The true reason why we ride

Well this is a big claim. I am sure that we all can come up with all sorts of reasons to ride whatever vehicle we choose, either skateboards, surfboards, snowboards, or even skis, boogieboards, bikes, motorbikes, or even your kid’s tricycle.

But man, few things get us as stoked as sharing a sunset ride with a friend at the end of the day. Fuel for the soul.

So I’ll make a call on this one and claim that as a (or the) true reason to do what we do.

Freshlines Boards head honcho Hugo and mountain master Freddy searching for the meaning of life somewhere in the Alps.

The Perfect Winter TV interview

It’s finally online!

I was invited to talk about The Perfect Winter on Segunda pele, an action sports show at Sport TV. I was honoured by this invitation – after all, this was a personal project that I wanted to share with people, and to think that it was interesting enough to get media attention is very rewarding!

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did being there. Talking about the trip and showing videos and pictures is always good, makes me be there again somehow. Thank you Catarina Faustino for this opportunity to share The Perfect Winter with you.

 

I know what you did last winter

It’s a wrap, as they say. Spring has arrived to the Algarve, all the snow gear is washed and stored until next season (or, who knows, some glacier shredding sometime in summer), and all that’s left of winter are the memories. It’s a good thing that Youtube is around the almighty internet so that we can store and share moving images of happy times. Because, you know, even memories fade unless you exercise them.

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I would love to have more of these videos to watch again and again, and every time I watch them I think I should have filmed them differently. Fear not, because a proper video campaign is being planned. Maybe, just maybe there will be yet another Perfect Winter.

In the meantime, enjoy the playlist of this year’s edition.

Closing the circle

12.105km.

3 countries.

16 resorts.

82 days, 3 hours and 22 minutes.

Thousands of powder turns.

Hundreds of kicker jumps.

Zero severe injuries.

Countless new friends.

These are some of the numbers of the Perfect Winter. But you know as well I do that there is much more to a long trip than mere numbers. While I’m finding it difficult  to stay away from emotional clichés when talking about this season in the Alps, let me try to stick to the facts of these last few months.

One of the big objectives of The Perfect Winter was to witness the changing of the seasons. In Portugal, especially in the south, spring and fall are kind of extensions of a long summer. Even our winter is very mild when compared to higher latitutes. Therefore, we are not used to the changes that come as Earth spins around the sun. In the Alps, on the other hand, these changes are not only obvious but they also profoundly affect the lives of the people living in and around the mountains. First of all, green and brown give place to a magical white carpet covering everything. I was fortunate enough to witness the first heavy snowfall that kicked this late winter into full gear.

At first I didn’t grasp the true importance of this in Alpine life, but it’s pretty obvious. While this generation relies on snow to make ends meet as it attracts tourists, previous generations would wait for snow to cover the fields and fertilize the earth for cattle grazing and crops. It’s scary to think that all this can change as winters get shorter and snow falls higher and higher.

I must say that even thought this winter was far from harsh, I enjoyed it to the maximum. Because I was there all the time and with the right people, I could go out whenever conditions were perfect. You can read all about this throughout this blog…

Eventually the season in Tirol came to an end. By the time of departure spring had arrived and once again I was privileged enough to witness the changing of the season, as the snow starts to melt and the grass starts to grow.

This time the arrival of a new season had a strong impact. After  my first winter in the mountains I could really feel the days getting longer, and the warmer temperatures seeping through the valley. Experiencing the incoming Spring is hard to describe in words, and quite pointless at this time actually. However, while it did put a different positive vibe into the daily routines, it meant that Perfect Winter was ending.

I left Tirol on March 15, and headed West towards the beautiful village of Villars, in the Vaudoises Alps in Switzlerland. This town and the surrounding mountains are a picture perfect place – but extremely expensive. The obscene prices around here were simply an insult for someone coming from southern Europe, even after spending a season in Austria where the cost of living can be similar to that of Portugal if you shop smart. However, I was invited by friends to stay over and their company largely compensated for this financial shock. I ended up exploring most of the amazing mountains in Villars, Les Diablerets and Glacier 3000 in just 2 days, with a hint of local knowledge and chilled vibe. Thank you David and André!

The final stage of this journey would really represent the closing of the circle. Most of us usually started skiing or snowboarding  with friends, and still spend their holidays in the mountains in groups, and friends are probably the most important part of every snowtrip. Most of the fun comes from the people you are with, regardless of the snow conditions or how nice the place is. So being reunited with the MG Snowtrip family in France, who I have travelling with for some time now, was indeed returning to the origins of snowboarding: sliding down slopes with your snow buddies. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t take some time to adjust to be snowboarding with other people around me instead of simply roaming free, but in the end it’s just another way to enjoy life in high altitude.

There are hundreds of photos of this amazing gathering of friends and snow enthusiasts here and here, so I’l just post one that shows the good spirit present in this snowtrip.

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The drive back to good old Portugal was nice and easy. I was blessed with amazing waves right when I arrived, and pretty much that sums up the invaluable experience from this Perfect Winter.

However, the ride is never over. There will be more winters to spend and more paths to travel.

Ride on.

 

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.

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