Awake. It’s 6:30am, I immediately look out the window and see what I’ve been hoping for since I began following the low pressure weather forecast a few days ago – a calm sea of white doused on top of everything. Every detail, from the entirety of my old Ford Escape to the centimeter-thick branch that hangs from a naked tree is holding up a few centimeters of (hopefully) weightless white snow. Taking a deep breath in I relish at the thought that this morning is going to create the memories that are enough to tide me over during the warmer months.
Already I hear a knock on my bedroom door, my buddy pokes his head in, “Dude, have you seen the snow outside yet?” And the rush is on. I know I’ve got to have a hearty breakfast. If time permits, eggs, some avocado and toast is a deadly combination – sure to supply for a few hours of riding. If I’d made the mistake of cherishing a couple taps of the snooze button when I originally heard my alarm, then my kind is reserved to some instant oatmeal or a bowl of cheerios… maybe a banana. While gulping down a cup of coffee, relieving myself in the washroom, giving my teeth a brush, I constantly check to see specific snowfall amounts, freezing levels, and webcam footage of the potential line forming until finally I’m set to gear up.
For those of us who get 50+ riding days a year, this is a breeze. The gear is probably laid out in the same place is always is to dry from the day before, and is within easy reach. Snow pants, jacket, goggles, gloves, helmet, debate about a sweater… decide “nah, I’ll be too warm ripping all those powder lines”, chuck a couple Clif bars in my pocket and I’m all set. I lace up my snowboard boots and head for the driveway thinking “shit, I should’ve started my car 5 minutes ago to warm up”. After locking up the roof rack I grab the snow brush and luckily, having bundled myself for a day of snow immersion, begin vigorously brushing snow off the windows, thinking, “surely the roof will take care of itself”. Climbing back in the vehicle I glance at the clock, 7:22am, timing is right on par.
Pulling into the lot at 7:29am I can see that there’s always a line begun to form, this comes as little surprise in the town of Revelstoke BC, where a large majority of the population literally lives here for mornings such as these. Parked, locked, and ourselves loaded with gear we clamber down the snowy embankment and join our brethren in line.
“Hurry up and wait” is a term widely used in the field of Wildland Firefighting, a field I chose since allows me to make a considerable sum of money in the summer and open up some freedom in the winter months. This phrase applies perfectly to a powder day in Revelstoke. Once you reach the gondola line an hour before the lift opens all that’s left to do is… wait.
As the minutes’ press on I occupy my time by keeping the blood flowing in my toes, engaging in some friendly banter with my fellow line comrades, or typically I detail a specific game plan with my buddies as to where everyone is going to go, where WE are going to go, and when we figure avalanche control will be done.
Finally, a cheer spreads through the crowd. The first brave souls that probably have been here since 6am have just loaded the first gondola. Shuffling my feet as my position improves in the line I get nearer, and nearer. Finally, I pull my pass out to get scanned by one of the lifties and pack my way into the gondola like a can of sardines. The wait is over.
I can’t help but look around at the faces surrounding me. Everyone shares the slightly manic look in their eye, characterized by excitement and anticipation. How is it that some frozen water, blanketing a pitch that allows some innovate gear and gravity to let you gracefully fall down a mountain can be so addicting? Perhaps it’s the pure childlike joy of speed, adrenaline, and a rush of the something more extreme than our day to day lives. Or is it something more abstract? The thought of using the mountain as a canvas, an absolute expression of creativity using your own body to flow, ebb, and huck whatever natural features you come across. Surely, using the mountain as your personal playground is prose enough to feel a sense of conquest or self-righteousness. Whatever the case may be, it is an unknown sentiment that is shared by everyone around me and I’m just glad to be along for the ride.