By Julia Milan.
It’s midnight and I’m lying in my bed in Portland eating re-heated pad Thai and drinking coffee that was probably left in the freezer by one of the previous tenants. I’m frantically trying to finish a story on a trip to British Columbia that I took in February, and wondering how I once again managed to wait until the last possible minute to get something done. My computer screen is glaring at me and I keep doing that thing where you un-focus and refocus your eyes, like when you try to look at those stupid pictures with the bazillion colored dots and then you go a little cross-eyed and all of a sudden there’s a 3-D jungle scene popping out at you. The screen blurs, separates into two screens, and then reunites again. Nope, the eye trick still doesn’t magically create finished articles. Just checking. Did I mention how hard it is to remember details from a trip that you took four months ago? Especially when you left the notebook with the few notes you took lying in a hotel room somewhere. It’s my first travel feature for TransWorld and I’m sitting here with no notes, no time, and no article. Everything-right down to my compulsively checked MySpace profile and the coffee spill on my T-shirt is screaming “rookie.” Okay, rewind four months. I’m getting this thing done.
My phone rang. I rolled off the couch I had been asleep on in an apartment in downtown Vancouver, B.C. and answered the phone.
“There’s so much snow here!”
What? Huh? Who is this?
“Julia! It’s Leanne!”
Oh, right, Leanne. I’m supposed to meet her somewhere I think. But I’m so tire-
“We just got to Revelstoke. It’s snowing!”
Right. Revelstoke. I’m supposed to drive to Revelstoke. I need coffee. I wonder if they have coffee shops in Revelstoke.
“Christy and Tara are on their way. I guess they’re bringing Tara’s trailer.”
A trailer. Great. I like trailers.
I looked outside at the street below the window-an infinite stream of cars whizzing by, an endless crowd of pedestrians carrying coffee cups, computers, shopping bags and wearing layer after layer of trendy clothes and talking on their cell phones-undoubtedly to their equally trendy friends. And while all of the busyness can be stressful, it makes me feel safe, comfortable. If my cell phone dies, I can walk 50 steps to get a new one, to check my e-mail I need only open my computer and tap into one of the twelve wireless signals that I’m picking up. ATMs, sushi, shoes, clothes, ice cream-everything is within a five-minute walk. I grew up in the mountains, but right then they seemed really far away. Well, an eight-hour drive to be exact-so I guess not that far.
My morning brain haze began to clear as I pulled myself off the couch and started putting things into my backpack. After a couple more phone calls things began to line up. The group-consisting of shred veterans Leanne Pelosi and Tara Dakides, up-and-comer Robin Van Gyn, photographer Christy Chaloux, and snowboard Renaissance man Jeff Keenan-were staying somewhere between Revelstoke and Golden in Interior B.C., filming for the new Runway video, and according to Leanne, the conditions couldn’t have been better. Sounds perfect, right? Well, right … except that this was my first solo trip for the magazine, I hadn’t touched anything remotely classified as backcountry in over a year and a half, and I had yet to sit on a snowmobile. Basically, while the chance of me blowing it wasn’t through the roof, it was definitely a possibility.
I got to Revelstoke after a solid ten hours in the car and a night stopover in a place with a name like Eagle Knee or Salmon Leg. I was a mere 40 minutes from my destination further toward Golden, but unfortunately I wasn’t slated to meet the girls at the house for another seven hours. Revelstoke is charming, but not really the place to be on a Sunday. After five weird minutes in an out-of-place dirty novelty shop, I opted to spend the rest of my time aimlesslwandering through the tiny, snow-covered streets taking photographs of things with snow on them.
Dusk was creeping in as I drove further up the pass, and I become surrounded by a gray-scale landscape of frozen waterfalls, rivers congested with tiny icebergs, and pillow lines for days. A rustic-looking train whistled through the mountainside, and I half expected to see the White Witch or Gandalf or something at least a little mythical. Unfortunately, the only thing I came across was a bunch of semi trucks.
I was a little skeptical of the directions that Jeff gave me, but finally I ended up at a log house with a couple of trucks in the driveway. I knocked on the door and went inside to find a middle-aged man and woman watching television with their four dogs. Wrong house. A quarter-mile backtrack, and I was at the right place. Funny how I drove right by the bunch of snowmobiles and huge trailer with California plates sitting in the driveway. Oh well, I made it. First mission complete. Next mission was to check my e-mail. I opened my computer and got … nothing. No linksys, no NETGEAR, nothing. I resisted the urge to panic. I imagined my inbox overflowing with urgent e-mails. Obviously that probably wasn’t happening, but the point was that it could. Luckily for me, I was soon informed that wi-fi could be accessed a mere fifteen miles down the road in Golden. My panic ebbed into a sort of calm relief. I couldn’t check my e-mail for a couple of days, and it was kind of amazing.
Our mornings consisted of pancakes and coffee made by Jeff and Leanne, followed by the dreaded putting on of our perpetually wet snowboard gear, and then trudging out to load the sleds-well, most of us were trudging. Robin doesn’t so much trudge as run. Everywhere. Actually, let me stop to give you a little scenario with Robin:
Group: “So, it’s a little overcast today. Want to just do the quarterpipe in the yard or something?”
Robin: “Yeah! Let’s do the quarterpipe! But before that we should go up and build a jump, and then do those pillow lines, then we could do those jibs down the street, and then drive to Calgary and do a handrail, and on the way back we could hit that other handrail in Banff, and then we could do a night yard session!”
So that may be a little embellished, but not much. And while her complete abandonment of a realistic concept of time wasn’t really a big factor, we definitely ended up getting a lot more accomplished with her along.
I’d never really been in the backcountry with the soul purpose of filming, and I was surprised at the amount of waiting that was done. Hours of hanging out with numb fingers and a grumbling stomach, waiting for six seconds of clear sky so someone could get a trick. It didn’t help that the sky stayed mostly overcast for the entire trip, but the amount of snow evened it out. In a winter where many of the go-to destination spots were completely bare, Golden seemed like an oasis-a freezing, snowy oasis, but an oasis nonetheless.
We did drive to Calgary for a day, punctuated by a stop in Banff and a day at Lake Louise where we met up with Andrew Hardingham and some others from the Sandbox crew. After seven days of pulling my sled out of holes just to get it stuck again, I’d never been so happy to see a chairlift. Jeff had never been so happy to escape girl camp, and he had to be taken home from the bar at midnight while Leanne reasoned with him that fighting a guy with frosted tips probably wasn’t worth it. The next day Leanne and I scoured Banff for souvenirs before heading off to Calgary for a 24-hour urban handrail mission. After our day in the city, we stopped at an intimidating rock ride that Tara nailed first try before heading back to the backwoods.
The next day was overcast, and the cabin seemed so quiet after our three days of social butterflying. Maybe it was the weather, or the fact that we’d all been sharing the same space for nearly two weeks, but for some reason it seemed like a fitting time to part ways. I pointed my car due south to America, while the others headed west to Whistler for more filming. And in the end, I didn’t wreck anyone’s snowmobile, I got the story written, and maybe next year I won’t be such a rookie.
some reason it seemed like a fitting time to part ways. I pointed my car due south to America, while the others headed west to Whistler for more filming. And in the end, I didn’t wreck anyone’s snowmobile, I got the story written, and maybe next year I won’t be such a rookie.
By Julia Milan.