30 days or one month or 720 hours. No matter how you break it down these are the facts that are between Big Sky Resort and the first day of skiing. Ski season is just moments away and just a few snowflakes away. I am writing to you as the snow falls outside my window here at Big Sky. The flakes are not huge, but are steady-hiding the view of Lone Peak and covering the ground with a sense of renewal. Falling 2-9 miles an hour, snowflakes are cruising down to earth for being so light and fluffy.
From an early age everyone learns that each snowflake is different than the one that fell before it. This is used as a metaphor for the uniqueness of each human life and to show the complexity of nature. The uniqueness of snow and snowflakes extend to its significance to mountain living and to ecosystems around the world. More than 180 billion molecules of water make up each snowflake and roughly 12 percent of the earth is covered in snow year round. As much as I love snow, I'm grateful for the annual spring run-off for a number of selfish reasons, but also because snowfall accounts for 70 percent of annual precipitation in the United States. Winter and snow mean more to me than being able to enjoy yet another powder day on Yellow Mule or to cozy up fireside with a book and a latte, it means life continues to exist wherever snow reaches. From the Gulf of Mexico to upstate New York, snow affects human life as it accumulates on our mountaintops and melts into our rivers. I find this comforting and beautiful. Snow is something I long for as an individual adventure seeker, and as a human being who is a part of mother earth.
I want to take time today to be thankful for the flakes that are falling. The beauty in a complex, yet simple-looking snowflake never ceases to amaze me.
"At first look it all seems like a geologic chaos, but there is method at work here, method of a fanatic order and perseverance: each groove in the rock leads to a natural channel of some kind, every channel to a ditch and gulch and ravine, each larger waterway to a canyon bottom or broad wash leading in turn to the Colorado River and the sea." -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
As a new batch of ski and snowboard movies make their way across the country here's a glimpse of what's new, what's bound to be entertaining, and what to check out in the coming months even if they don't come to a tour stop nearby:
1) Into the Mind by Sherpas Cinema. This little-film-company-that-could releases its third feature film this fall, Into the Mind. Winning Powder Magazine's 2012 movie of the year with All.I.Can, Sherpas is one to watch for years to come. Bringing fresh stories, fresh lines, and beautiful cinematography, Into the Mind will blow yours away. Following an unnamed skier as he pursues the toughest terrain and as the viewer tackles the terrain of his psyche. Going into the mind of a skier isn't easy, but Into the Mind takes us there for better or worse.
2) McConkey by RedBull Media House and Matchstick Productions. If you're not a crier, you'll probably still cry. This movie left me in tears after seeing it at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. McConkeymovie.com calls it a "heartfelt examination of the legacy one athlete left to the progression of his sports." Although I agree with that tagline, it is so much more than that. Growing up watching Shane McConkey shred and just "ski down there and jump off of something" made this movie so much more personal than just an athlete leaving something behind. He has made us laugh, laugh harder, and now cry. Don't miss this one.
Valhalla as the film portrays and a drawing of the mythological Valhalla.
3) Valhalla by Sweetgrass Productions. Valhalla hails from Norse mythology. It is the majestic hall in Asgard ruled by Odin, the Allfather of the gods, synonymous with war, battle, victory, and death. He is the father of Thor. The movie's title derives from Norse mythology and the movie itself might make one think it's as bizarre as this mythological place, Valhalla. Following a man searching for his own Valhalla, the film promises to be vivid.
4) Way of Life by Teton Gravity Research. Skiing and snowboarding is more than a hobby, it's a way of life. Although this is the basic idea behind TGR's latest stoke flick, it's due to be much more than basic. Capturing a lifestyle of a culture by searching for how snow shapes a mountain and a person makes for a fascinating ski film subject. Plus, TGR just never disappoints.
5) Ticket to Ride by Warren Miller. Perhaps Miller unintentionally made shout outs to The Beatles (his 64th film, "Ticket to Ride" and legendary lines much like the mop tops themselves), but this Miller machine takes us to so many new places visually like The Beatles did aurally. See Kazakhstan, Iceland, and more exotic ski locations through that epic Warren Miller lens, including one of his, and my, favorite places: Montana.
This is the view from my office:
Don't get the wrong idea. My co-worker and I share this space (it is also a partial meeting room space too), and no one else who works in an office at Big Sky Resort has a view quite like this but us. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Recently I moved from a non-window office of my own to sharing this office with a view. It was well worth the trade. Only a week after moving into this office I found myself drifting off into space, watching the snow fall, studying the contours of the bowls or ridgeline, and imagining myself cruising down Mr. K. I have my (day) dream job and I wouldn't trade that for the world either.
Moving to Big Sky and working at Big Sky Resort started as a way to get into the mountains. The plan was to spend some time pursuing a part of my life that I'd neglected for years: the outdoor part. Camping, hiking, climbing, skiing, repeat. But then I was most fortunate to get my dream job. Being a part of Big Sky Resort was amazing in and of itself, but being a part of Big Sky Resort in a job that I only imagined I would get years down the road was something else. Now I can continue to camp, hike, climb, ski-and day dream about it when I'm not doing it- but with an even better excuse to stay (being from Montana it definitely eases my parents' minds).
I know we can still feel the effects of the recession, and the effects of the government shut down (we certainly do being so close to Yellowstone National Park). I want to give you just a little bit of hope. Confidently expect times to change and keep pursuing what you love. You never know when it all might just fall into place.
I'm a better skier in my imagination than in actuality. Don't get me wrong, I can shred, turn like a racer (most of the time), and huck a small cliff here and there, but I always think A) I am better at it than I actually am and B) I look better skiing than I actually do.
Let's talk about point B first. When I was learning to ski, helmets were not popular. And by not popular I mean no one wore them and if you did you were a dork. I was a dork. Not only did I wear a helmet, but I didn't have the good sense of matching my ski pants, gloves, jacket, helmet or skis (I blame my dad). Then around high school, helmets took a turn for the cool. I appreciated this, not for safety reasons like I now do, but for style reasons. Helmets were coming in all colors, shapes and sizes, some even with earbuds so you could jam while on the hill (in which case you definitely need a helmet just to cancel out the danger factor of listening to music on the hill). Helmet ads even became cool when humor was added: a helmet saving the life of a chicken in a chicken factory or saving a skier from the Grim Reaper. I still wear a helmet (in those epic I'm-a-pro-skier daydreams and in actuality) and I still clash my ski attire ... until this year. For the first time in about 10 years, I purchased a new ski coat and pants that match my K2 Misdemeanors relatively well. The only missing piece now is that new matching helmet.
Point A is a confidence issue (or should I say overconfidence issue). Like I learned at a young age, being confident (on the slopes or off) is key. On the hill this means pushing myself to try something new or go just a little harder than I did the day before. Whether or not I look good cruising groomers or clicking into my bindings off the Tram is irrelevant because being sure that I am where I am supposed to be and that I'm about to do one of my favorite things makes me happy. Part of this happiness comes from being confident. So maybe it's not so bad that I think I'm a better skier than I am, as long as I am a happy one. This is the year to pursue that confidence and maybe that matching set of boots and skis, or hats and gloves. Big Sky Sports can definitely hook me up with the latter, but the former is all me.
Me not mismatching too much and having a lot of fun.
Using the word "aesthetic" can be a minefield. I'll proceed cautiously because it means something different to everyone. According to Merriam-Webster Online, aesthetic is "of, or relating to, the beautiful." My "Philosophy of Art" professor would probably cringe at my spitting out the definition of aesthetic from Merriam-Webster. If you're like him and think aesthetic is so much more than studying or understanding beauty, you'd be right.
I had my first genuine aesthetic experience (let's call it beholding the beautiful) while skiing my senior year of high school. At this point I hadn't taken "Aesthetics" or "Philosophy of Art", but it didn't matter. When I was in the mountains I knew there was something beyond beauty. Beyond sublime. Beyond words. All experiences are perceptions, but the perception that the snow and mountains around me were more beautiful than I could comprehend was reality at that moment.
For me, nature holds those true and few aesthetic experiences. For others it might be found in the city, in music, in painting, in film, in food, or perhaps even in manufacturing. No matter where this state of mind is found, it is something that makes us react in our attitude, emotions, and mannerisms toward the world around us, and in a great and necessary way.
As I'm skiing down Africa or Marx this winter I hope to allow for the beauty of where I live and work and play wash over me so I'm forced to stop and just absorb it. Aesthetic experiences most often just hit me in the face, but sometimes I have to let them in.
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