I've been blogging for the Dutch wePowder website for a couple of years now, and will start to blog in English now as well. To introduce myself a little, I'll tell you a bit about my history and what it's like to be chasing snow for a Dutch guy. Coming from a country with absolutely no mountains at all, it can be kind of challenging to pursue your dream of living in the mountains. Although it's been a struggle sometimes, that's exactly what I've been doing for the past 5 years. And I hope to do so many more.
It all started about 5 years ago in 2008. I had just started university but soon after I had started I figured the education I picked just wasn't for me. I dropped out and started looking for something useful to do until the start of the following school year. It was just before winter and I had already been thinking about spending a winter in the Austrian Alps, even before I had started university. After reading into the possibilities I decided to go and work as a ski instructor in Austria for one season. At first I applied as a snowboard instructor, but non of the ski schools needed anymore board instructors. They all asked for ski instructors. And so I took a job in Ischgl, as a ski instructor. Only for one season only though, because one gap year was more than enough I figured.
When I first arrived in St. Anton to do my ski instructor course at the age of 17, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. My mom dropped me off at my hotel room, said goodbye and went back home. Back then, I still thought it would only be for that one season and looking back, that's only a good thing I think. I would have most likely backed out of it if I would have known then what was coming for me. Don't get me wrong; I absolutely loved the journey I've been on for the last 5 years. But I've been so incredibly lucky along the way, that I would have never thought I could pull it off all by myself.
Step by step
I had my first experience with freeriding almost directly after I arrived in St. Anton. It was early December but the conditions where extraordinary for the time of year. It was probably the best season start I've had so far which actually is a shame because back then, I thought every season started off like that. “Ignorance is bless” people sometimes say, but in this occasion I wish I would have known better. During my ski instructor course we were taught the basics of teaching by an experienced ski guide. And so I had my first real “Side country” experience under the guidance of a Pro. I have to say that was a relieve. Coming from a flat country it can be quite intimidating to be in such exposed terrain at first. I had absolutely no clue of how to ski in variable conditions, let alone that I knew if what we were doing was safe or not. I for that reasons decided to completely trust the expertise of the local ski guide. It's kind of weird to put yourself in situations where you don't at all know what to expect. I was quite scared during my first decent trough deep, untouched powder to be honest. Well, quite scared is, on second thoughts, an understatement. It's safe to say I was shitting myself…
But even though I was struggling, I also for the first time experienced the joy that freeriding can bring. Straight away I fell in love with the whole purity of the feeling of floating trough fresh snow. A feeling that's already hard to describe for people that grew up in the mountains, so you can probably imagine what it was like for me. Its not a surprise than, that that decent is one of the only things I can still remember of those first few weeks.
And so it was quite a coincidence that I started freeriding in such a safe environment. If it wasn't for my ski guide, I wouldn't have tried skiing off-piste anytime soon. And it's those kind of “coincidences” that have brought me to where I am right now. Because, what if I would have loved university? Then I most likely never would have started skiing so much. If it wasn't for the skischools asking for ski instructors, I would have still been snowboarding and if I wouldn't have run into wePowder at such an early stage, I would have most likely never gotten so keen on freeriding and I wouldn't have been aware of all the dangers of freeriding so quickly. But it goes beyond skiing itself. Last summer for example, I worked at a ski resort in Lesotho in Africa called Afriski. But if I wouldn't have run into a group of South Africans during a random night out in Ischgl, I would have never gone to Lesotho and South Africa in the first place. It's safe to say I've just been freewheeling for the last 5,5 years, taking every single opportunity that got onto my path, trying to make the best of it. I've experienced so many different things in the last couple of years that on it self, don't necessarily relate to one another. But there is one thing that bring all those separate parts, experiences and surprises together, and that is my passion for skiing. The pure need to be skiing as much as possible, every single day. The need to explore and the feeling of ultimate freedom. And that feeling of freedom doesn't only apply to skiing anymore. Skiing brought me to so many places, and showed me so many things, that the term “freeriding” can be used in a much broader context than it was originally mend to be used. And then I didn't even speak of all the amazing people I've got to know along the way jet.
The funny thing is, that although the last couple of years have been so divers, I've always been stationed in the same part of Austria. You could argue that that's a shame since I could have seen so much more of Europe. But although that's true from one side, I'm glad I've been living in and around Ischgl for the last couple of years for the other. Being at the same spot for a longer time allowed me to learn at my own pace in both the technical and avalanche-safety aspect of skiing. The best thing about it is that you can always learn more. And although I had a lot of catching up to do since I wasn't born in the mountains, that also gave me the opportunity to start things fresh without any influences from the outside. As much as I loved to take it slow and do stuff in my own way however, at some point staying in one spot became a disadvantage. I almost got too familiar with the surroundings, which caused me to have my first more serious avalanche encounter last season.
Being in the same spot all the time also got me bored to a point where I wasn't motivated to ski as much anymore. Somehow, the whole pure passion needed a new impulse.
Time for Change
And so I started looking for a new challenge. Somewhere new to go where I could make the next step. For the last couple of years I had been gazing at video's of the Bec des Ross, GoPro video's of Sander Kan and reports of the Nendaz Freeride. For years I had wanted to go to Les 4 Vallees. After talking to a lot of fellow freeriders at the wePowder BBQ last September, I decided to make a final decision: I was going to spend the next season somewhere in Les 4 Vallees! After a lot of phonecalls, e-mails and text messages, the result was finally there; Coming season I'll be living in Nendaz! It's time for some more serious terrain, a new challenge and a new vibe. The simple fact of going to a different country and compared to Ischgl a completely different type of skiing area, gives me exactly the same feeling as I had the very first time I went for a season of skiing. It's almost ironic how, although so much has changed in the last 5 years, everything still seems to be exactly the same. I might not get dropped of by my mom anymore, I've learned a lot and my skiing most likely improved a bit during the last couple of years, but in essence it's still exactly the same: Its all about my passion for skiing.
It's hard to put to words how lucky I feel to be able to live my life chasing after snow. I have to give up a lot and I'm almost always away from home. But it is still completely worth it. I'm incredibly grateful for all the help and all the luck I've had over the past 5 years and that motivates me to push it even harder coming season. To share the ultimate feeling, skiing bottomless pow together with friends, is something I'd call priceless. That's why I often take the time to sit back and watch a couple of video's on my channel, just to get a glimpse of that moment of pure enjoyment.
Coming season I'll be supported by the North Face, Icelantic, Snowcountry.eu, Sickstickz and ofcourse wePowder. Even before the season has started I want to thank them for their support. I can't wait for the season to start, just 2,5 more weeks and we're off. I can't wait to see what will be crossing path coming season and ready to make the best out of it!