Words: Ian Wood
Photos: Jordan Ingmire
Get a copy in print from Diggin Magazine Japan or Transfer Magazine Australia
The sound of explosions stir me from a deep slumber. The bombs may be going off thousands of feet away but the blasts shake me from my dream world. Barely awake I sit up to investigate the violent action, bouncing my head off the bunk above. The “rude” awakening knocks me back down, a dry mouth from the propane heater running off and on all night reminds me where I am. Rubbing my eyes to adjust to the light, and a quick pull of the window blinds, reveals a winter wonderland. The bombs that stirred me from my fantasy world are the result of hard working ski patrollers doing their best to keep us safe from avalanches in the available side country. Comfortably nestled in my 16 foot tiny home, I am amidst the cascade mountains in Washington state. From the looks of my neighbor RV’s we have received a healthy amount of fresh snow over night. Rolling out of my bunk and placing my feet on the noticeably cold floor sends a quick signal to my brain that its going to be nice blower pow. Where are my slippers?. . . It’s 7 o clock in the morning and the chairs don’t start spinning until 9. With the resort lifts and split board trails being accessible out my front door I have plenty of time to get ready. Living in a trailer in the parking lot of a resort, you build morning routines. So much time spent by yourself allows you the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Meditation has made it into the start of my day, followed by a nutrient packed fruit smoothie. Somedays I listen to an audio book or inspiring tunes, maybe a quick stretch, and then I put on my space suit for the wild frontier. Isn’t this what we are striving for our whole lives? – Complete freedom, nobody telling us what to do or how to live. Shouldn’t we be fine tuning physical/mental health with joy, adventure, and a lust for life? I chuckle to myself as I ponder the perspective of my life, how did I get here? – 32 years old, no kids, no wife, no mortgage or salary career, living in a trailer that is smaller than some peoples closets. If you were to write this down and read it to someone, they would feel sorry for me. If they were to see my smile or feel my energy as this pervasive lust for living, they just might question the way they look at life.
Growing up in a capitalist nation where economy is god, and success is based upon the amount of things you possess, I had all the proper training to be a compliant citizen. In the West at 5 years old we are shuffled through a school system that is based more on conforming than education. It appears to be preparation for the 9-5 world with a vibrant brochure selling the restricted life of a weekend warrior. All the tv shows portraying the “happy” rich people with all their possessions, living in big mansions, surrounded by “beautiful” people, contribute to a thorough brain washing. The deep irony is when these movie stars, symbolizing the ultimate success of the american dream, often end their lives with misery. I can’t say how this country is viewed from the outside but it seems that a lot of foreigners come here in hope of acquiring financial wealth and pursuing this illusion. Interestingly enough this nation is comprised of foreigners. We are all immigrants except for the few indigenous natives who have almost been entirely snuffed out. The trouble begins when necessities are far surpassed and endless desires are sought one after the other. The core issue is these desires are never filled and endless consumerism runs rampant. A bi product of this foolishness is a nation that suffers from severe obesity and malnutrition simultaneously. Unfortunately the PNW of the United states is a major influence in this worlds over consumption. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Costco are just a few of the fortune 500 companies located in Seattle. A city surrounded by natural wonder, with the pacific ocean on one side and the cascade mountain range on the other. I was right on track to be another cog in the wheel, another poor sap in debt living pay check to pay check. Buying a bunch of things I didn’t need, to fit in or look good in some one else’s judgement. This is one ideal this nation whole heartedly promotes. This constant hunger for more leaves the blind consumer in debt regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s easy to get lost in this society living beyond their means. Look at our national debt for reference as to how we are taught to spend money. From this path… I slowly strayed. The mountains called and as the famous John Muir quote states; I had to go!
Hindsight is always 20 20. Looking back, I can see the friends that pulled me back into the mountains saved my life. Being a product of the NorthWest was a blessing that was hard to fully realize. Some of the greatest outsiders and heroes to exist in the snow world, come from this area. Humans that forever changed the snowboarding world were located all around me and leading lives way outside the norm. They were more like professional dirtbags than Olympians. The skills to be trained into super athletes were there, but they chose to live a life of freedom and self expression. These professionals were less about selling out and more about expressing themselves freely, on their own terms. You don’t have to be a legend to enjoy a similar lifestyle, boarding as much as you can and working as little as you have to. The locals shaped me even more so than the legends. “You work – I ride”, so the saying goes. The slogan “work to live, don’t live to work” comes up often. These people that surrounded me spent their money in a very different manner. Extravagance was a “new” used vehicle that handled the snowy roads in a supreme way, or a rig that could transform into a sleeping domain. Maybe a new gizmo for snow camping or a fancy sleeping bag that packed small and was light. Simultaneously we were becoming more self sufficient and learning how to spend money wisely. I didn’t know it at the time, but these people I like to refer to as the outsiders, were shaping me. As I became an “adult” (I put it in quotations because I think it is absolutely insane that someone being an adult is based on age and not life experience) I came to realize that most people were lost. Year after year, the older they got the more confused they seemed to be. Their connection to what mattered in life slowly dwindled as they bought into the game. Work beat them down and a diet of processed food provided them with no fuel. Coffee delivers a quick blast of energy for a long drawn out day. The ever growing list of how society tries to fill the voids will leave your head spinning. For many years I have pondered, and even now it seems, that kids have it much more figured out than adults! Youngsters are happy chasing dreams and living for the moment. The beliefs that create their realities are still uninhibited, so they are able to enjoy the little things. Snowboarding takes me back to that mental clarity. Every time I strap in, my mind grows a little more silent as the moment zooms in to capture my attention. Pushing skills to a new level can cloud the mind with fear. Making the decision to trust in your ability clears the sky and locks you in where time stands still.
The people I meet in the NW have inspired me to leap into more than just snowboard specific adventures. Every aspect of one’s life effects the other and it’s best to be well rounded. Adventures of every kind can be linked to snowboarding in one way or another. Learning how to navigate the world and trust in your life skills to get you where you need to be is one example. From Yoga, to skateboarding, even dancing, it all can help you with self expression and in turn improve the picture you paint on a board. I started the winter season going to a 10 day silent meditation retreat with photographer/best bud Jordan Ingmire. This shared wisdom solidified the lessons learned from snowboarding. The present moment is the only reality. As soon as we add thoughts or words to things, we have strayed. Our minds are trained in this society to constantly be thinking about the future or the past. Focused on likes or dislikes, we form a craving for the things we desire and try to avoid the things we dislike. So constantly we are planning for the future, or revisiting the things that have already happened. We want more of the things we like and are upset when we get what we don’t want. Both of these judgements are illusions. The images with attached emotions either no longer exist or are an interpreted creation of the future. All of our thoughts around experiences are not truly reality. They are a merely a projection of the mind which in turn creates what we believe to be reality. So those moments while ripping down a line, or riding through a technical part of the mountain, are actually creating the silent mind that brings us closer to the truest reality. Wether you are taking a conscious deep breath sitting in a cross legged position or standing on top of a glorious mountain top, you are training the mind to be aware of what is going on inside of it. Slowly bringing awareness to our daily actions muffles the constant brain chatter and creates space for the only true reality- the present moment. Any one that has been terrified by the raw elements of a mountain has lived through this mind altering experience of a silent mind.
For the last several years I was caught in a whirlwind of dreaming and creation. Desires of achieving fantasies began to develop in my mind and expanded as I shared them with others. The winters had been very active with traveling, working on video projects, and getting caught up in the go go go, do do do. This winter I set out to focus on “being” more than “doing”. Starting the season off in meditation had a huge impact on how I wanted to spend my winter and what I felt was important to focus on. I decided I was going to spend the entire winter at home in the PNW. No distant travels, no video projects, and nothing more than immersing myself in the art of snowboarding. Whether it was with my best friends, the local community, strangers, or by myself, I found room for growth in all relationships. With the climate pattern rollercoaster ride we have been locked into in the NW, it was a risky move. Travel has always been a back up plan for winters that never show up. Japan in January, Alaska in April, the interior mountains of BC , Montana, Wyoming, allow for plenty of Plan B options. With travel comes planning, and with planning comes extensive mental activity. I wanted to get rid of all the things that add to the mind game of winter. That way I could find my place in the mountains with clear thoughts and tuned senses. We are constantly searching for connection to the moment as boarders and one of the best ways to help that process is to alleviate as much mental chatter as possible. I deliberately decided to put all of my eggs in one basket and whether winter came as I desired or not, I was staying and making the best of it. Worse case scenario you can always go adventure on your split board, walk for miles and search around corners you haven’t looked past before. The stars aligned as it became one of the best winters for Washington in many years, with cold temperatures and big storms that seemed to never end. The snow just kept stacking and the energy was high in the PNW. It was a season for the soul. One of those winters where you run into all your buddies on the hiking routes or skin trails. I found myself greeting friends with big hugs and thinking “you know what. . . there are friends on a pow day.” We were riding as many of our favorite lines as we could in one day. Lines that you sometimes only ride once a year because the conditions have to be just right, were getting ridden several times a week. No video cameras, no waiting to get the shot, no worries about landing a trick or how your style was; just pure intimacy with the mountains and the people sharing them with you.
As the planet rotates around the sun the seasons will change here in the PNW. Spring time comes with longer days and stronger ultra violet rays. The rivers flow with snow melt as photosynthesis sprouts new life on the hillsides. T shirts and open vents become common on the touring trails and chair lifts, as winter pow turns to spring corn. Fresh snow can bless us all the way into May, providing up to 7 months of possible fresh snow adventures. The park rats and split boarders rejoice as their favorite season is upon them. In the same day you can lap the park with friends and in the evening tour up to soak in breathtaking views. In strong winter seasons, such as this past one, you can extend your snow season year round. The list of volcanos in the area is long and the adventures bountiful. “Variety is the spice of life”; one of my favorite expressions. Living in the PNW I can’t help but completely agree with this notion. Summer comes and the thoughts of the year ahead are born in the stillness created in the absence of daily snow obsession. Sometimes I worry about what the future holds for the PNW snow lovers. Big money is pushing hard to suck the life out of the mountains. Solace and solitude are being replaced with high speed quads and 4 star hotels. Seattle is growing and you can see the reflection of it in the traffic to all of the hills. Will we just become another destination resort? Will the dirtbag locals living in their cars at the mountain be run off by people commuting 2 hours everyday? Only time will tell. I reflect back on lessons learned in the meditation hall. Be present here in the now, and let the thoughts pass like clouds in the sky. My judgement of what is best is just a figment of my imagination. For now the mountains in the PNW are full of life, love, and soul. Explorers, adventurers, athletes, party people, weirdos, musicians, artists, and of course the city people, all share these beautiful mountains. I hope that one day you have the opportunity to visit this majestic place I call home. We can easily be considered outsiders In a world where so many equate success and happiness to financial status. Every day we strap in we are representing the importance of something greater than that. Outsider: “a person who does not belong to a particular group.” There are enough of us here in the PNW that have formed a group of our own. We are the outsiders and you are welcome to join us.