07 Apr Tele Skiing
Brad Wagner, a telemark skier, reflects on his experience at the 2015 Snowflea TeleFest.
W as in Why. It started harmlessly enough when Mike was telling a story of over-hearing a phone conversation in which the person on the phone chose to use the word “why” to represent the letter W, instead of the radio call “whiskey”. That spawned a whole game of finding other letter words to misrepresent the letter in question. Examples would be “A as in are” or “S as in Sea”. About four years ago, we met up with a fellow named Enn, who did nothing but manifest this game of ours…E, as in Enn.
Enn and his wife Robin own the Bellevue Valley Lodge just across the border in Goulais River, Ontario. Its about 30 minutes north of the border and it’s the lunatic fringe of skiing. Their lodge is a portal to a very unique ski experience. Having been skiing for over 40 years, I can’t say that I have any experience that would compare to the Goulais River Backcountry. it’s huge sweeping terrain has been gently manicured over the years by Enn and friends and makes for challenging, fun skiing that makes for my favorite ski day of the year. It’s all earned turns. Nothing is given to you. The day starts with about a 45 minute climb up to a bluff that gives access to several different lines, only to turn around and do it all over again, and again, and again. The terrain is terraced, which makes for some steep pitches canon-balled with some low-angle relief. The low-angle relief is just enough to compose yourself until the bottom drops out again. The snow has always been deep too. It takes half the morning to attempt to figure out how to manage the deep snow along with the terrain. Skiing feels more like linking recoveries together rather than the tempo and rhythm that we strive for as skiers. The whole day plays right into the wheelhouse of stacking bad decisions on top of each other. We ski to a point where our legs are so fried that we can barely make it back without nearly killing each other. We all (except for Tram, who’s existence has yet to show any weakness) delicately balance an inevitable breakdown. You find yourself slowly starting to crack and getting upset because the sun may be too sunny, or the snow too snowy or the skin track too steep/shallow/skinny/wide/all of the aforementioned. Again, this is not what skiing is advertised as. It lacks the pageantry and luxury of a magazine ad for Sun Valley. It looks more like the $1000 pick-up truck that you’re bummed is gone from your life because it felt so right. It doesn’t smell like a luxurious Belgian waffle breakfast and sunscreen. It smells more like a hockey bag and the need for a car detailing. However (with a tip of the cap to Lyle Lovett), it feels like the perfect cocktail of the more temporal gratification of sheer, physical attraction blended with true emotional compatibility. Like a mutha-scratchin’ Peanut Butter and Jelly. I wouldn’t trade any of it.
For those that are interested in quantifiable data, the numbers stack up as follows:
Total Distance Traveled: Lots (that’s the metric conversion)
Total Elevation Gain: Enough to make toenails sore on the ski back out (again, metric)
Number of Runs: Mittens prevented any sort of accurate count
Number of Beer(s) Required to Get Post-Ski After-Glow: One
Number of Days Until We Get to Do it Again: 364
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