent, and light, fluffy snow. They call it the Champagne Capital of BC. Kicking Horse truly kicks ass! This was our favorite resort of the three we sampled this trip.

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Sunshine!

Coming down a chute into Crystal Bowl was like snowboarding blind. It was so windy and snowy, the visibility was almost nil. I could barely see Ron coming down from the top, except for some of these pictures I got. The snow was still soft underfoot, and we went for it with flow and grace.

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Ron

This was our day. We attacked with passion and kept going back until the last run of the day, which we used to do a little hike and skate over to Super Bowl. Super Bowl is a wide bowl with chutes entering it, but the chutes were closed off to public for an upcoming contest (they always save the good stuff for the pros, of course). We came down the main bowl, best run of the day, stopping several times to take in the breathtaking views of the Rockies.

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Skating Along the Ridge

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Interesting Geology to Explore!

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River Valley

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SuperBowl, Here We Go!

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Choosing Our Lines

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Looks Super!

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Such Amazing Views

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Taking in the Gorgeous View

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Top of the Stairway to Heaven Chair

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Mmm…Drop!

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Top of Stairway to Heaven

I can’t explain exactly how I felt, but on the drive home from Golden back to Invermere, I teared up, feeling like I’d just found a new home; like I’d been missing out on something all of my life, and now I knew what it was. It was a spiritual feeling in a sense, that I needed to explore these mountains more; that scratching the surface of the Rockies on this trip was just the beginning of a new passion for me. Again, I’ve always loved the mountains. I live and breathe the mountains as an avid mountain biker, trail runner, and snowboarder. To finally experience this level of mountains was life-changing for me. It reminded me of what a big world we live in, and how much more I want to see. It reminded me that I am always at home in the mountains, no matter where they are. It made me want to go back.

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On Tuesday, it was time to head back to Calgary. We stopped off for lunch in Banff with Ron’s dad and Cindy, enjoying a quick stroll through a snow sculpture exhibit. I can see why people would enjoy coming here! It was beautiful for the little bit we saw.

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One of my Favorites

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Awesome Snow Sculptures!

We had pizza in Calgary at Pipes and Angie’s house that night with the family, which was wonderful. Ron and I checked into our hotel near the airport, enjoyed a nice hot tub, and a good night’s sleep.

The next day on Wednesday, our flight was to leave at 4 p.m. Ron wanted to go snowboarding once more to Nakiska, a resort about an hour out of Calgary. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep in, content with all the snowboarding we’d already done, and opted to sleep in and take a nice, long hot tub instead. He returned about 12:30, having said it was a fun morning, but ice-rink hard without any new snow. I’m glad he went to check it out, but I enjoyed my spa morning very much at the hotel!

We flew home that evening on Air Canada Express into San Francisco. I felt rejuvenated, inspired, and enlivened from our vacation. Seeing family was enriching, and experiencing the Rockies was, too. Though we’re not ballers, Ron and I keep talking about how awesome Kicking Horse must be after a two-foot dump, and how awesome it would be to just buy some plane tickets and head on up to BC when that happens. Revelstoke is also in the same area, and we’re excited to check that out next. And if we were true ballers? We’d go heli-skiing, duh. That’s up there on our bucket list.

Maybe we’re already ballers enough, though. To be able to take this trip was a true gift I’ll never forget. That’s balling enough for me.

Life is short and passes quickly, even when you take the time to cherish everyday, appreciate what you have, and seize the day doing what you love. I’d always wanted to go to Canada, and I’m so happy I went when I did. You never know what life will bring next. Take all those trips you want to take when you can, because there’s no guarantee of someday, only today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful Winter 2019

California’s gotten lucky this Winter. It’s been an exceptionally wet one, with even more on the way. With less than three weeks until the Spring Equinox, and only one week until the start of Daylight Savings Time, Summer’s warm glow is appearing on the horizon. Before the transition to longer, busier days, I cherish the quiet peace of Winter, blanketed by rain and snow.

It’s been a wonderful Winter for both sandy mountain biking in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and snowboarding insanely deep powder in the mountains.  With over 25 feet of snow in February alone, most resorts haven’t had many days of full operation. They can barely keep up with all of Mother Nature’s bounty.

When we get such plentiful precipitation, it brings a feeling of security and hope. Knowing that there will likely be enough water to last us through the dry Summer is assuring; knowing that animals will also have enough water in their parched rivers and streams is equally comforting.

We took a roadtrip to Mammoth over superbowl Sunday weekend, which happened to be an intense, bona fide blizzard. Almost eleven feet of snow fell over that weekend, with whiteout conditions so blinding, it just about shut down the whole town. Ron and I barely managed to snowboard on Saturday and Sunday, even though the upper mountain was closed from gale force winds and complete whiteout conditions. We had to sit down in complete blindness at least a dozen times because the snowfall was so heavy. We fared the high winds and vertigo inducing flurries and made the most of it. It was awesome to just float over the copious fresh powder. Though I’d been mountain biking here, it was my first time snowboarding. It was amazing, but I would love to come back when the upper mountain is open. We had to take the southern route home down Highway 395, as all of the Northern passes were closed, which turned out to be a breathtakingly beautiful drive.

Kirkwood has been delivering on its “highest and driest” claim, if not overwhelmed at times, like all of the other resorts, by all of the snow they’re getting. We’ve had some of our best days possibly ever this season, though are still hungry for more before they close on April 21. We heard a harrowing story from a skier we rode up Chair 4 with, though. He had just gotten wedged into a 20-foot deep crevasse at the top of the big cornice at the top of Chair 4. He was trying to jump it, but somehow slipped into the narrow gash and fell down into it, skies awkwardly wedged and stuck.

It took him about a half hour to get his skies off and carefully climb up to the opening, where he was barely able to wave his ski to alert bypassers. Ski Patrol came and helped him get out, and roped off the cornice. I think he was still in a bit of shock about it; all I could think of was how freaked out I’d be if I’d almost just died. All of this snow is exciting, but I never forget how powerful and scary it can be. Avalanches, tree wells, and crevasses are all menacing forces that kill people every year. He is lucky he didn’t get stuck in there. The story gave me shivers, and reminded me of the real risks of snow, even within the boundaries of a well-managed ski resort.

Ron and I are both quick to acknowledge how special our snowboarding trips and mountain bike rides are together, and how much we appreciate them (and many other things, of course). We’ve got to make the most of the time we have now. As time goes on and we are getting older, it becomes clearer how numbered all of these experiences are. My grandmother and old teenage boyfriend both passed away within the last couple months, and, though expected, their passings reminded me how finite our time really is on this Earth. There are no guarantees, except mortality. When I am old and cannot flow over the land or snow anymore, I will look back on these memories with intense love and fondness, perhaps through a virtual reality interface. Which is why we’ve got to keep on making those memories a reality now.

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Super Snow Moonrise, Hope Valley

Enjoy the final days of Winter, and Spring will be here before we know it!

Here’s a video of today’s mellow cross-country ride:

Winter Wrap-Up, Spring Equinox

Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring! In the temperate regions of Earth, we are defined by the cycles of four distinct seasons. As we say goodbye to Winter and welcome the Spring, I always feel bittersweet: I love Winter, and I love Spring. There is something so comforting and rejuvenating about Wintertime, however, that I don’t want to let it go. I relish long nights inside while it rains outside; I beam with excitement thinking about the snow that’s falling at Kirkwood, where Ron and I have season passes. Winter is restful, but there’s a lot of progress internally – writing, playing music, home improvements, you name it. Winter is the time to get your ducks in a row so you can go out and play all Summer long. It’s a time for taking care of all those “little” things that you’re too busy to get to when the days are longer and you’re out playing until dark. It’s also time for one of my favorite activities: snowboarding.

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Robins, a sign of Spring

Last weekend, Ron and I spent three days snowboarding amid a massive Winter storm that ultimately dropped five feet of powder! We rode Heavenly on the first day because Kirkwood wasn’t accessible with both Carson Spur and Pass both closed on Highway 88; with our season passes, we got half-off tickets. I hadn’t ridden Heavenly since I was a teenager, when my Dad and I had a magical afternoon in Mott Canyon. Ron killed it driving through the blizzard conditions on Highway 50 over Echo Summit as I slept most of the way, getting us to Heavenly, where it was dumping. We hit Gunbarrel, a notoriously moguled run, but with waist-deep powder and inches falling by the hour, it was bottomless pow – truly Heavenly! We had an amazing day exploring the mountain mostly by ourselves, as there were few people there on that Friday. Riding on a weekday is a real treat!

 

We stayed at one of our favorite places in South Lake Tahoe, the Lakeshore Lodge & Spa, for two nights. Looking out on the lake invokes serenity and gratitude. As the sunset through snow flurries, I couldn’t help feel that I never wanted to leave this place. Tahoe has a special place in my heart, through Winter and Summer seasons, and I dream of owning a cabin up there someday.

 

 

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Kirkwood was amazing the next couple of days. Every run was soft, buttery goodness with no bumps or hardpack. We had fresh powder on every run, and got epic first runs on the backside of the mountain, Chair 4. Flowing over freshly fallen powder is indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself to know the feeling. It’s like floating while being gently pushed by wind. There’s an effortlessness to it, a real flow that just goes without force. There is nothing quite like the Sacred Silence of Snow

 

It doesn’t hurt that I’m riding an amazing new snowboard: a Burton Custom Flying V 158cm that I am in love with. I also have new Burton Ion boots and Malavita bindings. My setup is tight. The board is unsinkable – even in 4’+ of powder, its nose stays up like duckbill. Through untracked powderfields, it cut with authority. It’s quick and responsive, yet plows like a barge. Both sportscar and Cadillac, I’ve found my perfect board!

 

 

 

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Fresh Tracks at Kirkwood

 

These trips to Tahoe, Winter or Summer, are gems I treasure – each one faceted in its own way, its luster shiny or earthy. Experiences outdoors with our loved ones are what life’s all about. Doing what we love with whom we love is a true gift to be cherished. I’m grateful that we got to ride our bikes a lot more this Winter than last year when Él Niño brought record rainfall.

 

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Thunder Saddle & Eagle Bowl

Speaking of bikes? I’m getting a new bike! I just ordered it a few hours ago, and am beyond excited to get it in a couple of weeks! What is this new steed? A Santa Cruz Hightower LT! I demo’d it about a month ago, riding all my favorite trails in Santa Cruz, and absolutely fell in love with it. I’m happy to use my Grassroots discount with Santa Cruz bikes for this one! Even with it, I might be eating canned tuna and crackers for awhile until it’s paid off. But at least I’ll have a rad bike! I’ve got my priorities straight, alright.

With Spring approaching, our calendars start filling up with plans – parties, camping trips, and races. I’ll be racing the Sea Otter Classic in April for my fourth year, and have a full slate of races scheduled through Summer. I cannot wait to ride my new bike at the races! After almost five years on my Specialized Camber Comp, I was beyond ready for an upgrade.

I hope your first day of Spring is inspiring you for the longer, warmer days ahead. Whatever your passions, enjoy them whenever you can, as much as you can. Passion is a gift, and should be revered and celebrated where ever it’s directed. We are lucky to have people to love, and things we love to do. At the end of the day, having fun is one of the simplest yet most profound experiences in life. It gives both purpose and motivation. Having fun is living life the way you want to, allowing yourself the liberty to pursue your interests, while connecting with people in a loving, positive way. Each person’s definition of “having fun” is unique, and equally respectable (given that no one is hurting anyone intentionally, of course). To each their own. Doing what you love with whom you love is having fun.

Get after it and go have some fun! Celebrate this short life and make time to do what you love to do. We are lucky to live in a world where we can focus on such a concept. Enjoy the start of Spring as the Winter storms linger, blessed may it be so.

Follow your flow, and lead with Grace.

– Katrin Deetz

Fresh Powder, Fresh Perspective

Snow, glorious Snow!

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I wanted to shout it from the mountaintops, proclaiming my deep appreciation for the return of my long lost friend Winter. Though not yet in full force, She has blessed us with some more heaven dust to play upon, with forecasts predicting more soon. After last year’s epic El Niño, when we were blessed with 17 good days on mountain, this Winter pales in comparison so far. But it’s relatively early in the season, and I’ll be grateful for whatever falls from the sky!

The Sierra Nevada mountains of California hold a piece of my soul in their weathered but stoic granite crags. In Summer they’re a playground for two wheels and two feet, and in the Winter, a snowboarding heaven. Kirkwood has long been my steady refuge for finding bliss, riding over snow like butter. Snowboarding with my husband Ron is one of my favorite all-time things to do together. It’s not only hella fun, but spiritual. The Sacred Silence of Snow is something I savor. Escaping to the mountains provides a fresh perspective on life, easing concerns about what’s going on down valley.

 

A bonus this trip was getting to break in my new board, boots, and bindings. I love them!  After riding a dinosaur set-up of a 14-year old Salomon 156cm board, with equally old boots and bindings, I was beyond ready for an upgrade. And so I did, to an all-Burton set up: a Burton Custom Flying V 158 board, with Malavita bindings, and Ion boots. As with any new gear, there is always some time spent adjusting before and while riding the mountain. With only a few changes on the first day riding with my new gear, I found my sweetspot and was confidently riding without a second thought by the end of the day. It is such an upgrade indeed! The pop and responsiveness are so much better than I’ve ever known, and my feet felt good. I’ve still got some breaking in to do, but overall – Success!

 

With only a couple of days in this season so far, I am really looking forward to some more good days on the mountain this season. Ron and I buy season passes every year at Kirkwood, and since it was bought by Vail a few years ago, the prices have steadily risen, along with the inefficiencies and big corporate attitude that are a stark contrast to the old Kirkwood I knew as a kid. It’s always been sort of funky in its own right; minimalist in amenities and services, with maximum terrain and snow to far make up for it. It’s the best place for snow in California as far as I’m concerned.

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Team KatRon

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Top of Cornice Express

 

More concerning are the real and imminent ramifications of climate change, particularly in this holy place I and so many others love and cherish so dearly. It’s not just the recreation that the Sierras provide year-round, of course. The dire issue is the freshwater supply that long established ecosystems, and we 39 million Californians, are existentially dependent upon from that snowfall.  With the hottest years on record occurring within my adult lifetime, I’ve pretty much grown up hearing we may not have our Sierra snowpack by the time I’m old and grown. Though each Winter brings its own anomalies, complexly driven by warming and cooling oscillations in ocean temperatures and other factors, the overall trend is warmer and drier. Check out Protect Our Winters for some more interesting information about snow and climate change.

 

In the meantime, I try to enjoy what’s here now. Winter is already a third of the way complete. The days are getting longer, and before we know it, Spring blossoms will color the hillsides like fireworks. Enjoy the Winter while it’s here, however you like to. Whether you’re moving over land or water, whether frozen or liquid, have fun. It’s so important to do what you love and makes you happy, whatever it is. Keep on flowing with grace!