Letter From the Editor — 2019 Destination Issue

Letter From the Editor — 2019 Destination Issue

We made it. Not that safe arrival was ever really in question. We’ve done it hundreds of times before and, luck willing, we’ll do it hundreds of times in the future. There’s a fire blazing, snow falling outside, a sleeping canine on the couch, good food in my belly and great people around me. Bliss.

The decision was made last minute, like so many of them are, when the forecast revealed a saturated storm readying to wring itself out over Colorado’s high country. And so my brother and I left my wife and in-laws after a delightful Thanksgiving weekend happy hour in Boulder, Colorado, and drove south towards Golden. Winter Park is a mere hour-and-forty-minutes from Boulder, and I escape up there frequently, but I’d still consider it, in this sense, a destination.

After braving the final miles in a white out complete with blowing snow and crippling wind, we pulled up to the ski condo, our final destination, at 7:30 p.m. We’re going skiing tomorrow; we earned it by virtue of our drive through the blizzard. And if Ullr sees fit, it’ll be a powder day.

I couldn’t help but reminisce about the many times I’ve pointed a car straight into a winter storm for the sake of scoring fresh turns the next day. Passing spun-out, defeated vehicles on desolate Vermont back-roads during a once-in-a-decade blizzard in college; or leaving one ski resort in a whiteout and driving 23 miles around a highway closure to reap the best turns of the storm in a different zone. There are plenty more examples.

I also thought of the memories associated with extended travel—hopping on a plane or train—with the intentions of clicking into my skis amongst a new landscape. Showing up keyless to an Airbnb apartment in Revelstoke, British Columbia, at 10 p.m. with a group of my longtime friends; deciding if we’d have to leave a buddy with a criminal record at the Metaline Falls Port of Entry in Washington during a storm chase to Nelson, British Columbia; and, there was that heart-pumping aircraft landing in Telluride, Colorado. Our pilots battled turbulence to bring us down safely on the tiny, plateaued runway just minutes ahead of a winter storm. Perhaps the most memorable: Boarding a relic-helicopter from the Soviet-Afghan War to access ski lines on active volcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia. It’s these memories of transport towards, in and through the mountains that are shared universally by skiers across the globe.

PHOTO: Tanner Bowden | LOCATION: Kamchatka, RUS

What pushes us to willingly endure inconvenience along a journey that ultimately places us on our skis somewhere with snow? As if sliding on the frozen stuff is any different in one place than another.

Nevertheless, it’s a willingness shared by all skiers–to drop everything at a moment’s notice and head for the snow. It’s part of our nomadic makeup. The thrill of voluntarily succumbing to gravity and etching turns in snow is what spurs our movement to and through these mountainous destinations. We pack up our gear and leave commitments behind to catch a couple of inches of fresh at our local hill, or load families into Dodge Caravans on Fridays and drive two hours or more to family ski cabins. We traverse, side-step and bootpack across our home ski areas to get the goods in zones we’ve always talked about skiing, but conditions never allowed us to explore. Our trips are planned months in advance to far-off winter locations we see in films, publications and advertisements. Skiers depart residence in one ski town for the promise of new experiences in another, sometimes thousands of miles away. Movement is part of skiing’s DNA, and it’s what defines us as skiers, both in the obvious act of descent and the characteristics of those descending.

This book is a nod to the skier’s need for movement, both big and small. In this issue, we navigate across the globe, bringing you travel stories of ski destinations both easily attainable and those that belong in a fictional adventure novel.

On page 44, we draw out the map to an unforgettable western Canadian Road Trip, hitting six ski resorts along the way. Then, we gift you captivating stories and useful trip tips for Bend, Oregon (page 40), Engelberg, Switzerland (page 66),Valle Nevado (page 98) and Portillo (page 102), Chile.

Finally, you’re invited to follow along on a difficult 150-kilometer journey in remote Pakistan (page 72); dive into tales of skiing snow-covered volcanoes in Russia’s Far East (page 80); ditch the snow for sand and descend fiery dunes in the Sahara Desert (page 88); and revisit one pro skier’s family history amidst gold rush ruins in New Zealand (page 92).

When you’ve flipped the final page of FREESKIER Volume 21, we hope to have put a new destination on your radar, rekindled your love for travel or sparked an infatuation with it. The innate need to carve side to side down unfamiliar mountains in foreign locations is one shared by all skiers, and it’s an act that helps sustain an entire industry.

— Donny O’Neill, Editor-in-Chief

This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of FREESKIER (21.4), The Destination Issue. Click here to subscribe and receive copies of FREESKIER Magazine delivered right to your doorstep.

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