Searching For The Endless Winter
by Sven Brunso
Sometimes the search for the endless winter requires nothing more than staying home. As a professional freeskier, I am continually seeking epic conditions. Most years that requires many long hours on planes, trains and cramped quarters riding in the back of a sub-compact driving on hairy mountain roads in whiteout conditions. The winter of 2009/2010 has required nothing more than sitting at home and watching the snow fall. The southern San Juan Mountains have had an epic winter. A deep, relatively stable snowpack that has been replenished every 5-7 days since early December. I have canceled numerous trips to other locations including the Northwest and the Alps because we quite simply, have the best snow on globe this season. Canada and the Northwest have been soggy, the Wasatch has been thin and dangerous and the Alps have been windy and on the low side of average for snow.
Instead of building frequent flier miles in route to meet photographers, I seem to be making trips to the airport to pick them up so they can surf my couch and shoot here in the backyard. Although I feel less exotic than years past, I do feel lucky to be able to stay home and let the action come to me. The San Juans are vast and only a handful of people venture out into the BC so the shooting is never rushed and the vibe is very relaxed. Just last week we had 2 epic shoots in just more than 12 hours. I did a night shoot with photographer Ben Eng off Coal Bank Pass and then hit the same general zone at sunrise the next morning while shooting with Scott DW Smith.
Shooting at night is a trip. The temperature plummets so goggles freeze quickly and trying to ski a line in near darkness with challenged vision is a unique experience. The darker it gets the better the photos, and the higher the danger for both the skier and shooter. The photographer has to not only guess where to focus but also guess when the skier is in the sweet spot. You get only one shot per pass so the success rate is low. However, when you hit it just right it feels like a huge accomplishment. Night shots are really unique and hard to capture so they are really fun if a bit contrived. Hiking out in the dark after a shoot is a different experience and reminds you of how important it is to remember a headlamp.
It is the time of year when road bikers in Durango start to emerge from hibernation. They battle narrow roads and cinders left from a big winter but they serve as a harbinger of things to come. Spring is in the air and it is time to move on to other mountains. Interior BC is on my calendar for April as is a month in Icleand and Norway in May. It is nice to dig out the passport and know that some unique destinations are penciled in on my ski calendar. It has been quite a year here in southwest Colorado and one that has allowed my to ski stellar conditions but sleep in my own bed each night. That cycle is good but my desire for some new scenery is calling me away from my comfort zone.
The time to move is now as I have grown restless here at home. The endless winter seems to be right here at home, but it is time to seek out some new ranges and new sights. My happiness is a result of the search and that is what keeps me smiling as I break out the bags to pack for my next adventure. A blank canvas on some far off mountain is awaiting my signature. And with that call I must go.