Words: Chas Smith
I woke up at 4:30 this morning with a terror pulling me slowly then quickly from sweet slumber, viciously. That sort of full-bodied terror that takes multiple minutes to semi-recover. Shortness of breath. Picking up the phone to check the time every three minutes. Heavy questioning of one’s life choices. Full knowledge that sleep would never return.
The reason for this horror?
Manic from being part of a press junket unseen in professional surfing since the early 2000s, I excitedly signed up for the following morning’s early tram guided backcountry tour with a heavy crew of legendary snowboard journalists and snowstorm expected to hit that night.
A dream while floating on a cloud of very fine beer and sausages, all complimentary.
A nightmare at 4:30.
My experience with fresh powder backcountry was tomahawking down hills behind a Make-a-Wish kid with Travis Rice as guide and my loving wife almost reaching her breaking point.
Sure, I learned from my shame and willed myself into what I imagined passed as acceptable form, cutting into the trees every now and then, finding a quadrangle untracked slightly off a groomer, but that form had never been truly tested since.
Vulnerable Adult Learners.
Those who pick up surfing, or any extreme sport, late in life and make a mockery of the whole business by having no internal gauge on how, when, where they should do.
What they should wear.
I have a pair of Kith x Moncler cheetah print alpine boots.
I don’t have a backpack with transponder, shovel, poles, airbag.
Thankfully the greatest custom snowboard maker in the world, Mikey Franco, lives in Jackson Hole and my loving wife hooked up the backpack though I, still high on a pillow of fine beer and sausages, insisted I’d be ok with my young daughter’s sequined unicorn backpack filled with American Girl Doll clothes.
I picked it up an hour before the tram was set to depart, awake and terrified for three hours prior.
Getting into the tram line, I gingerly asked legendary snowboard journalist Drew Zieff where I should put my transponder, when to pull the ripcord on the airbag that would, theoretically save me from avalanche burial.
A complete VAL.
An utter VAL.
Tram up, terrified, sitting in lodge at top while snow and wind whipped outside, terrified, whole crew gathering including the legendary snowboard journalist Colin Wiseman, terrified.
Guides, wonderful and friendly, knowledgeable, speaking to the general knowledge of the heavy crew not me.
Then it was go time. I traversed behind, dropped in to a bowl and….
….had more fun than I have ever had in my life.
Straight VAL fun.
The best thing I had ever done in my entire life and I didn’t care if my arms were akimbo, legs unbent, dumb, dumber and kooky. I was loving every entire second and loved the next drop and the next drop and the next drop through the trees even though I can’t pick a line to save my life.
Snowboarding is the greatest extreme sport on earth, truly, and I’m a VAL for declaring in my hideous VAL style but it just plain is and I don’t care if the world knows it.
Though I don’t know how anyone jumps on a snowboard and looks smooth. I was forced to, at some point, and it was 1 foot, not Hawaiian, of air and ungainly which makes me marvel, all the more, at Travis Rice’s Natural Selection which officially goes live tomorrow at 9:30 am (Jackson Hole time, 2:30AM Australian time) on Red Bull TV.
The very definition of a buried lead but I am still celebrating not getting buried myself.
See you tomorrow.