Words: Alex Cameron
In 2007, I got a text message that would alter the course of my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined; “Hey mate, want to go to Jindy this weekend?” I was about to turn 19, bored with uni, and had no idea where ‘Jindy’ was. By the end of the weekend, I had a Perisher season pass, a blow-up mattress, and some floor space in a one bedroom flat on Bogong St (plus I’d worked out that ‘Jindy’ was code for Jindabyne). Snowboarding is addictive. No one warned me, and I got hooked.
By 2010, I was in deep; six back-to-back winters in Jindy, Whistler and Tahoe. I was giving snowboarding everything: my time, my money, my energy and focus. And snowboarding was paying it back tenfold in fun, friendships and adventures in the mountains. I felt like I was cheating the system; all those stressed-out people in the city didn’t know what they were missing out on! Ultimately the system would catch up with me, but we’ll get to that later. Over those six winters, I made friendships that will last a lifetime. We were kids with no responsibility travelling the world, getting drunk and snowboarding – the purest way to have fun that I’ve come across (and I’ve tried most things).
Come 2011, I felt at home at my local mountain. I’d found a secret ski-in ski-out carpark close to the main chair. I knew which trees to follow to ride the side country back to the alpine road. I even knew who the real locals were and made sure I paid my dues. Some of them knew my name and that was cool. And I’d started working for this magazine (mostly running coffees and proof-reading articles). Still, I felt some pride in the life I had built around snowboarding far away from home. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this snowboarding life was supporting my transition into adulthood. I was learning about freedom, how to make your own decisions and how to be responsible. Mostly learning from mistakes, but learning nonetheless.
In 2012, snowboarding took me to Afghanistan. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It may be the coolest thing I ever do. To this day, when I look at the White Silk Road DVD on my shelf at home, I still can’t believe we did that. That same year, 2012, Australia had a bumper late season. Late August into September, long after school holidays ended, it snowed and snowed and snowed. With five years of solid snowboarding behind me, I’ve never felt more comfortable on a board. We had a tight crew of friends and we rode non-stop. We chased storms, went hiking, built jumps… With so much snow, we sent it off everything we could find. First chair to last call. Pow day after pow day, with the odd perfect park session in between. Looking back through rose-coloured glasses, late winter 2012 feels like a perfect Groundhog Day.
By 2013, the system had caught up with me. After my snowboarding life, real life was hard to swallow. Out went friend-filled pow days and living day-by-day. In came a full suit and tie desk job, and four weeks of annual leave each year. I was still running coffees and proof-reading, but this time it felt like a job. I tried to hang on as best as I could; a weekend warrior pounding the Hume highway from Sydney for 10 plus hours every weekend. But the long drives and weekend lift lines were quietly taking their toll.
Winter 2014, I didn’t ride a single day. I’d drifted from snowboarding. Long days at work, even longer nights in the bar. Without me noticing, my priorities were changing. I was growing up and focusing on more conventional adult things like my career. Lots was happening in my life, I was happy and times were good. But snowboarding had disappeared. I barely thought about it. At the end of 2014, I was transferred from Sydney to London with my company and I didn’t even take a snowboard with me.
In 2016, I accepted a last minute invite to join a weekend trip from London to St Anton. I knew a few of the group, and they were great people. I was living overseas and the impulsive trip seemed like my brand of adventure. It was a strange feeling returning to the mountains after so long and without my usual crew. Renting a snowboard didn’t feel right, but being back in the cold air and altitude made me feel grounded in a way that I realised I’d been missing.
Snowboarding welcomed me back with no spite or scorn. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing; it was like riding a bike. The snow was not good, but I had so much fun carving groomers and finding little side hits; just happy being back in the mountains. We skied as a big group and had long lunches; it was all very grown up. There was also this girl on the trip. She was cool in a genuine and caring way. She was from Bondi, she lived in London. She was the ‘it’ girl in this crew, but unassumingly so. Way too cool for me. If I hadn’t been in an environment where I felt comfortable, even confident, I wonder if I would have spoken to her.
On our last day, it started snowing heavily around lunchtime. We were booked to leave at 9am the next morning. Drunkenly at the bar, I made a pact with another guy on the trip; the next morning, if the snow out the front of our chalet is deeper than knee height, we’d stay and go ride the famous chutes off Schindler Spitze. The next morning, around 9am, as our friends climbed onto the mini-bus to head for the airport, we climbed into the first untracked chute at Schindler Spitze. Perfect bluebird, four feet of snow, avalanche bomb blasts echoing around the peaks. We rode first chair to last call, and were still getting face shots on our last lap. That trip, and that last day in particular, reminded me how special snowboarding is and how lucky I was to be able to do it. I vowed then and there to ride once a year, no matter what life threw at me. It’s 2019 now and I’ve kept that promise to myself so far.
Everyone’s dance with snowboarding is different. Mine has already been profound. It’s impacted my life in ways that I could never have imagined (you know that girl from St Anton – we got engaged in Jackson Hole this year). Snowboarding helped me mature as a kid, and now it helps keep me young and adventurous as an adult. Snowboarding is a part of who I am – a central theme in the story of my life. And my snowboarding story has plenty of chapters still to be written.
I’m stoked I went to Jindy on a whim in 2007, and grateful for the part that snowboarding has played in my life since.
See you on the hill