I went on a little mission to the coast to get away from my busy schedule for a few days. It was just what the doctor ordered. Long breakfasts, a day chilling on the couch and a fresh early morning surf. You can’t beat a good weekend off.
Photo (above): KT Miller, Nat Segal skiing pow in Greenland during the Shifting Ice + Changing Tides expedition.
Signing petitions and letters has never been something that I take much notice of. I’ll occasionally sign an online letter calling for action, but after receiving so many I have started to become desensitised to them and their worth.
The reality is that one name and one voice aren’t very loud, and unless you’re already in the spotlight, it’s unlikely you’ll be heard.
To the contrary, public opinion does matter. The voice of a crowd is deafening and often it is the primary stimulus and driving force behind change. Just look at current Australian politics. Whether you agree with the recent changes in parliament or not, public opinion had a significant influence on the most recent leadership change.
I am a skier. It’s my career; it’s my passion and a lot of the time it’s my whole world. Being immersed in this community and culture can sometimes make me feel like I am living in a bubble, where politics and current affairs aren’t my primary concerns – I usually spend much more time researching where the snow is falling than watching the news.
However, right now is different. As someone who spends the majority of their time in the mountains, I see confronting changes occurring right before my eyes.
“Globally, the ten warmest years in the past 134 all have taken place since 2000, except for 1998, and 2014 was the warmest year on record, according to data from NASA. In Chamonix, scientists fear July 2015 was the worst of all summers: temperatures peaked at the highest since measurements were first taken in 1934.” – Helen Fouquet, Bloomberg Business
The Mer De Glace, Chamonix. This glacier is currently retreating 4 to 5 meters every year. Since 1988 (my birth year), they have had to add 370 steps below the access cable car for visitors to reach the glacier below. Image:: Wikicommons
Climate change is one of those issues that most of us shy away from. It’s because the predictions are scary, the evidence is confronting and the solution requires an ethical revolution.
However, we are not completely powerless.
In less than six weeks, the United Nations are hosting an international summit in Paris, the COP21 Conference, where the goal is to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. This conference is a follow-up to the Kyoto Treaty (1997) – the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period lapsed in 2012.
The successful outcome of this summit is integral for all of us, not just the skiers in the world who are left lamenting bad seasons and a lack of powder snow.
As I mentioned earlier, one voice and one action is nice, but it’s not enough to secure a sustainable future. We need deafening, global change made by corporations, big industry, communities, households and everyday people. While individual contributions are important, it’s only when national governments commit and follow through with emission reduction targets, that we will have any hope of combating climate change.
It is for these reasons, and more that I am going to ask you to do something that in the past I have avoided. I’m going to ask you to sign a letter.
The Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore, with the help of a board of ambassadors representing the ski and snowboard industry, I AM PRO SNOW, have carefully constructed a statement that will be presented to the UN in Paris from the winter sports industry. The goal is to gain as many signatories to this letter as possible before the Paris conference begins.
By electronically signing this letter to the UN, you will be joining a strong international coalition of the winter sports community to push our world leaders towards acting on climate change.
Please take one minute of your time to read and sign the letter as an individual or on behalf of your organisation or business.
If you have any further questions about I AM PRO SNOW, The Climate Reality Project or the letter, please do not hesitate to contact Talya Tavor at email@example.com.
I’ll leave you with this:
“Our economic model is at war with life on Earth. We can’t change the laws of nature, but we can change our broken economy. And that’s why climate change isn’t just a disaster. It’s also our best chance to demand—and build—a better world. Change or be changed. But make no mistake, this changes everything.” – Naomi Klein, ‘This Changes Everything’ “
I used to hate backflips and in turn it made me a lot less keen on trampolines. I don’t think this was a problem when I was younger, trampoline time during gymnastics used to be the best part of the session.
I think it all boils down to one afternoon in my friends backyard around the age of thirteen when I tried to huck a backflip and landed on my face. I’ve always been a stubborn one and when I decide not to do something, only I can take it back. – When I was around four or five years old I scraped my knees trying to ride a bike without training wheels, it wasn’t until the age of sixteen that I decided I wanted to give biking a go again….. I think the term is stubborn as a mule?
I think the whole ‘upside down’ thing went from being a bad day on a trampoline and transformed into a fear that stuck it’s heels in and refused to let go. Even when I started landing them on trampolines the thought of doing them on skis made me want to be sick despite the burning desire I had to fly upside off a jump – everyone told me how incredible it felt.
Finally, after a lot of hard work and anxiety in my stomach, backflips don’t feel like a chore. I love them, I feel like I am floating when I do them, the whole world is spinning but I know exactly where I am.
I know it seems silly to get so sentimental about such an unimportant little speck in the scheme of life but for me it signifies so much more. It’s years of patience, learning and gaining experience to trust myself, to let got and just do it rather than over thinking. Going upside is awesome. I <3 Trampolines…… Now I just need some soft snow and a kicker to really get things started….. watch this space.
It’s been raining a lot lately. The other day I woke up and in my grogginess thought it was winter and that it had just snowed. When I looked out the window and felt the temperature I was jolted back to reality. It’s the middle of summer and that heavy rain falling down.
After two months of summer I’m starting to pine for cold days, snowfall and skiing. I miss skiing, I miss the floaty feeling, going fast and jumping off things while not fearing for my life like I did yesterday while trying to mountain bike.
When I first arrived in the Alps this summer a little part of me had a secret goal to try and ski every month of the year. However, with the warm temps and my plans to head to New Zealand on my home having fallen through, I have only realised that this little goal may have to wait for another time.
This did, however, leave me to reminisce about my last summer skiing adventure, where Heather, Rich and I managed to bridge a ski trip over June and July.
I woke up groggy on the couch, after working until the early hours of the morning I snuck into Heather’s place for small nap before waking up around 5:30am up to head to Italy.
6:30am – We’re running a little behind schedule, partly due to my tiredness and other small factors. Car is getting packed with skis, glacier kit and extra gear, just in case.
Sometime around 8-9:00am – Arrived at the carpark of Cervina. Were excited to see other skiers until we realised they were going to ski at the resort and not ski tour up mountains and glaciers. After some mismatching of gear, giggles about skiing when it was so warm and finally gearing up we jumped in the lift and put our skins on.
11:00am– Important moment at the refuge involving me cleaning the chocolate milk that leaked through my backpack, that managed to inundate my avalanche rescue gear, eating creamy pastries, buying lunch and sipping coffees. Left with a cleaner bag and full stomachs towards Kleine Matterhorn, dodging alpine racers and park rats. After making it to the top we slipped off to the side towards Breithorn.
12pm- Starting to feel the altitude as we skin out of the resort towards Breithorn (4100m). There are lots of mountaineering parties but no one else has skis. Feel a little outnumbered here.
Sometime early afternoon – On top of Breithorn. What a view, the Matterhorn lurks just to the left, while Pollux and Castor, our goals for tomorrow stare us straight in the eye to the right.
Slogging up wet snow for an hour at altitude was worth it. The corn and smoo that we skied to the bergschrund was just what the doctor ordered for this ski-sick little girl. I only wish that it was longer! However, that wasn’t the end of the day.
Our game plan was to ski Breithorn and descend down to the Rifugio Guide della Val D’Ayas. On paper it seemed simple enough. Descend from Breithorn, keep on going, traverse across the glacier and then make your way to the hut. Yes simple on paper but sketchy on wet, summer snow.
It began ok but after a few soggy crevasse lips we began to realise that and earlier descent would have put us in much better stead for a safe descent. The consistent calving on the lower flanks of the glacier only heightened our feelings of anxiety.
After several hours and too many crossings we made it to the final traverse to the hut, the crux of our descent.
After a good refuel, a beautiful sunset and a sleep we were ready for the next day. Unfortunately were decided not push forward with our plan to attempt both Pollux and Castor in the same day as a result of the poor conditions on Castor and the exponential warming that we had experienced during the day- we still need to make it home before the close of the lifts.
Woke up to an incredible sunrise and a cracking morning. After an interesting breakfast of dry bread and nutella (not sufficient for this ladies breakfast needs), we started back up towards Pollux.
I knew that the route up to Pollux involved a little more rock climbing in ski boots than I was used to but halfway up when the route turned to straight rock, my skis and I started shaking in our boots.
However, with a strong leader we make it up, albeit slightly awkwardly with our skis, to the top of the rock route, ready to attack the snowy ridge to the summit.
We made it to the summit around noon and despite concerns that the snow may have already transformed, we found the opposite on the descent. One could almost call the top section boilerplate (really icy). Nevertheless with was a super fun, steep descent with just a few creamy turns at the bottom.
To date, these two days were some of the best I have spent in Europe this summer. We had a great crew, a super interesting route planned and two fun descents. It’s crazy how much you can learn in two days but spending the time on the glacier like this helped me to consolidate so many things I have learnt over the past three years. I can’t wait for winter!!
“What lured him on was of course, the great adventure, the eternal longing of every truly creative man to push on into unexplored country, to discover something entirely new- if only about himself. ”
– Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider
These days to find unexplored, unknown country is quite rare, if not impossible. Finding the uncomfort zone, however, is not so difficult. For me there is always something about the unknown that is slightly disagreeable- sometimes just not knowing will make me cringe. Nevertheless and despite loving all things pleasant, I’m a big believer in the ‘uncomfort zone’. Yes I know, it’s a made up phrase but you get the point. It’s the place where you stop feeling comfortable and start feeling uncomfortable, challenged and at times slightly awkward. It’s here that I have always learnt new things about myself, about others and gained a true respect and love for life.
Earlier this year I made a big decision, which for most could seem trivial but from my perspective, it felt like I had decided to start living upside down. For the majority of my adult life I have literally been chasing winter. My focus has been skiing; earning money to ski and getting fit to ski. Other things like future careers, hobbies and sports outside of skiing have slowly but surely ended up on the wayside.
However, this year, for a multitude of reasons, including feeling totally and utterly burnt out doing one of the things I love most in the world, I decided to step out of the wintery comfort zone and try some warmer temps on for size.
So this summer I moved to Chamonix, France.
Living here for the last two months has been incredible but I would be lying if I didn’t admit how often I have been in the ‘uncomfort zone’ since the beginning of June. Luckily I have met some generous souls along the way, who have agreed to hold my hand and explore the mountains with me.
For instance, in my first week here, the lovely Heather Swift, without hesitation took me up the Aiguille du Midi for my first mountaineering route.
She cooed calming thoughts to me as we descended the Midi arete, which in ski boots seems absolutely manageable but in normal boots and crampons felt death-defying; was patient anytime I was scared and then walked me through the idea of trying to rock climb with my crampons on. Without her, I would have spent most of the summer staring up at the Midi, wondering what the temperature was like up there.
I guess you could say that this first climb was a slippery slope to addiction. I have spent all of June and a large part of July mincing around on rocks. Like I said before, it hasn’t been an easy transition. I’m often scared on routes, especially by the height and exposure, I get disco leg more often than not, which usually ends up with me talking to myself.
Unlike skiing where many things come naturally to me, I feel like I am constantly working hard just to get the small things right. But I guess that’s the point right? It’s in this unexplored territory, away from our cocoons of comfort that we discover a new and better understanding of ourselves…….or at least a great love for good quality climbing equipment and well planned trips.
I’ve got another two months of summer ahead of me, so who knows what other new, uncomfortable places I’ll explore. In the meantime, here are some places I have already been.
“Do or do not, there is no try.”
This is just one of the Star Wars quotes that circulate around competition venues at Freeride World Qualifier events of late. This is most likely as a result of the lovely Evelina Nilsson a Star Wars obsessed, ripping female skier who I have had the pleasure of competing with a lot this season.
I actually asked Evelina to remind me of the this quote while we were standing on top of Mt Gond last weekend, before dropping into our finals run for Nendaz Freeride FWQ 4*. In some ways it’s a strange thing to ask, usually at this time one should be focusing on their drop in zone and the run ahead. But for me these little snippets of advice and support have helped me to get out of a competition funk this winter.
It’s hard to make a generalised statement about camaraderie in women’s action sports, as I have only had a limited experience with big mountain skiing, and even then I have experienced a whole range of personalities and attitudes. There is one thing that I can say for sure is that over the past few years of competing, it is the other female competitors who have supported me, inspired me and at times greatly challenged me to progress and push myself further.
I used to think a lot differently about this and would have readily gone to a guy for advice over another female competitor. Nowadays, if I am worried about the take-off or landing of a cliff, the snow conditions in an area- I go and ask the girls. For sure, not everyone wants to discuss where they are going to ski in a competition at great length, for some it’s part of their strategy at certain events but over this year I have found that for most it can be reassuring and informative to discuss the competition venue with your fellow rivals.
I think my desire to gain advice from my male counterparts in the past was because I wanted to ski harder and better, which at the time for me meant ‘skiing like a boy’. Over the last few years the level of women’s freeride skiing in general, as well as in competition has flourished. In my personal opinion I believe that a lot of this has to do with a paradigm shift , female riders in our sport are choosing not to be compared to male skiers but rather recognising themselves as strong female athletes in their own right.
Girls ski differently to boys, we are built differently and the exciting part about that is that our progression is going to take a different path and will uncover different styles and ways of skiing down the mountain. I mean, freeride skiing would be pretty boring if the aim was just to jump of the biggest cliff on the venue.
So I’ll leave it there, I am sure there is a lot more to be said on this topic but for me- I am just stoked on competing with such as interesting, diverse and ripping group of women who are challenging each other and I can’t wait to see where our sport is going to head next.
I guess there is just one more thing, a big thanks to all the organisations, events, brands and individuals at our events (including the judges and event organisers), who give us the opportunity and support to be the best riders we can.
My favourite part of competitions is turning them into adventures. The nature of freeride competition circuits works well with this desire. Where else will you find yourself travelling all over Europe, on a tight budget to all kinds of mountain ranges?
There is a quote by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, that goes along the lines of, “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts”.
I am guilty of overusing the word adventure, maybe because I love the idea of making the most of things and an adventure is the best way to use time- even when everything goes wrong!
If you use this definition of the word, I can’t fully classify our road trip to Slovakia as an adventure, because not everything went wrong. However, there were some road blocks along the way that required some serious creative and positive thinking.
It all started in Innsbruck. I was picked up by the amazing Arianni Tricomi and Maria Kuzma, in a car that would suit a pack of gangsters far more than us three freeriders. I mean this in the nicest and most complimentary sense- I was travelling in style!
The drive from Innsbruck to Jasna was fairly uneventful, we made it to Bratislava under the cover of a starry night and spent the majority of our drive through Slovakia trying to picture the surroundings through our sense of smell. From what I could figure, there were a lot of factories around the road and some very nice pine forests closer to the mountains.
After arriving at Jasna, we got settled at the Hotel Ostredok and prepared ourselves for face check the next day. We were all smiles on our way up the mountain the next day- who wouldn’t be? It’s not often you get to ride a chairlift in Slovakia……But our amusement was quickly dashed when we found ourselves surrounded by fog after the first two chairlifts. After getting lost we finally made it to the face, although we didn’t find much more than the previous runs- fog.
Following a coffee and some smack talk about a Tinder app connected to avalanche beacons, we abandoned face check and took some laps on the lower mountain.
I was surprised how fun the mellow tree runs were. There was a mix of fresh, condensed snow and slush but it was perfect for macking through the trees on each others tails. It reminded me a lot of skiing in Australia- minus the snow gums.
That evening, Evelina Nilsson and I presented PURE at the Hotel and despite having seen it over ten times now, I never get tired of it- it always manages to inspire me.
The next morning I woke up to more fog but by the end of breakfast we could see all the way to the top of the resort. On arrival to the competition venue, we found this (minus the blue sky).
Despite some icy layers on the top of the venue and a fair bit of rime, the snow on the face looked good. After a nice, long face inspection the first riders dropped into what looked like some sweet, sweet Slovakian pow turns.
Unfortunately, the weather is a cruel mistress and just before the halfway mark of the competition, the fog began to rise and engulf the venue. There is nothing worse than waiting to drop, especially when the competition goes on hold. You sit there, trying not to loose your excited, nervous energy but stressing because you are becoming less positive and more depressed about the swirling fog. Everyone deals with it differently.
My optimism had no effect on the weather. Finally at 4pm we skied down, giggling, because it was so hard to see in the thick mass of clouds.
I could go on to explain the rest of the competition but to be brief, it continued on at the same pattern. Early mornings, positive attitudes, thick fog, lots of coffee and hands of gin and unfortunately a cancelled event. On Sunday when they made the call, the weather was only going to get worse. They did however manage to run over two thirds of the mens snowboard category, which by definition of the rules, means that the results of that category count.
While frustrating for many, I was stoked for the event organisers. After having investing so much in this event (which had previously been a 3-star), it was nice to have some kind of prize giving ceremony. A big thank-you to Jasna Adrenalin for putting so much effort into trying to ride a sweet freeride event in Slovakia- I hope that next year the weather gets in line!
While I enjoyed our little ‘adventure’ to Slovakia, our crew gangsters were ready for some skiing. After the prize giving ceremony, with Tori Beattie in tow, we hot-tailed it back to Innsbruck for what we hoped to be a pow day the following morning.
At Axamer Lizum the next day we found some pow- but once again no visibility. I still had fun, got some snow in my face and chuckled with friends.
…And then the adventure was over before it started. Tori and I packed our bags and after a few very confusing Facebook conversations, met Moby Dick (a white van commanded by Beranger, Cedric and Dion) and began the drive home to Verbier.
Moby Dick was a trusty stead and over the week successful transferred a range of judges, freeriders and spectators safely from Verbier to Jasna and back. The final leg of the journey was no different. After leaving Innsbruck, we slept in St Anton where we found over 20cms of fresh on the ground, with more to come. It was hard to wake up in the morning to what we knew would be an epic pow day but home was calling and after a big breakfast and a glance at the powdery slopes we were homeward bound to Switzerland.
And so ended the carless road trip. I’m back home in Verbier, rested and ready to go for the next string of Freeride World Qualifiers. Big thanks, as always, to everyone who let me drive with them, housed me and delivered such great company in the mountains and at home. Until next time!