As of writing this, the recent winter solstice marked the official start of the winter. We all know what it’s about – the days start pinching the night away, minute by minute. But for many of us the winter started months ago in late August, when there was a slight hint in the air – the first crisp morning that made our shoulders shiver and breath visible. Wait another month and it was official – the winter arrived in a form of few snowflakes. It’s not much, but it’s enough to derail puppies, babies and people addicted to skiing. And scientists, too – Jon Nelson, who studies snowflakes at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, says it’s highly likely that there are no two snowflakes a like. It takes about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 water molecules to form a snow crystal, and the way they can arrange themselves is almost infinite.
By now our focus has clearly shifted from counting snowflakes to measuring overnight snowfall and storm totals. Mornings are spent getting the conditions over the radio from backcountry lodges and digging snow pits, all in the name of having more quality skiing out there. “Is it dumping?” has taken over our thoughts. Seems the little guys who have gathered en masse have been forgotten – so we set out to find those little marvels around the lodge. We managed to capture a couple – all of them very unique, glistening on a sunny -20° C morning.
We also bumped into our ski guide Ox in the boot room and asked him about his best snow-related memory. No surprise here, he had many, but he shared the one that changed his life. It was end of 90’s and he had just skinned his way up to Kootenay Pass. On the way down he experienced his first proper white room – it had never been that deep that you’re choking! The feeling of freedom going through the sea of powder, it’s crazy! As he shares the story we realize that Ox has gone back in time and is reliving the memory as if it’s happening right now. The man actually glows over the bindings he’s stopped working on. “That one run changed my life! It was then that I realized what I want to to the rest of my life and ever since I’ve been chasing that feeling!”. (In case a translation is needed – he became addicted to pow and has not stopped chasing it ever since :)). But that’s not why he became a ski guide – “Oh no, ski guides don’t roam freely in remote passes, they have wolf packs to lead” – at least that’s what he claims. But we have a feeling it’s the same as when an airline pilot says he’d rather be fly fishing than hauling crowds and cargo around the world – we hear the words but you can’t hide that twinkle in your eyes!
A winter lover’s life might seem like a huge snowdrift of conquered peaks, sick lines and powder days, but it consists of numerous stories alike, but all unique, all worthy of changing one’s day better or setting a new course in life.