The ride

While browsing through my stash of pictures, first starting with the Perfect Winter facebook page and then through my own archives, I realized how there seems to be a thread linking apparently unrelated events. It’s amazing how people, music, ocean, waves, mountain, forest, beach are all part of this universal Love ride that is Life. There is so much beauty out there, so many things to be experienced, so many people to meet and know, so much to learn, so much to teach.

This trip has been just so enriching in so many ways, far more than I expected – and all it took was to leave my comfort zone and do it. Solo traveling is never so. In fact, it’s the only way to really travel without being solo, without being bounded by your own expectations. When you travel in a group from the start, you always tend to be closing your circle, and you bound your experience of your trip by the collective perception, that already is there in the first place. But when you travel alone, there is no boundary, you open yourself to everything and everyone around you. Unless you don’t want to, but then again it’s always your choice.

In the end, either traveling or staying, there is only one that you are always with. It’s you. It’s your ride. Make it count.

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The mountains within

The Alpine landscape has a strong effect on the beholder, especially if one comes from a relatively flat country such as Portugal. The magnitude of the features in front of you, the harshness of the weather and the speed at which it changes is nothing short of wonderful.

So excuse me if I tend to get a bit philosophical here. But after two months traveling around in the Alps alone (OK, not all the time, but still) it’s easy to start wondering through the mountains within, just as much as I do in the peaks and valleys out there.

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As I was writing about here, the purpose of this trip was not only to discover the mountains of Tyrol, but also (and mainly) to feel the mountains. Because, let’s face it, most of us are tourist when it comes to high altitude. The usual week crammed in a room in some resort with a group of friends eager to ride hard and party even harder doesn’t allow much space for deep understandings of anything. I mean, it’s always a blast and if that’s the only way to go above freezing level, super. But I wanted more. And so it just happened that I got more than I bargained for: going out (and staying out) in the wide open valleys, forests, glaciers and snowy peaks made me go deeper inside my own mountains. As if instead me looking at the Alps, it was as if the Alps were looking at me – and I got as overwhelmed as it sounds. As so many songs, books and even more unwritten journals of travelers described better than I could possibly do, this overwhelming happens often when you step into the unknown. And, according to oriental philosophies, it serves a quite curious purpose of cleaning your mind of conscious thought. Just like those ancient chinese riddles ‘what is the sound of one clapping?’ or ‘if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around, does it make a sound?’, only nicer and much more expensive.

So, as I crossed the Gerlospass and witnessed the beautiful valley of the Salzach river as it showed the north facing slopes covered with snow and the south faces completely barren, as if winter and spring met exactly there, I had one of those moments.

Wow.

It gave me a sudden realization of some deep universal meanings – which I am not going to tell you, obviously, they’re mine.

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So, what’s the point of all this? The point is I am so glad I came and did this, despite the money and other associated costs, despite the ‘saudade’ of so many people and things, and also despite the uncertainty of what will happen next. This is quite a claim, but this journey made me a better person.

At the risk of sounding even more cliché (is that possible?), but not giving a damn about it, I’m going to leave here a song that has one of the best descriptions of what traveling is all about. It is in Portuguese but there’s bound to be a translated version of the lyrics somewhere.

Chronicles of a Perfect Winter

There’s been a lot going on lately. But before I get onto writing about about the latest exploratory missions, let me just link you to my latest chronicle that came out in the Sul Informação magazine: the interview with one of the most influential riders in Austrian snowboarding and member of the infamous Ästhetiker crew, Friedl Kolar.

Again, it is in Portuguese, but fortunately we have Google translate to serve us a funny yet intelligible  translation. Just copy the link and shove into translate.google.com

Crónica de um Inverno Perfeito: Snowboard na primeira pessoa

Tourist no more

Looked out the window. It’s a complete whiteout, flat light, and the recent rain took all the new snow. It looks like this:

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That’s it for me, I’m staying home. Am I a tourist no more?

After more than a month straight in the Alps, my perspective has evolved (much more than my performance, unfortunately, but who cares anyway?). I no longer feel the urge to go out to the slopes everyday, nor do I particularly enjoy riding pistes anymore. After being introduced to some of Tirol’s secret spots and riding for 5 days straight in what could be considered a private, untracked, unspoiled, private mountain, maybe it turned me into a bit of a snob. Obviously I have to get down to earth and think about how lucky I am to be doing this and especially how grateful I am to the local crew who is showing me around. Does riding with the locals make me a local? No it does not. But it does shift my way of riding  and reading the mountain into something more than being a tourist.

I have nothing against being a tourist – after all, it is virtually impossible to avoid it. If you only can take a week a year to go some place far away and do something you really enjoy, there’s no problem whatsoever. I did exactly that until this trip, and will probably continue to do so. But my point here is that that there is so much more to a place, any place, than what can be seen and experienced in one or two weeks per year. You have to take the time, to put in the hours to know the people, know the spot,study the conditions and learn when it’s good and when it’s not. How are you going to do this if you have to plan your trip months in advance, and stay only for a fidgety 6-day opportunity to release all the eagerness to shred that you accumulated over the year? Of course you’re going to go out every day, from opening to closing, no matter if it’s windy, cold, foggy, wind blown, snowing, freezing or simply dry of snow. You’re gonna be out, and you’ll make it worth.

The obvious comparison is with the beach. After being in the Algarve for 15 years, I hardly go to the beach in the summer (except for surfing, if it’s pumping). The ridiculous crowd filling the sand and the roads is just a nightmare. And  they all seem to come for the same places, at the same time, with all the things the Algarve has to see. And yet, I cannot blame these people who can only come for this small period and enjoy their time, making the most of what they know. That’s me in the mountains up until now.

I fear this season will damage my future snow vacations. After spending a whole winter in the Alps, and experiencing the best the mountain has to offer while knowing that you cannot plan these things so far ahead, it will be hard to be a tourist again. Or maybe not, maybe that will make me even more stoked to return to this magical place.

But what am I talking about? I haven’t even left! You know what? I’m gearing up and going shredding!

smile

 

The Chronicles from a Perfect Winter

I have been sharing some of my thoughts on this Perfect Winter thing on a portuguese newspaper. They are in Portuguese (duh) but it’s nothing that Google Translate won’t solve. This is my last one:

Crónica de um Inverno Perfeito: A Passagem

The Flow

Firstly, I must apologize in advance to a fair bit of you, my readers, who are more into traveling and exploring and less into the technical and philosophical aspects of riding boards sideways. The following text will dig into the what I think is the whole concept behind ‘boardriding’ (as referred to surfing, skateboarding and, alas, snowboarding). Also, as a disclaimer, it is raining outside and I just drove my friend to the train station. So, after 2 weeks with my girlfriend and another week with my friend, I am, for the first time in The Perfect Winter project, all by myself. You’d expect that the philosophy would kick in, wouldn’t you?

Why do we stand on a board and decide to ride it down waves, ramps, streets or mountains? Why are so many of us willing to change our lives or even direct our own existence into spending as much time as possible standing sideways, speeding down natural or man made features that can hurt us or even kill us if things go wrong? It’s the rush of flowing. Effortlessly, weightlessly, simply flowing. That feeling you get when you are a moving part of something larger, perfect and timeless. The flow.

There are infinite variations of what you can do while riding a board. If you are skateboarding, the creative aspects are indeed endless: spin, flip, rotate, shove, jump, slide, climb, in every sense of motion, in every obstacle imaginable, in the streets of any city or in a purpose-built park. And if skateparks are getting more and more innovative and allow for a safer, legal and easier progression, it never ceases to amaze me how creative skateboarders can get when looking at any street feature. Curbs, banks, stairs, handrails and yes, the everlasting hydrant, are the tools of creation for skaters, allowing for boundless interpretations of the world around them.

 

Riding on snow is traditionally limited by the fact that your feet are strapped to your board (although not necessarily). But what it lacks in versatility it compensates on size. The sheer magnitude of the medium you are riding on – the mountains – is totally out of a human scale. The forces responsible for pushing the earth’s crust upward, the time it took to happen and the temperatures and winds that allow for snow and ice to form, are somewhat out of our scope of comprehension. Maybe that’s why snowboarders are so keen on going big. The jumps are getting bigger by the day, the spins are going crazy in degrees (they’re throwing 1800’s in contests now..) and the mountains snowboarders are riding are higher and steeper than ever.

 

However, the fountain of flow is in surfing. No other sport/culture/lifestyle embodies the idea of flowing so seamlessly as surfing. When you surf, the medium is moving with, around, under and over you. Adjusting to the rhythm of the waves, sets, tides, swells and seasons is tuning in the vibration of our planet – indeed to our universe. The flow of surfing epitomizes the flow in the ride of all other vehicles, either rolling on concrete or sliding on frozen water. And it is impossible to explain – you just have to feel it.

 

So think about this: you can stomp gaps, kick flips, throw spins and perform any sort of trick, newschool or oldschool, and still be completely out of tune if you are missing the essence. The flow.