Life Goal Completed: Snowboarding Chopok
Since I started snowboarding some ten plus years ago I always dreamed of riding the sorts of mountains you see in the ski/snowboard films. This was my dream.
I very quickly learned that I was not on the trend for what was cool in snowboarding. I have spent the last ten years out of the park and away from the rails and kickers. Instead, I focused on tree skiing and finding untouched patches of snow in remote areas. I managed to convince my best friend Jon that my dream could be his. It wasn’t a hard dream to grasp once he learned to ride the powder with me. The groomed runs quickly became dead to him as they had been for me as we turned our sights elsewhere. We watched the films, road down what was available to us and made the decision that helicopters and Alaska would be our ultimate goal.
I never lost sight of the European peaks either. The stories of mountains like the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc are legendary. I wanted to be a big mountain snowboarder and last Saturday I made that dream come true (to some extent) and oh what I would have given to have shared it with you, Jon. Since I arrived in Slovakia I had been looking forward to the winter ski season. When it arrived I was rather disappointed with the snow conditions and the quality of the resorts. I come from the land of chairlifts and the vast majority of resorts are well above 6000 feet (2000m). But I got used to the awkward button, anchor, and cable tows that are so common here and eventually I got my fresh powder too. But I wanted to ride something more challenging then the family friendly resorts that seemed to be so plentiful in the Banska Bystrica area. So I started looking for resorts higher up and when I found Chopok (the second highest peak in the Low Tatras) I knew I had to go. The icing on the cake came when I looked up the maps for the area and found that it was fairly well known for its freeride areas, which are areas accessible but left untouched for the most advanced skiers. Even better though was that they looked like this.
That picture was taken at the bottom of my second run of the day and needless to say I had been waiting a long time to ride stuff like that. The snow was deep, challenging, and steep but most importantly, it was untouched. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, extend your arm out in front of you. Now imagine standing on a mountain so steep that you could touch it with out bending over at all (30 degrees and steeper). As Jon would say, “so steep you don’t fall down, you fall off.” I felt the biggest surge of adrenaline in my life on my first run on Saturday. It was so far up in my chest I didn’t know if it felt good or it hurt but I knew that I liked it regardless. It was all the sort of stuff Jon and I had dreamed of. Snow covered rock chutes six feet wide and four stories tall. Cliffs, gaps, and so much fresh snow you can’t even imagine how deep it is. This all became real to me this week and I am happy to say I want more. On Saturday I had my first truly big mountain riding experience and while it wasn’t Alaska, it was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. My biggest disappointed was that I experienced it alone. Jon, I missed you buddy. I promise, Alaska will be ours, together.