Why backcountry? Why go from the confides of society where all lifes amenities can be readily attained and help is only a short call away?
For me backcountry is a relatively new word to my vocabulary. As a kid, cellphones were non-existent and our pedal bikes were the only thing we needed to venture away from home. When I would go to the lake with friends we would wander through the bush for hours with no cell phone or basically any knowledge of what was out there. We would learn as we went and as far as I remember nothing that terrible ever happened, besides the occasional flipped quad or bush poo with no paper (leaves are useful for that).
As I grew up I was told to go to school so I could get a good job. I wasn’t one to disobey my parents as they seemed to know what they were talking about. I studied hard and eventually attained a degree in Civil Engineering. With this degree came much more than a good job. Somewhere in that 5 year cram session of numbers and formulas I realized anything is achievable with a little elbow grease and a can do attitude. I wanted more challenges like the engineering one I just went though. I struggled so much when I began and by the end, it was easier to some extent, but was still not achievable without a lot of work.
When I left University I quickly knew that moving closer to the mountains was going to be the next step. The mental gains were never enough for me. Through all my teens and 20’s I played various sports (ice hockey, lacrosse, football, ultimate frisbee..) and attended the gym regularly. Whatever was next had to be physical just as much as a mental challenge.
When I was on a ski trip in highschool I remember one of the guys I was with brought up this thing about avalanches and backcountry and I never really thought too much into it at the time, but now that I had finished school and no longer had anything holding me to Saskatchewan, I looked into it. I got myself a good ol fashion career job working as a field engineer for a construction company to pay my debts and save to buy all the necessary supplies to enter this new sport of backcountry snowboarding. I knew no one doing it and I knew absolutely nothing about avalanches or how to safely walk through the backcountry. I came across a backcountry ski camp by Capow guiding and signed myself up.
At this camp, it reminded me of my first year in engineering. It was painful mentally and physically. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and the guide, Marty, was nothing but patient with me. It wasn’t easy for him either to wait on me as this camp was held on one of the coldest weekends in the Revelstoke area. It was about -30°C that weekend and I mean I was plenty warm because I was falling ass over tea kettle down the mountain. I knew after the weekend I had found my next thing. There was so much to the backcountry and I was extremely motivated to learn more about it.
So much so that by the next winter I had quit my engineering job and was living full-time on Apex mountain in BC. I was hooked, I knew it, and I loved it! That winter while I was working at the resort I attended another Capow camp and skied some of the biggest days I had ever done and among all this, I met my now partner.
What was the next step? Well I had done this mountain biking thing a few times on some bro trips to the mountains. I figured a job doing something around that would be cool and give me the opportunity to get into a summer sport. I was able to land a job with Cam Sorensen at Silverstar Bike Park building trails. I learned a great deal from this job and improved greatly as a biker, but I was left wanting more.
The words New Zealand floated across my ears a few times and I looked into the trails, mountains, visa, and it was a go. We moved back to our respective homes, Saskatoon – Me and Calgary – Marisa. I helped my dad renovate a house back from the concrete pad and wood frame as we planned our next excursion across the world.
What I can say for sure 8 months into this Kiwi adventure is you cannot spell backcountry without New Zealand. New Zealand has more trails and outdoor facilities per capita than any other country. Ok, I just made that up, but the density of bike trails, tramping trails, and backcountry huts is a lifetime achievement to do them all. As far as winter travel goes, New Zealand doesn’t typically get snow below tree line so one must break into the alpine before skis can be put on. This takes an already difficult sport and takes it up another notch.
I with my partner have pushed ourselves to physical and mental limits over and over through some of the most beautiful landscapes. Through all the blood, sweat, and tears I would do it all over again. When I push that hard out of my comfort zone, I can’t help but feel I’m growing into a better version of myself.
The backcountry is where humans no longer have complete control of the circumstances and outcome of the events that take place. The more time one spends in the backcountry, the more they begin to understand how to be more adequately prepared and when nature is telling you to back down and go home, but there is always something nature is waiting to teach you.
The backcountry has led me to some of the most beautiful places, introduced me to my partner, and always throws new challenges my way.
Why Backcountry? Why not!
Posted by Mitch