A couple of days ago the whole freeride community got shocked by the sudden death of two of the biggest icons in the sport. Both of them got caught in an avalanche in Chili and unfortunately help came too late.
It's difficult to see icons go like that. I've dedicated the last 6 years of my life to skiing and during that time not a single year has passed without the death of someone I used to look up to. Someone I idolized and watched movies of as a form of inspiration. Shane McConkey, Sarah Burke, Doug Coombs, CR Johnson, Jamie Pierre and now J.P. Auclair and Andreas Fransson. All of them passed doing what they loved doing most. And it's not only the people I see on a big screen that get hurt. People I knew personally and friends of people I work and ski with have passed in the last couple of years.
It scares me, especially now that it has happened to people closer to me. It makes me question why I keep going back to the mountains. It makes it almost impossible to justify. What makes it even harder, are the questions I get from the people that are very dear to me. Questions I get asked after I tell them someone has got hurt again. “Why did they take those unnecessary risks” and “Will you please make sure you're careful coming season?”. Totally understandable questions and although it is questionable how unnecessary those risks actually are, it sometimes makes me feel like I almost have to apologize to them for doing what I love so much.
It's difficult to comprehend how the one thing that provides the single feeling I am always looking for, is simultaneously the thing that on daily bases puts me in certain danger. It's something almost impossible to get your head around and will only be understood by those that have lived and felt what pure joy and pleasure the mountains can brings to us. That's exactly what makes it even more difficult for friends and family to understand why it is “worth” to take a risk.
Because that is the question I get asked most. “Why would you take such a risk?”. Although it is a logical question to ask, I think it also misses the whole point of what I do during wintertime. I don't go out skiing for the sake of doing something dangerous. It's a by-product that I try to minimize every single day. Every day I go out to go freeriding with friends, we spend just as much, if not more, time on discussing and checking if it is safe to go out as we spend time on riding itself.
I dislike the risk just as much as everybody else does. But at the same time the risk is what makes it all so special. Because although the mountains we ski in are there every single day, the mountains don't allow us to ride them most of the time. Only when the conditions are right and everything lines up, it's possible to go out and do what you love so much in a safe manner. And that's exactly what makes it so beautiful. An otherwise hostile environment can, in the right conditions, turn into the greatest playground you could possibly think of. And when that does happen, for a moment you feel like the luckiest guy alive at that moment.
If you always play by the rules, and you take the time to analyse everything properly, it can be relatively safe to go freeriding. But that's where the biggest risk comes in as well. Because you have to take that time every single time, again and again. It's so easy to “forget” just once because you're simply too excited to go out and ski. That's where most accidents happen. It's all about keeping your head clear and cool. And as long as you manage to do that, the risk isn't as big as it might seem at first sight. That's why you always go out riding with buddy's. You keep each other in check. If one get's too excited, the other holds you back.
It is not for no reason so many people keep coming back to the same place to enjoy and pursue those perfect conditions I just spoke about. And I can assure you, we all try to ride as safely as possible. Because in my opinion it is definitely not worth dying for, for the simple fact you need to be alive to be able to go freeriding in the first place. And I haven't done nearly enough of that yet, so I'll make sure to go out and ride as safe as possible, every single time, again and again.