30October 2020

How to make the same terrain feel brand new

“You just don’t understand what it’s like to be a snowboarder.”

It was the mid 90s, at the height of snowboarding’s newfound popularity, and Rudi had heard this sort of thing from enough guests to take it as an invitation.

The young sales associate at Monod Sports in Banff did not see him coming.

This Swiss guy in his 50s, asking to be pointed toward the powder boards, please.

“Umm, okay, but where are you going with a powder board (he surely added ‘old man’ in his head)?”

“I’m going to take it heli-boarding” was his simple response.

“You know, they won’t take you up, if they find out you’re a beginner” the salesman said, figuring this guy needed saving from himself.

All Rudi said was “are you sure?”

He quickly found the biggest board in the rack, a 181cm with a fat nose. It made sense to him that it should be near the length of his skis, so he could get enough float for the deep snow.

The kid could only scratch his head as he rung up this monster board for a 5’9″ self-declared first-time snowboarder on his way to the helicopter.

Rudi left the shop grinning, pleased with the new purchase under his arm.

As we all know, though, buying the thing is the easy part.

The next time Rudi had a chance for a day off to fill an empty seat, he joined a group from Japan who were looking for an easy, introductory experience.

As it happens, Rudi was too.

At the landing, as the others clicked into their skis, he zipped up his one-piece to the top, and contemplated how much snow he was about to stuff down his collar.

He strapped on the board and waited for the others to get a ways ahead so there was plenty of room for error.

He stood, pointed the nose, and started to let the board pick up speed, knowing from skiing that a little momentum is usually your friend.

In no time he was straight-lining, fast, just about passing the group, realizing he really had no idea how to make a turn.

The nose caught and he cratered into the snow in a cloud of powder, quickly becoming a flailing egg-beater, now at a loss for how to stand up.

He figures he ate more snow on that run than in the rest of his guiding career.

As he let the group get ahead and out of sight (no need for an audience), he slowly put the pieces together, one messy crash at a time.

It was when he pulled the ski poles off his pack that the tide turned in his favour.

He had set up the bindings in more of a racer stance, since it was more familiar to have toes learning toward the fall line.

Between that and the confidence the poles gave him, by the afternoon he was linking turns, staying on his feet and keeping up with the faster group.

Everyone had a good laugh at the guy with his ‘training wheels’ and strange style, but he was having the time of his life.

Two days later, he guided a group of snowboarders as one of them, committed to understanding the unique challenges of being on a board in deep snow (check) and how to help riders overcome them.

There might be a whole new adventure waiting in a place you’ve been to a hundred times.

Being a beginner again can give you a whole new way of seeing. (Or, a whole new way of feeling the snow – as in, down your neck!)

So even if you don’t get to as many new horizons or new lines this winter, what can you bring to it that makes it new?

Your legacy need not be linear.

Sometimes not having what you’re used to, like one plank instead of two, is what makes for the next great adventure.

Or at least, a great story.


Great things can happen when things don’t go as planned. This story will be part of Purcell folklore forever. You’re Stronger Than You Know.






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