17January 2020

Why you should look before you leap

“The dog can come heli-skiing, probably, right?”

It was a day in early May when Rudi, Jeff and I decided to take a flight to collect the last of the landing flags and get a few family turns on the high, north-facing terrain that still had good snow.

Our dog Russell is a big-footed powderhound who loves the snow, and it seemed like a good opportunity to give him a shot in the backcountry.

His daily walk was about to get a big upgrade.

With leash and collar on snugly, we heave-ho-ed his 90-pound frame into the back of the 407, loaded ourselves, and lifted off.

First landing was at Ticino, a consistent crowd-pleaser of a run that rolls over pitch after pitch of perfect alpine, framed in by gigantic features that makes it feel like an immense, natural half pipe.

The most exciting part of the run, though, can be the entry.

As the winter goes on, a cornice, or a wedge of wind-blown snow, builds right above the first slope.

There’s usually a gap along it that allows for a brief, steep drop into the first knee-deep turns, and off you go.

That first squeeze gets the adrenaline going for sure.

But by May, Rudi was concerned that the cornice would be too fat, and the entry gap would be gone, and we could either find a creative way around, or have to huck a good 12-footer off the lip.

As we clicked into our skis on top, Russell bounded around us like a coiled spring, waiting to find out what direction we’d be heading.

Rudi said “I’ll just go take a look at the cornice” and glided down toward the entry.

What he didn’t notice right away, was Russell, following hot on his tail.

Just as Russell was about to catch him, and just as Jeff and I shouted to Rudi to tell him, was just when Rudi reached the lip and dug in his edges to stop.

Rudi stopped on the hard surface no problem, like he’d done a thousand times before.

Russell didn’t think that far ahead, and couldn’t stop in time.

Assuming that Rudi was about to continue right over the edge, Russell was at top speed and full commitment.

He sailed right past and out into space, and we put our hands to our mouths as we watched him fly out of sight.

He. Just. Hucked. It.

Rudi let out a yodel and a laugh as we sped over to see the results.

All three of us peered down to see Russell looking up at us, wagging his tail, tongue lolling to the side, chest-deep in the snow, looking like so many guests do on the first day out: I just found powder heaven.

(We didn’t get a picture at the time, but I feel like the guy below sums it up well.)

Not many of us end up hucking more than double our age.

And while we’re never advocates for recklessness, we couldn’t help but admire Russell’s full-hearted commitment to the unknown.

Using caution is such a good idea, SO much of the time, that it easily becomes the default position.

Look before you leap. Yes. But still, leap.

We can’t always know how the landing will feel. It’s the WAHOO moment when you’re waiting to find out that makes us feel so alive.



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