Phil and I met while working in a ski shop. One of the reasons Phil proposed that we get married is because I can (not really) keep up with him on a snowboard. Our proximity to enchanting, snow covered mountains (and their towns) is the reason we wanted to move to Europe. That first morning ride up to the mountain top, which can take upwards of an hour, with it’s view of hundreds of Alpine peaks, still sends me into emotion overload. Despite the fact that he teases me about my tears of joy; Phil is a soulful dude. One of the first comments I can remember him saying still resonates in my brain today. (probably because I’ve heard him repeat it a time or two) People were talking about religion. Initially in these conversations Phil likes to quote KRS-One and say, “The temple of God is within you.”
Then continuing with his opinion Phil claimed that he didn’t need to go to a church. He said snowboarding is his church. It’s one of the first times I remember being able to relate to someone in a spiritual sense. Since then we’ve tied the knot and snowboarded together as much as possible. When we’re not snowboarding Phil watches snowboard films; dare I call it Bible study. I think I’m the only person in the world that can watch these videos as much as Phil; and it’s more because I love Phil than I love the videos. I watch, and I’m impressed, and the footage is amazing, but I can’t relate. Phil watches these videos and can definitely relate. Don’t tell him I told you this, but sometimes I think he sees himself in the videos; either that or he has watched the same clips so many times that he can dream the entire film in his head and is able to insert himself. It’s really a shame that Phil became a pilot and not a professional snowboarder. Although, I think his un-maimed body parts are glad he is not a professional snowboarder.
Throughout the years Phil has had many favorite snowboarding heroes. For one reason or another a rider will have a segment in a movie (or magazine interview) that makes a great impression. One pre-winter’s day in 2008, Phil and I are watching That’s It That’s All. There’s a rider featured in this film named Nicolas Müller. Nicolas has been riding for a long time, and has had ridiculously sick parts in films. Of particular note is Absinthe Films’ 2004 video, Pop. (Back to the topic) That’s It, That’s All cuts from a snowboarding Nicolas, to a serious Nicolas sitting in front of a backdrop for an interview and he says, “Snowboarding is my church.” Ever since then Phil (and I) have been paying a bit more attention to this guy.
This year on a pre-winter’s day, we’re watching Never Not Part 2. Nicolas has a part in this video too, and he’s talking, and he says, “There’s only one trick in snowboarding…strapping in.”
As we watched this I had to smile to myself knowing that Phil was thinking, Amen brother.
I know this because Phil gets asked questions like, how do you go so fast, how do you ride switch like that, how… and Phil’s answer is by spending lots of time on a snowboard.
And now that I’ve set you up with enough back-log, I’ll explain why your’e reading this.
Last year’s Absinthe Films’ Resonance features Nicolas Müller riding at his home mountain in Laax, Switzerland…and the location for our first riding trip this year was born. We planned our trip, in late October, for late December, hoping there would be snow. In hindsight this was a bold hope as the snow has tended to be better later in the season. Unfortunately our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to planning things too far in advance. If we wanted to make sure we got to Laax, we’d have to plan it first. So I made reservations and asked Santa to drop tons of fresh snow in Laax for Christmas. Unfortunately, this little girl’s Christmas wish didn’t come true.
The rainy drive to Laax was pretty smooth. We got there in about four hours. Like most places in CH, Laax can be pricey, so our accommodations were in a town named Chur. (pronounced k-h-oo-r, but I’m sure I still don’t say it right) About 20 minutes north, Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland. And while we found the town of Chur to be quite charming; we soon realized it was more of a city than a town. This made parking difficult. When we arrived at our rental apartment we were greeted by (the terribly friendly) Jacqueline. She explained a few ins-and-outs of the apartment, and city, and quickly let us on our own. It soon occurred to us that, despite our affordable (and clean, and spacious) accommodations, we were going to spend obscene amounts of money to park and we were going to be sleeping in a store-turned-apartment. Our weekend getaway was sprouting charismatic wings…to say the least.
Even with the exceptional details (that one should expect when one travels frequently) we figured it can’t always be a turkey shoot, and decided to have fun anyway.
We had two great days at the ski resort. The style of the resort at Laax is expansive. When it snows there’s a ton of space for you to get away from lifts and groomed trails, and carve your own way down the mountain. When it doesn’t snow however, we’ve found that it can be a bit tedious to have to stick to the trails; especially when those trails have some exposed dirt and rock. Riding up the lift Phil and I laughed about coming here because of one person…Nicolas. It’s not like we thought we’d see him; but we commented on how there was no way (on Earth) that a pro rider would ever be at a resort, on a holiday weekend, with minimal snow. I hope we don’t sound ungrateful for the conditions, because we still had a blast. No matter the characteristics of the snow, we’re happy just to slide it sideways. Also, in Laax, any frown can be turned upside down at the end of the day with a pitcher of beer (and maybe a Jaeger) on the porch of the Crap Bar, dancing in your riding boots to the mash-ups of the fabulous DJ Peres, while toddlers use the mini freestyle features as a jungle-gym.
By the second half of the last day we all had a different plan of attack for our last runs. We split up and decided to meet at the mid mountain bar at 15:00. I was third to show up. I posted my snowboard in the snow and jogged up to Phil and his buddy. Before I could say anything Phil said, “Guess who we just saw?”
“I don’t know”, I said.
“Guess!”, Phil said.
In a sarcastic, drawn out tone I said, “Ni-col-as Mül-ler.”
“Hell yea”, Phil replied.
Apparently if I had been about 10 minutes faster I could have seen him too. He walked right passed those two on the second tier of the deck. Being excited, wanting to do something, and not knowing what to do, led Phil and John to follow him. (but not in a creepy way) The freestyle park was just below this mid-mountain station and Phil thought (highly unlikely, but) maybe Nicolas was headed there and they could sneak a peak at a stylie trick or two. Instead, Nicolas ducked into the No Name Bar. That’s when Phil and John stopped, and turned around disappointedly, walked back to our meeting place and caught up with me. When the fourth member of our party showed up, Laura, she proposed that she was not afraid to walk up to Mr. Müller in the bar and ask for a photo. Phil declined her efforts. I think Phil and I are of the same opinion on this topic. No matter how awesome you think someone is, no matter how many times you’ve studied their video parts and feel like you know them, despite that fact that you are at their home mountain based on their recommendation; you still don’t know them. You don’t know their personality, or what kind of day they are having; and as a stranger it is probably better to play it cool and leave them alone. You leave them alone despite the fact that it is burning you up inside to not get a photo with them. Or even better to say, “Hey man I appreciate who you are and what you do for snowboarding. Are you still riding? Maybe I could take a couple of runs with you and your crew.”
No way. The fear of rejection would hold me back from being so bold; and I think that stands for Phil too.
As I sit here and recount the situation I can’t help but feel that we were (perhaps) a bit too timid, and we should have acted more like school girls. Nicolas probably would have been flattered. It’s not like he’s Madonna.
Unfortunately for Phil, the trip (and opportunity) is over and I remain the only one (of the two of us) that has had the pleasure of taking a few runs with a professional snowboarder.
Jeremy Jones. Utah. 2007. Thanks to Ski Barn and Rossignol… and thanks to you for letting me type that. I just wanted to take the spotlight off of Phil and toot my own horn for a second.