There is such a unique tranquility that comes with being outside during snowfall. Arguably, this effect is most soothing after the sun has gone down and the moon can float prominently. Seemingly, however, our society has shifted so that nighttime hours once reserved for rest and reflection have become steadily overtaken by anxiety and obligation. For many people, it has become unimaginable to just spend one moment appreciating the beauty of their surroundings. It is interesting to consider that something as pure as snowflakes also have the power to bring about madness. When an abundance of people are concerned with shoveling out their cars and hazardously scrambling to work jobs they don’t even like, how could anyone feel connected to the here and now? Many are living in the present as slaves to the future with no escape in sight. I myself, feel fortunate enough to have learned that freedom can be found in something as natural as a snowstorm. This knowledge was gained through experience, and snowboarding was one of my greatest teachers.
I fell in love with the rush that any true rider would know in their core. The sensation of sloped land appearing to pull me with increasing force through every foot I travelled was enough to have me hooked. It was scary, yet calming, all at once. I legitimately loved every second of it because time no longer mattered. Even at nine years old on a small local hill in Lincoln Woods, snowboarding made me feel like I was part of something greater than the scenery that had always been in front of me.
Growing up in New Jersey, spring, summer, and fall were spent skateboarding while winter marked the time of year to hopefully thrash some powder. I was always drawn to skating and snowboarding due to their blend of creativity with high-risk athletic demand. My view has always been that these two cultures are neither sport, nor art. They are so gracefully in the middle that they exist on pure subtlety. Sure it can be argued that they are sports because competitive realms exist within the worlds, however, those worlds would still not cease to exist without competition. One could also say that it is art, in the way dance is, because the acts are comprised of expressive movements. Still, I believe that art is often created to convey a deeper meaning, while board culture thrives on surface-level beauty. The way you choose to ride your board becomes the message you are relaying. The tricks you learn and perfect are your brush strokes, and the terrain is your canvas. Your mind is the only naturally occurring competition.
Every snowboarder knows the “do or die moment” in their head right before they commit to a trick. Some of the best advice that I ever received about riding went something like, “ You will fall no matter what, so just trust that you will get hurt more hesitating than if you grit your teeth and go for it.” Writing it out makes me realize that if the word ‘fall’ is replaced with ‘fail’, the advice holds true in regards to life. Failing does not necessarily mean something is over, but rather it has not yet been accomplished. Learning how to even carve a mountain with minimal speed and style is at the very least going to mean enduring some painful car rides home because of bruised tailbones from heelside slide-outs. Some of us on the east coast might as well ride at the local ice rink instead of the mountains on certain days. It all comes with the territory though, and overlooking the painful slams and challenging natural elements are part of the reason why many people would simply rather play it safer.
I have broken about a dozen bones mixed in with a whole bunch of other injuries throughout my life. Most of them are from skateboarding, but a few pretty bad ones happened in the snow. One of the first decent sized kickers I ever launched off of at 13 years old helped me fracture my wrist in two places. It still didn’t make me consider quitting for a minute though. I’ve smacked my head, cracked a rib, broke some fingers, and pissed blood because I love snowboarding. The freedom to be in control comes at a cost. In order to connect with the entire experience of conquering a mountain, sometimes the mountain has to hit you back hard.
Anyone who has ever slammed on a quiet trail or glade riding may or may not have noticed how eerily peaceful it can be laying in the snow hurt. No matter how much pain is pulsing through your body, it’s not the same as being hurt when people are around. Assuming you are still conscious, of course, there is a moment of Zen that precedes the realization of the injury. It causes you to briefly live completely alive. Feeling weakened in nature helps to remove us from ourselves and surrender to the fact that we live distracted. I personally have always been fortunate enough to make it down the trail and home on my own merit, but these post-injury trips have become the time for refined perspective to take hold. Just as in life, if things always went perfectly on your snowboard, how could you ever know what to appreciate most about it?
That experience through sacrifice is what makes the best days so incredible. Getting back on the lift for the first time after an injury or any kind of lay off is one of the greatest anticipations I have ever known. Every run should be like that, but we take things for granted until we can no longer have them. During my last year in New Jersey, I hurt my ankle so badly skating that the road to recovery cut right through the beginning of snowboard season. I was moving to Boston in January for school, so the window of opportunity for riding was slowly closing. There were a ton of things weighing on my mind during those times, and I was in desperate need of an escape. When I finally got to dust off my Lib-Tech, hop in the car, and head to the mountain for the first runs of the season, it dawned on me how important everything about snowboarding was for my soul.
As I drove further away from the towering New York City skyline towards Mountain Creek, I came to the conclusion that cultures like board riding are the final frontiers for human escape. The act of physically departing from the hustle and bustle of suburban or city life and breathing in fresh, elevated air all day is a prescription for relief. There is no need for any sort of technological distraction when you drop in at the summit. I have often made it a point to not even look at my phone while the session is still going, even if I am alone. Solo missions with empty lifts and trails can almost become spiritual. Every stressor, worry, and obligation’s burden becomes diminished. Literally forging your own path through nature’s playground with nobody’s influence is about as free as you can feel. Everything you commit to as you cruise along is purely because you felt like it. This is the ultimate disconnect from societal norm. It is as real as enjoying life can get.
This is why I can find freedom in having to trek through the brutal Boston winters nowadays. Even on the busiest streets with slush up to my knees, there is always that feint memory of snowy nights with my friends behind Lincoln School. For every adult that has to miserably risk their life getting to work on frozen roads, I like to think that there is also a kid out there having a blast taking risks on their day off from school in the true spirit of snowboarding. I hope those kids never lose sight of exactly why they ever strapped up their bindings in the first place. It’s cool to think that the creativity and discipline built from having a passion for snowboarding could actually last a lifetime. What some people see as dangerous and crazy, we see as the only way to approach things. There is difficulty in being okay with monotonous living for somebody who pushes their own limits. The world of snowboarding offers anyone who is willing a chance to escape the constrictions of convention. No rules exist. There is no right or wrong, no winning or losing. Snowboarding will always remind members of its community that there is beauty in pain and triumph beyond fear. Sometimes, all it takes is being in the moment to appreciate everything that comes naturally in this world.
Story by - Brian Ferro