The road has been my home for the better part of my adult life. That elusive space not quite here or there, but simply a collection of moments in between.
Let’s rephrase that. The road has been where I’ve felt most at home for the better part of my entire life. Sure, I’ve had homes during this time period, even signed a few leases despite my better judgement. But it’s always that momentum, that inexplicable excitement of stepping over a threshold and knowing you won’t return to that place anytime soon, or ever, that keeps the movement constant.
Above: Eliel Hindert threads a forest of needles into the volcanic crater of Ulleung-Do Island, South Korea. Photo: Garrett Grove
Feeling lost. Feeling far from help. Far from a store, motors and people. I am existing in a world much bigger than I can comprehend. What I can see is all that is. I’m alive to find what I can’t yet see. There are two times of day: light and dark. Food is fuel for the body, not a dance for the tongue. The cold bites. The sun scorns. This is a taste of what life was like before modern technology began introducing non-essentials and conveniences.
All the while, it is 2015. I have gadgets that tell me where I am. I have a mobile phone that can bounce my voice off of a satellite in outer space and send for help if something were to go wrong. Still, there is a romance in my heart that writes off all of the comforts and emergency equipment. In my mind, I am free. In my heart, I’m just an animal lost in the wilderness.
Above: Alex Yoder, Jumbo Pass area. British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Steve Ogle
For 24 years, residents of the Kootenays in British Columbia, Canada, have been largely opposed to a proposed year-round ski resort in the heart of the Central Purcell Mountains—a region that encompasses both cherished alpine backcountry and critical core grizzly bear habitat. At the time this story was going to print, the provincial government had just dealt would-be developers a significant blow by deeming the ski resort project not “substantially started”—a finding that would require developers to return to square one to reapply for an environmental assessment certificate in order to continue with their plan. As the developers contemplate their next move, local skiers, snowboarders, climbers, wildlife conservationists and First Nations peoples staunchly hold their line, hopeful that with this ruling, the quarter-century-long battle may be nearing an end. But whether the developers redouble their efforts or their opponents celebrate victory—what a long, strange trip it’s been.
Above: Jumbo Valley. Central Purcell Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Garrett Grove
Jasmin Caton and Leah Evans both live and work in southeastern British Columbia: Caton as a ski guide and co-owner of Valhalla Mountain Touring; Evans as founder and director of the freeski program Girls Do Ski in Revelstoke. Caton has been skiing the backcountry since she was a child, while Evans comes from a hard-charging, competitive freeskiing environment. We spoke with them just after they’d completed an eight-day ski traverse through a section of the Jumbo Glacier backcountry, to see for themselves the site of the proposed and hotly contested Jumbo Glacier Resort featured in Jumbo Wild the new film by Sweetgrass Productions. Above: Leah and Jasmin strap in and buckle up for the bootpack. Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Garrett Grove
You’d never skied together before this trip. How’d the dynamic work?
Jasmin: A trip like this with new people can leave you with a feeling of, “Hmmm,” but this was definitely a “YES.” Hanging out with Leah has inspired me to try some more exciting stuff. Our skills are really complementary, and we can offer each other a lot.
Leah: For sure. I watched everything Jasmin did because she has such depth of experience out there. I’d see her do something with her pack or something, and I’d say, “Um, I’m going to do that with my pack, too.” I want to learn as much as I can from her.
If you didn’t look close you just might miss it, and we do.
Gazing across the Columbia River Basin into the morning light on the Purcell Mountains, we pass right by the Radium Hot Springs municipal offices. It’s not difficult to do here, where human presence is a mere asterisk on the seemingly infinite word of nature.
Editor’s note: Activism takes many shapes from protesting in the street to signing online petitions. One of the most important and effective things we can do is speak out at public hearings. Today’s post takes us into a hearing from earlier this year regarding the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort in British Columbia—just one episode in the 25-year battle over the Jumbo Valley. We share this story in conjunction with the release of Jumbo Wild, a new feature film by Sweetgrass Productions and Patagonia. As the film launches, we’re working closely with local conservation group Wildsightto help stop development and permanently protect the Jumbo Valley. Get film tour dates, watch the trailer and take action to help keep Jumbo wild at Patagonia.com.
Doubling back we find it. Off-white, little signage, and looking more private dwelling than public office. This will be the staging ground for public input on the Official Community Plan for the recently formed Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality. A public hearing of sorts for an area without a public, where concerned individuals are given five minutes each to share input and opinion on the direction of the proposed Jumbo Mountain Resort.
The Mont Blanc range is not a very big mountain range, but it is steep. It has become a kind of laboratory for skiers, mountaineers and climbers from around the world. Laurent and I consider ourselves somewhere is the middle as we are ski-mountaineers, IFMGA mountain guides and part of the Peakpowder guide team.
The Mont Blanc range sees tons of action because of its fast and easy access, with cable cars reaching higher altitudes in minutes. The idea of doing a steep ski traverse of the Mont Blanc range from its most easterly point to its most westerly point came to me about eight years ago. For some unknown reason, it had never been done; no one had tackled this challenge.
Above: Laurent Bibolet traverses Les Courtes, one leg of the team's traverse of the Mont Blanc range. Photo: Fred Bernard
Not long ago, I joined Jasmine and my girlfriend, Marie-Pier, for a day of cross-country skiing in Craftsbury, Vermont. Marie-Pier is a certified ski instructor and Jasmine is a strong skier while I, uh, I am able to follow for some time until I find something else worth discovering and photographing.
That morning we met skiers with orange bibs and soon realized they were accompanying visually impaired skiers who were also wearing bibs. I was impressed by these people who were willing to go skiing despite their handicap. Even before dressing for skiing, I went outside to talk with them and asked if I could take some pictures.
Above: A visually impaired skier navigates a downhill section with verbal guidance from her volunteer guide. Craftsbury, Vermont. All photos: Michel Caron
When Matt McKee first heard about the position forecasting avalanches for Minera Pimenton, a gold mine in the Chilean Andes, it sounded like the snow geek’s dream job. But mere hours after his plane touched down in Santiago, Matt started getting hints that maybe he had walked into a situation that more closely resembled a nightmare: a den of avalanche paths, a mine full of workers who didn’t believe in avalanches and a country that looked for someone to blame if things went wrong. Today, we bring you Matt’s story of trying to make it out alive.
You can read Matt’s unabridged version of the story from the 2008 International Snow Science Workshop here.
Josh Nielsen, Patagonia Global Marketing Director, Outdoor, shares this remembrance:
“He was the epitome of a pure passion skier—someone who didn’t do it for the cameras or for the limelight—and was deeply committed to the sport for all of the right reasons. Dave was a calculated risk taker and a talented athlete who dedicated his life to climbing and skiing some of the most challenging lines in the world, especially in Chamonix, his winter home. Dave was known for having an effortless style while skiing in steep and precarious places but also for his infectious glowing personality. He contributed to our Patagonia family in so many ways. He had a natural eye for product design and became one of our most articulate and valued product testers. He was beloved by fellow ambassadors, a friend to all and the catalyst for many powder-laden Chamonix adventures. Dave was one of a kind and will be deeply missed.”
Above: David Rosenbarger stands below the North Face of Mont Blanc and looks across to the Chamonix Valley. Chamonix, France. Photo: Christian Pondella
I'm sitting in a bar with Doug Chabot, director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. The man has more enthusiasm for snow science, alpine climbing and general life than about anyone I know. And the best part: it's infectious.
We are both a couple beers deep before our pizza arrives. The conversation floats, with laughter and zest. We talk of the day, the avalanche activity we investigated and the landscape surrounding the tiny mountain town where I live and work as a ski guide. “It’s a special place, no doubt,” Doug says with authenticity. I nod my head and gesture with deep agreement. Nowhere else quite like it I figure, as far as quality mountain towns go. Obviously, the topography is an integral aspect, but it’s the weather and snowfall that sets the place apart.
Above: Avalanche forecaster Doug Chabot, approaching the crown of a slab avalanche, just north of Cooke City, Montana. Photo: Beau Fredlund