When Chaos Takes the Reins: Navigating 2020’s Long, Strange Trip

The good news is, 2020 will soon be over, no wipeout lasts forever and there’s a bottom to every downward spiral.

words :: Feet Banks // photo :: Steven Shannon

“What the hell just happened?” We’ve all been there. One moment you’re blasting perfect powder in late January, exploring new mountains, making friends, and getting epic ski shots to boast about back home… and then your ski catches a not-quite-buried alder branch, or a rocky snow shark, or a tip sinks just a little too deeply… or something, who knows exactly but despite best efforts, you’re suddenly in a full-speed, double-ejection yard sale, tumbling down a mountain as frozen crystalized water shoots down your neck, up your sleeves, and into your mouth and nostrils. Up is down, time slows, gravity flexes, and chaos takes the reins…

 

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Crashing at Selkirk Snowcat Skiing. Photo: Steve Shannon

 

When a Wipeout is an Opportunity

Yes, of course—bailing hard is part of the game, but I don’t think anyone was expecting an entire calendar year to do it. So far, 2020 has unravelled with the grace of catching an edge on a high-speed groomer or missing the opening between two snow-laden Douglas firs. Since early spring, it feels like all of humanity has been rag-dolling from one nasty spill to the next, and it seems like it’ll be a while before we can collectively get back up, shake ourselves off, and head to the lodge for a beer and burger. But here’s the thing—in the mountains, a big fall is almost always an opportunity to learn, to be humbled, and to better understand just who we are and where we fit into our surroundings.

 

So far, 2020 has unravelled with the grace of catching an edge on a high-speed groomer…

 

The same opportunity exists now for humanity at large. We’re lucky here in the Coast Mountains—with easy access to the peace and solitude of nature, and a like-minded community with a history of rising to help each other when things get bad. (And if things get really bad, no one is better suited to run to the hills.) The good news is, no wipeout lasts forever and there’s a bottom to every downward spiral.

We’re All Just Guests Here

The trials and chaos of 2020 will eventually slide to a stop, and we will emerge—banged, bashed, and scraped—into the moment of stillness that follows any big crash, that calm unification of brain, body, and nature that recalibrates reality and opens a new future of possibility. It’s in those moments of post-bail tranquility when someone, often a stranger, slides up with a piece of our lost gear and says, “Dude, that was gnarly. Are you ok?”

Because that is the way of the mountains, and life itself really—we are all just guests here, travelling together on a long, strange trip with a too-tight timeline and change as the only constant. Nature is in charge, and she will smack us on the ass whenever she wants. What matters is that we are here to pick each other up afterward.

From the new Fall/Winter issue of ML Coast Mountains edition, out now.

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