Burton Teams Europe

“CONNECTION WARNING: The modem has reported that there is no dial tone.” I was ready to rip the three-pronged Euro-phone line out of the wall and throw my computer through the window-my constantly ringing cell phone had taken the same journey several weeks ago in a moment of similar angst. I was pissed. I changed all of the modem settings in the control panel correctly, ignored the dial tone, tried pulse, tone, one comma, two commas, and just about every phone line in the town. Still nothing. It was now 1:00 a.m.; there was nothing I could do but wait and try again tomorrow. I hope it’s clear.

In this life, schedules are pale guides, and guides are to be ignored. You can’t go home at five o’clock, and not without paying the 150-dollar flight-change fee, either-this is the cheap price of snowboard photography. My flight home, after a long three weeks in Norway, left yesterday. But we were too close and had come too far to take the quick and easy way home. I extended my tickets, dried my boots, and hunkered down to wait. I’m staying. It’s the only thing to do.

The untapped potential here in Hemsedal is the source of my anxiety, and the imagery of unridden terrain in my head makes it all worth the wait. Hundreds of green boxes of Fuji film litter my tiny bedroom floor, taking priority over dirty laundry and damp stinky boots in the hallway-the rolls shouldn’t go home without proper exposure to this Norwegian light. With over three weeks in the making, the gigantic quarterpipe on top of the resort needs to be sessioned before our departure. The quarterpipe is taking on a life of its own. It’s been built, shaped, destroyed, rebuilt, and now hand-sculpted to perfection. The frozen snow has snapped five shovels, one pickax, and emptied a half-dozen cans of spray paint from those who throw in their two cents on how it needs to be shaped. It has felt the bite of a gnarly old chainsaw and the soft smoothing touch of Ingemar’s glove. Now, after three long weeks of life, it is nearly ready. The play, work, and rest of the past few days are substitutes for the awaiting snowboarding. At times, even the snowboarding becomes a substitute-merely practice for the session waiting above. Everyone knows why we’re here, and it’s not a holiday (even though our plush cabin, glowing fireplace, and warm conversation around the dinner table often creates that illusion). We check and recheck the weather forecast on the television, Internet, and by locals’ word-of-mouth. Hopefully, today the sharply dressed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Scandinavian beauty standing next to the weather map on the TV screen will deliver some good news. I make up in my head what I surrender to the language barrier, and pray that the snowflakes I see from beneath the warm covers of my bed, beating against the window glass, will soon give way to bluebird. I confuse the whistling of my stuffed-up nose with the howling wind outside, and get angry when I hear how rare these midwinter subzero temperatures are for Eastertime here. Is everyone feeding me stories, or is this an emotional test someone is laughing at from a distance? Don’t make me snap.

I roll over and see a silhouetted rider in a tuck bombing the smooth in-run of the quarter. The buzz of the snowmobile pollutes my peripheral headspace as it fights to decelerate now that the rider has let go and has committed to the approaching tranny. Now tangled in my sweat-drenched sheets, I fight to stop this repeating image. The rapidly approaching lip and the huge, record-book-sized air that this jump holds, fill my nights here in Norway. Soon it will become the reality of my daytime … I hope. If only I could get through. The sound of the screeching eels inside the modem herald the story behind the cover shot; they wake me from the dreams I’m living, connecting them to the rest of the snowboarding world.