'Boarding B.C.'s Backcountry

Snow Dreams in Nelson
By Theodore Nusbaum
  |  Gorp.com
Trade in those skyscrapers for towering pines
Into the wild

The next morning, David checked his voicemail and said, "A guy named Jeff Pensari called. He lives in some town called Nelson and wants us to come stay with him."

Pause.

"He says we're crazy if we don't come to Nelson."

Pause.

"He's the future owner of a cat-skiing company over there."

"Let's do it!" I said.

We drove southwest a few hours to Nelson and soon realized that the sirens of snowfall had lured us to a very good place indeed. Nelson has a magical quality all its own, a richness of color and texture that oozes from beneath its surface.

"It's one of the acupuncture points of the earth," said Nelson Becker, publisher of the local paper. He had a gentle face and paintbrush eyebrows. "It's not that we don't want people to come; it's just that if you're gonna come here and walk down our streets and look away or feel awkward when we say hi, well, we'd rather you didn't come."

We began to search for Jeff's house a few blocks off the main street, up a small hill, under tall, snow-filled pines and windblown hemlocks. He was home and welcomed us to his sparsely furnished abode. David and I looked at each other and laughed. At that moment we both hated and loved this total stranger, chasing a snowy dream that was bigger than all of us.

A 'Boarder and His Dream
Minutes later, topos were spread on the floor and Jeff was unfurling his dream before us like a secret between his hands. We watched his fingers move across mountains and heard words like "Grohman's Mountain" and "Baldface Mountain Lodge" and "This is where we'll be tomorrow."

In the morning, we packed food, water, and transceivers and took Jeff's truck to where the road ended. Two snowmobiles were waiting for us. Through four feet of fresh snow in a dumping snowstorm, we zipped along an old logging road into the backcountry. When we reached Snowwater Creek Lodge, on Siwash Mountain, we hiked out in snowshoes along a wooded ridge and dropped into the finest Kootenay powder there is.

The runs were narrow and steep and the powder so deep I just floated down, my mind clear and bliss running through my bones. The only sound was my heart thumping and the snow falling gently on the shoulders of my shell. This is the real meaning of freedom. Far from the sounds of people and politics, experiencing the complete integration of nature and yourself. All is one, say the ancient texts—and they are right. There is no me or mountain or snow; we are all interwoven into the same fabric of life.

After two weeks in B.C., we flew home to New York City to resume the grind of our lives. The escape was temporary. It always is. Yet the hunger to experience freedom churns like a volcano under a surface of smiles and handshakes and the general chaos of the world. So go on, create your own reality. What's the alternative—to walk the streets buried in a newspaper?


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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