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The expression "earning your turns" has taken on a renewed meaning to me; it has returned me to a time when snowboarding was simple, raw, and young. Some take the path of splitboarding to be more eco friendly to these mountains that we ride, while others do it to find the purity in the thing that controls our life. This past winter, a splitboard trip to a tiny, self-service backcountry hut in BC for the No Correct Way video took me back to the mid 90's when hiking Loveland Pass was the norm and the thought of snowmobiles did not yet exist in my mind. We put together a crew of strong riders who were completely inexperienced to this hike-your-ownlines, pack-into-a-tiny-hut type adventure, so the level of anticipation was both high and a bit fearful. Along for shred were Casey Neefus, John Foy, and John Makens. The arrival at the helipad was the first for a couple and not a norm for the rest. As we flew into the milky skies of the Purcell Mountain Range and winded up gullies and over peaks, the Mark Kingsbury International Hut, the small cabin that would become our home for the next five days, appeared. We unloaded the gear, food and supplies and watched the heli disappear back to civilization. We were alone. This is when if hit me that it was us getting tolerated by mother nature with no exit plan until the bird would come get us five days later, weather permitting. With no time to waste we loaded all the gear into the hut and got ready for our first tour to scout the area. For people that have dedicated their entire lives to finding their next turn standing sideways, stepping into two boards facing straight ahead, even if it is just to go forward and upward, is something I don't think I will ever fully become comfortable with. And what I was about to put my body through was something I also would soon find out I was not prepared. About six hours, three plus miles and a couple thousand vertical feet into the tour I stopped to catch my breath. I took a look around and realized where I was-alone in the middle of some massive mountains that were ours to ride if we had the man power to climb them. Over the course of the next five days we hiked around 15 miles, climbed nearly 15,000 vertical feet and watched patches of sun come in and out, often after sitting above a face for upwards of 90 minutes looking for that 60-second hole that would allow us to see the face and capture it through film and photography. The snow was less than perfect with a pretty solid crust layer covering most faces. There where pockets of good snow on north-facing slopes but finding it took heavy searching and a little bit of luck. The skies opened up and dropped about 12 inches of light snow upon us a couple days in that gave the trip some re-birth. It put temporary smiles on our faces but did not sit heavy enough to reload most of the steep pitches. The evenings and life in the hut is what made this truly a unique experience. With six guys in a hut of about 120 square feet, your personal space is not much more than a 3 ft x 6 ft section of the bunk that you can call your own while buried deep inside your sleeping bag. Ropes crisscrossed
from wall to wall as make-shift clothes lines to dry out our gear. Boots, gloves and skins hung on every possible hook to dry out over the wood burning stove and a propane stove boiling snow to make purified water was running for hours on end. The one thing we did not sacrifice is amazing food and plenty of it. We ate like kings and possibly better than I had eaten in months. Beer was rationed out like bread during wartime and heavy games of poker with Monopoly money went into the evening by lantern or headlamp. Bow and arrows where constructed from the woods, and hours of trying to shoot empty soldiers were spent on this alone. As we came upon Day 4 we realized that the rationing would have to extend to shit tickets as rolls where running low or empty. Walking the 100 feet through snow and scraping the ice of the toilet seat was an adventure in its own. The hut temperature would go from nearly 80 F when we fell asleep to about 35 F when we awoke. Being the first up meant you had to brave the cold and re-kindle the stove to pump the heat back into our bodies. When I look back on the trip, it was not about how gnarly somebody got or what lines the riders took that pushed them to the limits of what the mountains would allow. There was plenty of both, from Casey cart wheeling over a 20-foot face or Makens dropping 25 feet to pure ice and riding away. The trip was about much more. It was about getting back to the purity we all had when we started on this path in life. It was not about how many tricks or runs you could get but taking a step back to enjoy where we were. It was about the good times you can have with a crew of people that share the same love you have for sliding sideways down endless feet of vertical and not having to think about anyone else for 40 miles to beat you to your next line. I have been lucky enough to travel all around the world in search of snow and perfect conditions, all while using gas powered machines to get as much done in the shortest amount of time. In the end I would trade any one of those trips for another five days in 120 square-foot hut and my own body power to get me to the top of whatever face I choose as my next canvas for a couple turns standing sideways.
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