Vail’s Chris Anthony: Where our skis will take us
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
It’s amazing where one can end up! The thought occurred to me when I was left alone on top of a peak above the Arctic Circle in the middle of the night. It was May, and I was in Norway. The sun was low on the horizon. The sky was something between purple – gold and violet orange. There was not a breath of wind, and it was so quiet that I could actually hear the electricity crackling in the air.
As I stood there, I wondered how it came to be that I would be here, in this unusual but beautiful place, at this moment in time.
At one point while I was standing there alone, just my ski equipment and a two-way radio, I had to relieve myself. I wondered if anyone had ever, in the history of time, stood in this exact spot during the month of May and pissed in the middle of the night. This could be a first.
I had a ton on my mind as I stood there waiting for a call on the radio with instructions … or, for that matter, any sign of life. In the meantime, the helicopter with our cameraman and an injured athlete had flown out of the region and left me and another athlete alone on two different peaks.
Believing I was the first human to perhaps urinate in that spot made me feel really special and kind of lonely. I wondered what my friends back in the U.S. might be doing at the moment. Who was sitting in a cubicle? Who was stuck in traffic? Who was in an argument? What was my girlfriend doing besides being angry with me? The last I’d heard from her was a four page fax. She was convinced I was somewhere in Norway surrounded by hundreds of Scandinavian women in a nightclub. Ironically, I had not even seen a female in a few days. I only had the company of my male companions while traveling for this Warren Miller film shoot.
If I had been left there, on that peak, the only people who would have known were the heli pilot who dropped me off, the cameraman who told him where to put me and one other athlete standing on a another peak a couple miles away. If, at any time, someone would have wanted to get rid of me without a trace, this was one of the moments they could have done so with success.
Several thousand feet below me, fjords separated the peaks. It would have been a long, cold swim followed by a torturous trek back to civilization. Or, for that matter, a bathroom. I did not have so much as a candy bar.
All that aside, standing there and eventually sitting for that small moment in my life, I was at peace. Until in the distance I could hear the rotors of the returning helicopter breaking the still air. This was followed by a crackle on the radio and then eventually instructions that I was to ski the steep, sun-baked and now frozen south couloir of this peak while they filmed from the helicopter as they passed by.
Instantly that short moment of peace turned to a rush of adrenaline. It had been an hour-plus since I had taken a look at that side of the mountain in the fly-by, and now I needed to drop over the edge into the blind and ski it for the camera.
A photo taken during that trip by Max Bervy hangs in my apartment and will forever bring this moment alive in my mind’s eye. Thousands of others lie deep in a closet somewhere in the form of slides.
These days, it’s a little easier to document the moments of time with the digital technology at our fingertips. And during my 2012 trip into northeastern Italy, I clumsily took advantage of those assets via my Go Pro and Flip cameras. My goal was to catch a glimpse of one day as we skied from Italy into Slovenia at part of my annual “Wine and Dine Tour with a Skiing Problem” that I host each year with Marco Tonazzi. If you have a moment, check it out on YouTube: http://bit.ly/GGbrCW
We are lucky, those of us who have learned to ski. It’s an excellent excuse to travel to different parts of the world. It’s an amazing experience to head out to the backyard and to be able to glide upon the earth’s frozen surface from one mountain to the next or one valley to another or from your yard to your neighbors. Despite the fact that we have not exactly had a ton of powder this year, I have still found the joy in what we do have: The ability to be outside and glide, enjoy one another’s company and see the world by way of a couple of sticks or a board attached to your feet.
Longtime Vail resident Chris Anthony is a former Alaskan Extreme Skiing Champion and veteran of nine World Extreme Skiing Championships and 22 Warren Miller films.