Words: Chas Smith / Lodge Grit
Natural Selection, Day 1, will go down in history as almost perfect. The poetry of the world’s best snowboarders, knee deep in fresh powder then flying out of it, into the powder blue sky. The drones, also flying in that powder blue sky, capturing fantastically unique angles. The sun, poking through the grey and bathing the playing field in gorgeous light.
Almost perfect and only almost because a big mistake was made early.
That damned vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado.
As previously written, Travis Rice’s pre-Day 1 breakfast was a vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado. Left out, it was mine too.
The waiter at the restaurant brought it to Travis just as he was sitting down at my young daughter and my booth then looked at me and said, “Can I get you anything?”
“Ummmm, what Travis is having…” I lamely stuttered.
“A vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado?” the waiter asked.
“Yes.” I answered.
My young daughter pulled her eyes from iPad she was supposed to be doing school work on but watching J-Pop videos instead to glare at me with good reason. I don’t eat vegetarian breakfast burritos with avocado. I wear Kith x Moncler horse hair cheetah print alpine boots.
The blunder haunted me into the late night, slumped in the bar area while the world’s best snowboarders, appropriately masked and distanced, relived the singular glories they had just experienced.
A vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado.
I needed to remedy and immediately, by the next morning if possible, with a more cosmopolitan breakfast companion. Oh, nothing at all against Travis Rice. He is as fine as they come but also from Jackson, Wyoming and I don’t know if he adequately appreciates Kith x Moncler horse hair cheetah print alpine boots as his colors of choice are generally burnt orange, various shades of forest green, many yellows.
I furrowed my brow, that vegetarian breakfast burrito with avocado, and it was as if the fates, sensing my profound shame and wanting to alleviate, sent Oslo’s Mikkel Bang into my orbit. He sat to talk with my snow-famous wife about something rather else, our young daughter, inexplicably there, stole his stocking cap, my agent-famous wife invited him to breakfast the next morning at the Four Seasons and he accepted.
What absolute mercy.
I couldn’t wait to retire for the evening and hasten the morrow’s light though lightly stressed my decision-making capacity. Would I mishandle the menu again?
Morning came, though it was difficult to see through the dumping snow. At least a foot overnight, much more coming down. A pow day and a good omen. My wife, daughter and I slog from our hotel to the Four Seasons, are seated at a corner table and panic begins to percolate. Olivia Kelly joins us and it reaches boiling.
What if Mikkel orders the Healthy Bowl featuring an egg white and tofu scramble, avocado, asparagus, tomato, crisp quinoa and kale salad?
What if I say, “What Mikkel is having?”
He comes in, stocking cap-less, minutes later, at the peak of my trepidation. A fine Viking specimen, no doubt, tall with exquisite bone structure, piercing blue eyes, a floppy shock of blonde hair and slight Norwegian accent hinting at the twelve other languages he likely knows and speaks fluently.
Oh, nothing at all against Travis Rice but… Jackson, Wyoming.
I nervously make small talk. He politely responds. My young daughter keeps her eyes on the iPad she is supposed to be doing school work on but watching slime making videos instead. My wife on the phone working solutions to various Natural Selection problems… more later.
The waiter approaches and says, “What would you like to have?”
My young daughters orders chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon. My wife orders a fussy personalized omelette. Olivia Kelly doesn’t order because she already had breakfast. My heart is pounding. Mikkel orders… the Kurobuta ham and spinach eggs benedict.
Regaining my footing, and in the spirit of Natural Selection, I order the spiced pecan butter, bourbon bacon maple syrup chicken and waffles.
A full hammer.
Confidence restored, we chat openly. I have spent much time with many professional surfer, skater, snowboarders throughout my days but Mikkel Bang shines. He’s both interesting and interested, a rare combination. Opinionated without fear, intelligent, unguarded, fun. A gold tooth, down the back, that glimmers not ostentatiously.
He says the Natural Selection Hunger Games-esque seeding system was nerve racking. Drawn riders got to pick the person they would go against and imagine the psychological strain. Clearly the move is to pick someone you think you can beat. Mikkel was picked by Austrian Werni Stock, who apologized profusely for the perceived slight then got beaten.
He says he had three runs lined up in his head, having never ridden the course, but had to throw them each away after his first hit and pull solely from native inspiration. He says Oslo is a fabulous cosmopolitan city with many skate spots just out the front door, epic mountains nearby and surf too. Like, proper point breaks that fire under the glowing northern lights. He says that the very idea of Teahupoo, that famed Tahitian monster, scares him even though he runs from avalanches for a living. He says that the Canadian mountains are the ones he knows and maybe loves best. He says he can’t wait for Natural Selection Day 2, having now ridden the course and loving every second of it.
The waiter comes with our food, laying each plate in front of its orderer. Mikkel looks over at my chicken and waffles and says, “I should have gotten that.”
A heat winner and I am back.