In high school, winter weeknights were dedicated to snowboarding. Sitting in class I would stare out the window and watch the rain in anxious anticipation of freshies up on the hill. We would rendezvous after class and carpool with someone’s willing parents. With my group of friends, snowboarding was a common bond and if you weren’t riding you basically sucked. Snowboarding for us was extra special, something intrinsic to our being. For me, snowboarding has always remained in the forefront of my thoughts and dreams.
When I look back on many winter memories, the ones I remember best were nights on Mt. Seymour. Seymour has always been open for nights and my thoughts of those calm, cool evenings are vivid. I remember learning how to snowboard with a good friend and local pro. His easy grace and fluidity were inspiring. We were riding one night with one of his potential sponsors, an “industry” type. My skills were marginal to say the least, and my friend, recognizing my apprehension turned to our companion and stated, “he’s one of the best skateboarders in Vancouver”, a blatant lie, but one I accepted none-the-less. I was young and proud, and that night, on my Simms Switchblade, I rode my heart out.
In high school we had a snowboard team that met up Mt. Seymour after school. Mr. Major, our one-piece clad, chronic smoking (rumour had it), homeroom teacher was determined to have us race ready by the end of the season. On the Lodge chairlift there were gates set-up to practice, but Travis, our fearless instructor preferred to take us up Mystery Peak to hit jumps high into the starry sky. Instead of practicing drills, through freeriding, Travis inadvertently taught us important lessons of power and finesse. Not that it mattered, but one of us even went on to win the provincials that year. Mr. Major was stoked.
Maybe it had something to do with the smoke and lights, but there was definitely something magical about those nights on Seymour. Travis tragically died a few years back. I remember receiving the news via email while working in Europe. I hadn’t spoken with him in a couple of years and we weren’t close anymore, but I’ll always remember the smiles we shared on those quiet evenings playing in the snow.
Years later, under thick layers of fog illuminated orange by glowing lights set high upon steel posts, I leaped of the Mystery Peak chairlift. It had snowed profusely that season changing the lay of the runs dramatically. The snow accumulated so high, previous jumps were flattened out and new hits were formed high up the left hand banks of Manning. I strapped in close to where my body had landed and peered over the edge of Devil’s Drop, a steep decline marked by a down-turned tree and patches of bare rock. My two friends, who had touched down before me, took a route to my right clearing a good drop into deep untracked snow then disappeared like ghosts into the green and black darkness.
I’ve had many nights on Seymour since. The runs are short, and the riding is always fast. The Mystery Peak chair is a rickety black double that runs slow. It’s a good vehicle for contemplation where sometimes I’ll think about girls, or life in general, but for the most part I think about my next run — which jumps to hit, which lines to take and what tricks to land. Here priorities of the day take second place to the priorities of the night. As I ride the lift for one last air over Kearns’ hit, I look over my shoulder, let out a deep breath of condensation and watch it evaporate like smoke over the burning city lights of Vancouver. Good night.