By Dan Egan EBS Columnist
Spring is the time of year when you can hear the mountains expire, see the trees kiss the sun, and the longer days beckon us to play outside longer. The warm wind always makes me reflect on the inspiration discovered during the passing winter.
I found encouragement in the season which was starting to get into full swing with normal lift lines, full lifts and no masks, normal things calm me down. Seeing full faces always makes a day brighter. Skiers and riders are also more enjoyable this time of year. Without thick coats, neck warmers, and mittens, smiles last longer, conversation is freer, and groups seem to linger longer gazing at the view.
At the start of the new year, I really had a hard time saying 2022. I kept thinking, “how did this become 2022?” After all, it seems like yesterday I freaked out about the year 2000. Then 2/2/22 happened in February and it made me see symmetry as I got older.
Ryan Cochran–Siegle inspired me this year by winning a silver medal in the Super-G at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. A month before the games, I asked him on my “Designed by Tradition” podcast on Spotify, “whether he was a ‘skier’ or a ‘skier’. He answered ‘skier’.
Learning to ski at the aptly named family resort, Cochran’s Ski Area and founded by his grandparents, this small community resort in Vermont has been kicking and rolling for the past few decades. Ten family members have been on the World Cup circuit and six have been Olympians. Her mother Barbara Ann won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics in Japan.
So, adding it all up, the “skier” discovered the natural line, while the best “skiers” in the world struggled. No one has skied the Super-G midsection like Cochran-Siegle and he was rewarded with the only U.S. Olympic medal in alpine skiing for 2022. And just for perspective, he was eight at the turn of the century when I worried about A2K.
Have you seen the documentary “Dear Rider”, the story of Jake Burton? If not, consider looking at it. I like this film. It really drives Burton forward which started the snowboard industry. The film helped me understand snowboarding culture and the enduring freedom associated with it. It also sheds light on how young snowboarding is and how much the sport has evolved in just a few decades.
It also made me appreciate Shaun White, whose career spanned five Olympics and impacted generations. His journey from a young teenager to the highest paid athlete in the Olympics is fascinating. The film brings to life how Burton looked up to not only him, but legendary runner Craig Kelly, Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clarke and others.
The North Summit Snowfield on Lone Peak provided some wonderful late season days here. Truly one of the most special runs in North America and a jewel in the crown of skiing here at Big Sky. It is also, as we know, a dangerous place. The tragic passing of ours, Chandler Pelletier, from my home state of New Hampshire, has hit us all hard and reminds us that all precious things are fragile and that we all walk a fine line between life and death.
Her loss makes me hug those I love a little longer and pray a little more for those I don’t see often. We are a mountain, adventurous, transient, seasonal and resilient community. We mourn as one, celebrate with many, and embrace triumph and tragedy each year. I will take advantage of his death to repair the barriers and meet strangers. What will you do?
This time of year, skiing the good aspects of the slopes matters. This requires more vigilance and timing. It’s kind of an enigma, frozen chicken heads at its worst and velvet at its best. It is also invigorating. A slow start to the day can mean a magical late afternoon.
So I’m going to Val d’Isère, in France, to extend the season for a few weeks and think a little more. No doubt I will take these memories with me, to anchor me until winter begins again. I will resume in August with my annual pilgrimage to South America which ties in with November when the days get shorter, temperatures drop and snow showers mark the start of another season.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan trains and teaches at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His latest book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze”, was released in March 2021 and is available on White-Haze.com. To visit Dan-Egan.com for pre-order “All Terrain Vol. II.”