MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Winter / Spring 2021

65 words :: Jon Turk illustration :: Dave Barnes I’m standing on a snowy ridge, with a gentle breeze dusting bits and balls of last night’s powder off the tree limbs. We’ve checked the avy forecast, dug a pit, and all seems good… but ‘seems’ isn’t the same as ‘is’. The couloir below snakes into that menacing (or beautiful) s-turn through the rocks. I jump in. Brain on hyper-speed: analyzing, judging, recording. Settlement? No. Snow? Excellent. Sluff? Yes. As I pull through the first turn, my eyes are focused behind me. Yup. I can outrun it. GO. GO. GO. I follow the white line through the rocks. Powder in my face, sluff billowing in the rearview mirror—free like the wind. I am 75 years old. Until this year, I have chased snow for 40 consecutive seasons and skied—mainly backcountry but also on-resort if conditions dictate—in ranges all over the world (especially in Fernie, British Columbia). This year, I am not skiing. No, I am not laid up in hospital with a double knee replacement. Nor have I thrown in the towel and turned to TV and weekly bingo tournaments. My decision is based solely on the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, I am American, and the US/Canadian border is closed. My gear, my winter apartment and my ski buddies are north, while I am on the other side of the fence, peering in from the outside, like the kid who didn’t make the cut in Little League. In addition, my age puts me in a high- risk age group, and I’m fearful that lift lines and chair lifts could be the locus of super-spreader events, despite masks and other precautions. So this year I’m being extra cautious, weathering the storm by hiding out in the desert isolated in my van with my wife Nina and our mountain bikes. I write this while camped in a sandy wash, surrounded by scrub oak and juniper, in the high desert near the Mexican border. Some days I feel on top of the world, no lawn to mow or driveway to shovel, instead we ride through prickly pear and saguaro forests, over and into the mountains that Apaches once roamed, free as the wind. Other days, I feel a bit blue, missing BEYOND BIG BRAIN, NO TOOLS Searching for survival on the winds of antiquity