Friends in High Places - What I Learnt Coming Home
Let’s start this thing off with a disclaimer. I have absolutely no clue where I am exactly, or what time it is. All I can tell you is that I’m on the redeye flight between Calgary and Heathrow, and I don’t want to be here...
Woe is me. Yes, I’m well aware that this is a solid gold first world problem (no hashtags here), and I’m not courting sympathy, just telling it like it is. I’ve done this enough times now to know the ass-kicking I’m in store for within a few hours of walking back into real life.
Confused? Same here, but then I do have the excuse of being sat down in a metal tube ON THE EDGE OF OUTER SPACE. Stick with me - all will become clear, unless it doesn’t (in which case, I’ll claim that the non-linear narrative is intentional and this will be lauded as the Inception of the Nonstop blog world). Overblown introduction DONE, onto the main event.
If you’re locking your eyeballs on this and have been a part of the Nonstop family over the past few years, you may know who I am. I’m Paul, and I’ve been working in the Nonstop office in Bath (that’s in the UK, for our international audience) over that time. After finishing the 11 Week Course in Fernie two years ago I was fortunate enough to score a place on the team to keep my Nonstop flame burning brighter than my ginger beard.
Flash forward to two weeks ago, and I was sent out to Canada to “re-familiarise” myself with the mountains and enjoy some serious hangs with the Nonstop Class of 2015 in Banff, Red Mountain and Fernie. Sweet perk. You might be surprised to hear that this trip isn’t a total holiday (you hear that – IT’S NOT A FREAKIN’ HOLIDAY!) and one of the tasks set to me was to write a blog about my trip. The obvious move would be to write a diary of my daily activities, chuck in a few pictures and be done with it. Or, I could be my usual belligerent self and go down a whole different route.
If you’re super keen to know of my movements, here’s the Cliff’s notes: Flew to Canada, spent a few days in Banff, a couple in Red Mountain, and a week in Fernie. Had a great time.
However, with this being the third straight year I’ve been a part of the Nonstop family, I’ve come to learn that a simple diary just can’t cut the mustard when it comes to explaining what makes time there so special....
Let’s get a few undisputable facts out of the way – these are often touted reasons for heading to the hills. I can attest as a past, present, and future Nonstopper, that they are all true:
- Canada is awesome
- Spending time with some of the best instructors in the world an absolute dream
- Skiing, snowboarding and all of the Nonstop extra activities will give you countless “best days ever” and a lifetime of memories.
With that said, allow me to cut to the chase: it’s the people that make a Nonstop course. Or more specifically, the people once they’re in the mountains. Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared more high fives, hugs and fist bumps than I can count, from both new friends and old alike. Reconnecting with people who I’ve not seen for 12 month or more, as well as sharing the mountains with others for the first time has been an absolute blast – there’s a certain intangible element to friendships formed in towns like Fernie, Banff & Rossland that defy background, age & in some cases, expectation.
The common thread between all of the people I’ve met on Nonstop courses, both this year and in the past, is the love of skiing & snowboarding. I’m not talking about the love of “being seen to be skiing” spending the day posing about for a couple of laps in the morning followed by a boozy afternoon. Not that. I’m talking about the simple love of sliding around on frozen water on either one plank or two. When you break it down to this level, it’s hard to take the whole thing too seriously. Chairlift up. Slide down. Hike a little. Slide some more. Rinse. Repeat. A pointless, futile exercise to the uninitiated; or if you “get it”, quite simply an exercise in FUN. And that’s the key word. There’s not a whole lot of things that you keep with you as an “adult” that can give you that same feeling and remind you what it felt like to be a kid again.
As I was sat on the Bear Chair yesterday, during a conversation about what Fernie is like during the summer compared to the winter, Jono (Nonstop ski instructor and all round mountain hero) said, and I paraphrase:
“Snow is the great leveller. Without it, there’s a lot of rocky and jagged terrain, but once it gets covered in snow, everything’s a lot smoother and easier to deal with...”
I think the same is true of people once they get out to the mountains. It can’t just be a coincidence that there are a disproportionate amount of incredible people out on Nonstop courses each year – maybe it’s an extended time in the snow, and the mountains themselves, that smoothes out all of those jagged and sharp edges that people carry around with them as a result of the day-to-day bullsh*t that “real life” brings. If that is true, perhaps that explains why so many lasting, true friendships get formed in the snow – just like the childhood friendships that get formed when you don’t need to worry about anything and can just focus on growing and having fun, or as we call it in Canada, getting stoked.
More snow = More fun. Simple Nonstoponomics.
And THAT is why I’m not stoked about getting off this plane – the undefined “post-Nonstop blues”, that I first experienced two years ago, has now transformed into a fully realised fear. A fear that before I even get back in my front door, I’ll cross paths with too many people that haven’t yet made the jump to smooth out those jagged edges, take some time out for themselves and hit the reset button. I know not everyone has the opportunity to ditch real life immediately to go and slide around in the snow, but if you do, quit your yapping and make it happen. It just might change your life.
Now, I’m being told I have to turn off all electronic devices for landing. Until next time, be excellent to each other.
If you fancy taking Paul's advice and taking the plunge with a bit of time in the mountains to smooth out those edges, we'd love you to join us. Check out the Fernie, Banff and Red Mountain resort pages to find out more about the courses on offer in each.