Young Explorer Grant: National Geographic

It’s funny- sometimes the moments in time that you dread and hate, are the ones that are the most important.

A little speckle of advice I just found on FB

A little speckle of advice I just found on FB

Last year I spent over eight months on the couch, rehabbing my knee and wishing that I was skiing. While I was angry at the time, I also got a lot done.

I spent hours working with Chicks with Stix on their new website and working with Zoe Jaboor and Lorraine Lock to help make the 2013 program happen. In that time as a team we raised over $11k for the program and ran five successful free workshops for female skiers and snowboarders who wanted to progress their freeride skills.

I also spent months, along with the rest of the Shifting Ice team, writing and re-writing pitches and grants to make our expedition to Greenland a possibility.

Shifting Ice and Changing Tides

The Shifting Ice and Changing Tides team

For me, those were some of the most important hours I spent in 2013. As a result, our team were able to raise enough support and funds to not only turn our pipe dream into an expedition but also to help fund the post production for any media that we do bring back.

Part of this due to a very exciting grant that I am honoured to have received. Every year, National Geographic award a group of under twenty five year olds with a grant to help them to make projects like Shifting Ice and Changing Tides a reality. In their words:

“An initial grant from National Geographic helped launch the careers of many of the Society’s, and our planet’s, most renowned explorers. We are committed—as we have been for more than a century—to supporting new generations of archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, conservationists, ecologists, geographers, geologists, marine scientists, adventurers, storytellers, and pioneers.”

It’s hard to put into words how excited and grateful I am to have received a Young Explorer’s Grant and to be working with an organisation like National Geographic as a grantee.

Instead of trying to explain this, I thought instead that I would share part of my application- my short. The aim was to introduce myself and why our expedition is so important to me. I was travelling around Europe at the time and did my best sans make-up artist… I was going for the authentic ski bum look.

My knee was operated on 12 months ago yesterday. Going into surgery last March I had no expectations that I would be where I am right now. We’re leaving for Greenland in nine days. Over the last week I have been doing training hikes without my knee brace and sometimes even skiing without it.

Hiking Glory Bowl on Teton Pass this week.Photo: SheJumps, Rachael Reich

Hiking Glory Bowl on Teton Pass this week.
Photo: SheJumps, Rachael Reich

This whole experience has taught me a huge lesson- despite how lost and depressed you feel, some things happen for a reason, not to hold you back but to give you time to grow.

Andorra FWQ

One of the reasons I choose to compete is to travel. Exploring new places and meeting new people is easily one of the most important things in my life outside of family, friends and skiing.

Big mountain skiing events can be brutal, frustrating and most of the time competitions don’t go your way. You have one run to send your line, stomp your cliffs and avoid falling over. It sounds simple but being a judged sport, even of you do everything ‘right’ in your mind, if the judges don’t see it- then you’re no better off than before you dropped in.

When I look back on past competitions it’s easy to be bummed out when I didn’t compete well. I guess that is where the travel aspect comes in. No matter how badly you do in a competition, if you’re somewhere new and fantastic- it’s hard to be upset.

I guess that was the story for me in Andorra.

Last month, after being on the road for nearly 2 months, I flew into Barcelona to meet Tone Ansnes- big mountain badass from Norway. We rented a car from the airport, hooked Tone’s TOMTOM in and away went through fields, mountains and some of the most gorgeous little towns I have ever seen to Andorra.

Driving through the spanish countryside.

Driving through the Catalonian countryside.

Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe and is made up mainly of mountainous terrain (as it is situated smack bang in the middle of the Pyrenees).

The El Dorado Freeride comp is true to it’s name- ‘El Dorado’ being spanish for the ‘golden one’ and a reference to a mythical lost city full of gold. For me this event was so far the highlight of my competitive season and ironically not due to the results I walked away with.

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After arriving in at our little hotel in Sispony, Tone and I set straight to finding dinner and preparing for a day full of venue inspection. Unfortunately the weather didn’t feel like cooperating with us. After a few hours of staring into the white void and a few interesting runs of crusty snow, Tone and I retired to our room to watch the Olympics and chow down on southern european delicacies.

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The semi-finals comp face in colour.

When we finally got to see the face in true daylight and after rearranging my line, I felt almost ready to go. One of my main aims this winter was not to ski a strategic line to win but to choose a more difficult line and try to stomp it. Fluidity is key in big mountain competitions and one of the hardest parts about stepping up your line is keeping the flow in your run- if you choose to jump off a bigger cliff or ski a more technical line, it’s easy to slow down.

So as we hiked up to the face, all that was in my mind was -don’t slow down. I had chosen a little goat line through one of the upper, middle chutes and a double out the bottom. I was worried I would get caught up at the beginning, so I spent minutes visualising a speedy wiggle through. As always, once i made it to the top, everything changed.

At the top scoping lines with the ladies.

At the top scoping lines with the ladies.

The snow was a lot more sugary than expected and my line was tighter than I realized, however, after some convincing done myself and Tone I clicked my skis on and got ready to send.

This is what it looked like.

If you can’t see the video, let’s just say everything went really well until the end. I sent the top, speed down the flats, tokyo drifting as I went and nailed the double……until I hit a compression on the out run and went down like a big bag of potatoes.

About to ski into the rocky, goaty part of my top section

About to ski into the rocky, goaty part of my top section

And now we get to the meat of it. I was bummed out, frustrated and had a compressed knee to boot. It wasn’t the best line I had ever skied but it was probably the fastest and most in control I had ever skied in a comp, to be taken down by over shooting my landing in the wrong direction was gutting- especially because I landed it.

But isn’t that how we always feel?

It would have been very easy to ski home, get back to the room and sulk but like usual the freeride community is a pretty rad one and usually feelings of failure are met by a big wall of hugs, positivity and in this case a very big pot of fondue.

Mmmmm communal fondue

Mmmmm communal fondue

Like I said in a post awhile ago, I can’t be angry that I crashed at the bottom of my run. I am so happy to be here, I’m so stoked to be skiing and be surrounded by such a sick, crazy community.

Travelling to new places with that community has been one of funnest parts of the last four years on the FWQ and FWT circuits. Especially when the resorts and organisers are as welcoming, helpful and rad as the crew were from El Dorado and Vallnord.

After a belly full of cheese, a trip to the doctor (my knee is fine) and a very short period of time sulking in the bathroom (it happens no matter what), I pulled myself together and got ready to watch my roomy Tone take on finals.

Twins! To

Twins! Tone just couldn’t help copying me, same colours, same skis, same boots.

Heli accessed finals venue

Heli accessed finals venue

Tone took one for the team- one of us had to be on the podium..... 3rd place bitches!

Tone took one for the team- one of us had to be on the podium….. 3rd place bitches!

We treated ourselves to a little Barcelona time on the way back to Geneva.

We treated ourselves to a little Barcelona time on the way back to Geneva.

No big lessons were learnt while I was in Andorra but theories we solidified. Including that:

- skiing is super rad

- skiing fast is just a mindset

- my new katana v-werks have a mind or their own….seriously

- my knee can take big impacts but it prefers not to

and

- the best way to cure competition lows is eating a MASSIVE plate of paella served with white wine by the beach

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Shifting Ice and Changing Tides

ShiftingIce-logo-final

If you’re follow my adventures on social media, you’ve most likely spotted this logo along my feed sometime in the last few months. As yet, I haven’t gone very far to talk about the project online, outside of directing friends to the Shifting Ice and Changing Tides website. However, the story behind this expedition runs a little deeper than you would be able to grasp on our website and I thought it was about time to share it.

It started here somewhere between the age of five and seven:

Speedy Downhill racer

Speedy Downhill racer at Mt Buller, Australia

I loved one piece ski suits, pink accessories and my straight Atomic skis. At the time I didn’t like skiing in the rain, I hated leaving the house unless my mittens were tucked properly into my ski suit and I was forever chasing my older sister Anna down the mountain. Most importantly, I had the bug, the skiing bug and twenty years on not much has changed.

One of the most important things that has remained the same was my curiosity, I believe that is what led me to spend a winter overseas skiing, which in turn transformed me into a freerider and then a competitive big mountain skier. I wanted to know what was beyond horizons that I couldn’t see past; I wanted to feel what it was like to burn down a mountain as fast as the skiers on the ski movies we watched as teenagers but most importantly- I wanted to see if I had what it takes to get there.

Vallee Blanche

My first run down a glacier in 2008 (La Vallee Blanche)- I was dumbstruck and unable to fathom what I was seeing.

After five years of letting my curiosity follow a daydream of becoming a professional big mountain skier, I’m slowly but surely reaching that goal- it’s now more of a reality than a daydream. Shifting Ice and Changing Tides started in a fairly similar way.

Women skier riding down next to Albert Ice Fall in the Selkirk mountains.

From little things, big things grow. I went from pointing at glaciers to shredding down them. Photo: Emily Polar

“Shifting Ice and Changing Tides is a human and wind powered, female led, ski and sail expedition to the west coast of Greenland. In this remote, fascinating and beautiful region, we will explore and ski first descents while limiting our environmental footprint by sailing and climbing. The expedition will serve as a platform for raising awareness about climate change and environmental issues as well as for inspiring and promoting female participation in snow sports adventures.”

Sometime around December of 2012, Meghan Kelly sent myself and several other female athletes who had taken part in the SheJumps Finishing School an email about applying for the Polartec Challenge Grant. An eager group of us responded and over a casual skype call we brainstormed ideas of all-female first descent in Bolivia, Iceland, Antarctica and Africa. The main theme of the discussion was our mutual interest in taking our skills and abilities outside of their usual comfort zones in the hopes of progressing ourselves and in turn, the female side of our sport. They were big goals and from the interior of Pip Hunt’s kitchen nearly a year and a half ago they seemed a long way off.

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Down-trou at the SheJumps Alpine Finishing School at Selkirk Lodge, 2012

Two months after our skype call, several months before we charted La Louise to take us from Iceland to Greenland, a month after we had convinced Martha Hunt (Pip’s mum who is both a master yachtsman and a lead catski guide) to join us and around a week after we received the news that we had been awarded a Polartec Challenge Grant- reality set in. By then we were set on sailing to Greenland and skiing first descents, we were sure that people would be excited about the project but we had no idea what to do next. We were floating somewhere between pursuing our curiosity and falling off the side of a dream.

At this time the Shifting Ice team was five strong, including Meghan Kelly, Pip Hunt, Martha Hunt, Mckenna Peterson and myself. We set to work and over the last year, we have transformed a vague ski trip concept into an elegant, interesting expedition that will be full of first descents, open water sailing passages and hopefully no polar bears. Over the last few months we have had the pleasure of welcoming a new addition to the team- Andy Bardon, who will be our photographer during the expedition and several amazing sponsors and partners who are helping to make this trip a reality. You can learn more about the team and our sponsors here.

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The Shifting Ice and Changing Tides crew minus our photographer- Andy Bardon-who got stuck with the job of taking the picture.

One of the most difficult aspects of organising this project has been pinpointing exactly what we hope to achieve as a result of the expedition. Some were clear, our goals are to explore never before skied terrain, to be successful in opening new lines and skiing first descents and to inspire women in the ski community through our actions.

However, we felt something was missing. In part through the inspiration of James Balog’s film Chasing Ice and partly through our own interest in the topic, we decided make bringing awareness to the effects of climate change on the Arctic region and the way in which it impacts both the ski and the global community a major focus for the expedition.

80% of Greenland is covered by a giant ice sheet, which in recent years has been melting at a rate five times more than the mid-1990s due to climate change. This melting process releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which had been frozen in the ice, into the atmosphere, as well as contributing 50 billion metric tons of water to the global sea level each year.

Glacier calving in Greenland

Glacier calving in Greenland

In order to bring awareness to this issue we will be documenting the expedition through both photo and film, which we share through online and in print media after the end of the trip. We have also partnered with the Climate Reality Project and Adventurers and Scientist for Conservation. With their support, we hope to motivate snow sports enthusiasts to approach the sport in a new way by promoting climate awareness and change towards sustainable development. ASC have also put us in contact with several different research project, for whom we will be collecting data and samples over the three weeks we are at sea. You can read more about these research projects here.

And there is the story. We leave for Iceland in one month. There is still a lot to do, including raising $10,000 on Indiegogo, which will go towards funding the final part of our trip (our travel and the boat charter. If you’re interested in supporting the trip, check out our fundraiser here or to just learn more, you can watch our campaign video below.

Patience is a virtue

It's never a real photoshoot unless you're hiking

It’s never a real photoshoot unless you’re hiking

Photos by Melody Sky

The european alps had a fairly tough start to the season. When I first arrived from the US at the beginning of January the mountains were in need of a few good meters of stable, sexy snow. Slowly but surely the winter has been returning to the alps but it hasn’t been without high avalanche danger and some very serious slides.

So far I have chosen to stay on the more mellow side of things and despite not getting into the gnarliest of lines, I’ve skied some incredible snow in both Switzerland and France. Being patient is sometimes the best option.

On Monday, I was stoked to finally ski one of my favourite runs in Verbier- the backside of Mont-Fort. After getting off the Mont- Fort lift, you can drop off the backside, where luscious, open couloirs await. Before Monday, the weather and the avalanche conditions hadn’t quite made it possible for me to ski the backside but Monday was the perfect day.

Dropping into a face full of pow

Dropping into a face full of pow

On Monday morning, equipped with a photographer (Melody Sky) and a gaggle of babes (Hanna Fisher, Anna Smoothy and myself)- we ventured upwards in search of pow and scenic views.

What a rad crew

What a rad crew

It was a slow start, which involved coffee and a second breakfast on my part, but after warming up on the sunny side of the mountain we snapped up a token male to join the ladies (snowboarder Jeremy Migilaccio) and proceeded tout droit to the top of Mont-Fort.

Mmm

Mmm

It’s not everyday that you get to pretend that you’re a hero but when there is hero snow aplenty- you’ve just gotta stick your face right in. Check out Melody’s blog to see more shots.

Airtime on the backside of Mont-Fort, Verbier

Airtime on the backside of Mont-Fort, Verbier

Thanks Melody, Anna, Hanna and Jeremy for such a fun day!

Engadinsnow

I’ve been back in Europe for the last two weeks. After spending a mammoth 14 days shooting with Shades of Winter in Japan, all I wanted to do was sleep. Several members of the film crew had come down with a horrible man flu and I was lucky enough to bring it home with me. I tried to stay in bed….well that is until it snowed…. I just couldn’t help myself.

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Sam Lee and I in Verbier after a successful day hunting powder. Photo: Mike Handford

After two glorious pow days it was game time- my first comp for the season- Engadinsnow in St Moritz.

I was lucky enough to be in the company of two mad lady shredders- Claire McGregor and Anna Smoothy. The name of the game was fun and there was only one way to win- be incredible awesome. Some of our games included decorating Claire’s entire dashboard with miniature origami cranes, another was the humming game- where one person hums a song and their team mate needs to guess it (we were very bad at this one). However by far my favourite game was listening to books on tape from Anna’s Childhood. If you ever need something to spice up your road trip- I recommend this… BadJelly the witch!

The giraffe and pelly and me

The giraffe and pelly and me

Despite only having been back on snow for 2.5 months, I felt strangely ready to go stomp a comp line. I was feeling on the weaker side because of my cold and thoroughly nervous but I made a pact with my fellow competitors- this competition was all about fun.

The team motto.

The team motto.

Pow competitions are the thing of dreams, so turning up to St Moritz with nearly 1m of fresh on the ground made me feel like I was in paradise. After spending Wednesday morning making sure the snow was ‘good’, we headed to scope our lines for Thursday’s competition.

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Thursday was glorious- the best bluebird, powder day anyone could ask for. As per usual I was too nervous to ski a lot before the comp so after scoping my line and taking some warm up turns we went in for snacks and down time.

I picked a line through the centre of the face, mainly because it had a beautiful 5m cliff, which you sent into exposure and then popped out a couloir.

At 3pm when I finally dropped in 94th through the start gate, unlike usual, I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated. This could have been because of my cold that I was just getting over, it may have been because of the tracked face- who knows but mentally I made a decision and didn’t charge as hard as usual. However, I skied my line fluidly and stomped my cliffs. First comp down- that’s something to celebrate. I’ve always enjoyed picking lines around one or two main features and while the judges didn’t score the line very highly, sending a 5m cliff into pow above a 20m cliff felt pretty rad to me.

In celebration of a beautiful day and an even more inspiring sunset, Anna Smoothy and I did one thing that only true recruits of the down-trou crew would know how to do- we skied 1000ft of vertical pow goodness with no pants on, as the sun was setting no less. You may call it crazy, you may call it attention seeking- we call it freedom, freedom of the down-trou.

On this trip- we were all winners.

Photo by Claire McGregor

Photo by Claire McGregor

Next stop is Morgins in Switzerland and the 4* FWQ in Andorra- which I am particularly excited about!

 

 

Winter so far

Winter began with a bang this year. One minute I was in Melbourne, sipping lattes and baking cookies with the kids I babysit, and the next I was meandering along Moose Wilson Road towards Jackson Hole Ski Resort underneath the fall colours.

The Teton Range looking moody

The Teton Range looking moody

Unlike previous years, there was a faint sense of apprehension running through my mind. As my first day skiing quickly approached, I felt less and less sure that I knew how to buckle my boots, let alone ski.

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I found myself in Aspen for opening weekend and with fresh groomers and a huge Strafe posse. At the start I was hesitant, unsure that my new knee would hold but after three turns the old rhythm came back, I had nothing to worry about. By the end of the day the belief that I would not know how to ski was far from my mind, I was nowhere near normal but I was skiing and that all that mattered.

Next stop was Breckenridge. And as usual, my big mountain was fluro beacon in the crowd. Between my fluro orange goggles and my short turn drills I felt very out of place. There was only one thing to do- post up on a wooden balcony for a impromptu photo shoot.  When you are feeling out of place, my best advice is to make cougar impressions in very public places with a group of girls egging you on. You will never feel self-conscious again.

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Over the next two weeks my skiing progressed slowly but surely. I had new goals set everyday. I went from easy groomers, to steep ones, mellow turns, to top to bottom short turns down the steeps. It was fairly low-tide off the groomers but that didn’t stop me going on a few little hikes up the fresh corduroy. After awhile, my sister’s coach Tori got jealous and had to join me. Nothing like a suns out guns out ski tour up the middle of Breckenridge on Thanksgiving.

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Then all of a sudden, I was on the road again. Little Toothless and I woke up early and booked it back to Jackson Hole for the opening of the resort. There is nothing like the rolling into Wyoming to be greeted by the sunset.

Thus begun the real start to the winter. Moving up to the steeps of Jackson took a few days of getting used to but as the new terrain started to open and I was skiing harder and harder runs my body felt happy and my knee slowly but surely decided to get with the program.

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After the first few week or two following the opening of a resort, the runs you have been skiing become tiresome. In order to combat the boredom, I began to play rounds of race the Jackson Hole tram, in which the aim is to beat the tram to the bottom of the resort. Between the buffed snow in Rendezvous bowl, airing moguls down Cheyenne bowl and finishing it with fast and sketchy Tokyo drift down to the bottom of the tram- there is never a dull moment.

After a week or so, the snow finally arrived and most of the rocks were slowly but surely covered and it was time to get outside the resort boundaries.

A little rock scramble up the side of Cody Peak

A little rock scramble up the side of Cody Peak

Mini ski-mo moves

Mini ski-mo moves

Ben on top of Cody Peak- it was a windy one!

Ben on top of Cody Peak- it was a windy one!

Billy heading down No Shadows

Billy heading down No Shadows

And then it was already 2014. I spent New Year’s Day along the ridges of Green River and Pinedale where our hiking efforts were rewarded we knee-deep, thick, creamy powder snow. I don’t believe that there is any better way to ring in the new year than a whole lot of snow!

Shameless ridge top selfie- you've gotta do something while you're friends are skiing

Shameless ridge top selfie- you’ve gotta do something while you’re friends are skiing

Hiking on Teton PassPhoto: Jay Goodrich

Hiking on Teton Pass
Photo: Jay Goodrich

Teton Pass with Jay Goodrich

Teton Pass with Jay Goodrich

I’m now in Europe, where I have spent the last two weeks exploring one of my favourite valleys in the world- Chamonix. More updates will follow :)

 

 

The Road to Recovery

I’ve been trying to write a blog for the last month about returning to skiing, to give an update on my progress and explain how the process has been feeling. It’s hard to put into words because a lot of the things I have felt, whether frustrating or amazing, have been so fleeting to the point that it is difficult to pin them down.

The only thing that is leftover at the end of every day is how happy I am to be back where I feel that I belong, in a community that I can relate to, who I feel connected to. The sport of skiing is my biggest passion but it is far outweighed by my love for sharing adventures in the mountains with my friends.

I just watched this webisode about Marja Persson’s road to recovery and it inspired me to finally write this post. It put things into perspective.

The event in which Marja injured her pelvis was the first big mountain competition where I managed to qualify for finals. I remember standing at the top of the Kirkwood Cirque watching as she dropped in, feeling both petrified and amazed that I was competing with a group of women who I looked up to as role models.

It’s only now that I can reflect on that moment and realise that I never fully understood how difficult injuries were to overcome until I suffered one myself- and I believe that I got off lightly.

Once again I find myself so inspired by how strong the human will can be. Whether it’s watching the story of Marja’s two year battle to get back on snow or countless other skiers who, without fail, fight back from injuries and that’s only talking about the ski world.

So to give a quick update on how I’m doing, I’m feeling great. After being back on snow for close to a month, I still have a lot of things to work on and progress up to but I believe I can get there. As Marja said, “one has to stay naive and believe that it will work.”

 

 

 

Jackson Hole 2013-14

Jackson

I’m more excited than ever to head back to Jackson Hole in two weeks. I spent all my down time there skiing, exploring and getting ready for the comp season last year and I can’t wait to do it all again this year. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to call this place my home base for the northern winter. Winter is coming!

As the days fly by.

The view of Melbourne and the bay from the Dandenong Ranges

The view of Melbourne and the bay from the Dandenong Ranges

The last few weeks have been flying by. As of today I have 26 days left in Australia until I head overseas for what looks like will be around six months. I feel like it was only yesterday that I was stuck in bed counting down the minutes until November. I could say that time flies when you’re having fun but I would be slightly incorrect as the last few months haven’t been all fun. There have been a few bumps but thanks to awesome friends and a family that still put up with me, it has been a lot better than I expected.

For the last few months I've had the pleasure of being a nanny for three awesome kids. This is our rendition of a play-dough skate park

For the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of being a nanny for three awesome kids. This is our rendition of a play-dough skate pa

Every process has its ups downs and by far one of the cool things about staying in Melbourne while rehabbing was that I have been able to explore a few really cool places that I have missed while I have been overseas skiing or that I have never been to!

Hiking on the beach with Mumma!

Hiking on the beach with Mumma Segal!

Sand Dunes on the coast

Sand Dunes on the coast

One of the most frustrating and ironically most rewarding experiences has been learning how to do simple and easy things again; learning how to walk after surgery, learning how to do squats again and doing my first set of burpees (I know it’s sadistic but if I can do burpees, I can do anything)! My physio can attest to my ridiculous level of excitement when learning new things. Such as the first time that I got to bounce on a mini tramp after surgery. After being bored out of my mind on a spin bike for three months jumping on that little tramp felt insane, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Hiking in the Dandenong Ranges with Charis + Kane with Melbourne in the background

Hiking in the Dandenong Ranges with Charis + Kane with Melbourne in the background

When I first hurt myself a lot of friends passed on the advice that in some ways injuries can be good. They may you slow down, think about what you are doing and rebuild a stronger version of yourself. I agree with all that but most specifically I think they help you to stop taking the little things, like your ability to pump out burpees, smash out pow turns and bounce of cliffs, for granted. Even walking without thinking can feel special.

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Generation Snow 2013

Photo by Chris Booth at Heavenly just before we skied the fire trail down to South Lake Tahoe.

Photo by Chris Booth at Heavenly just before we skied the fire trail down to South Lake Tahoe.

Last year I was invited to film with the crew from Generation Snow, an annual one hour television piece that focuses on Aussie and Kiwi athletes. The show aired earlier this year in August but I was at Mt Baw Baw with Chicks with Stix so I never got to watch it!

Luckily Mountainwatch.com have featured it on their blog! Check out the California segment I was featured in here!

It’s surreal to watch because this footage is from the last time I was on skis. Despite it being a little bittersweet, it’s nice to see that I was having fun up until I hurt myself, which I think is the most important part. Hoorah for bluebird shred days. Looking forward to some more of them this year!