Contribution by Alysia
Today I want to share with you a very personal story, a tale of both fright and fighting will of defiance and heroism. This is the epic story of how a young woman who lived and breathed nine winter seasons as a snowboarder and splitboarder, broke out of her cap strap restraints and reluctantly yet triumphantly, converted to a bad ass ski bunny.
It was a brisk, cool flurry filled afternoon on a Sunday in January, 2012. Little did Stella realize that on this day.. a little piece of her would die, and a new would arise.
Timid, afraid, anxious and excited, she shook the snowflakes from her hair and the slush from her boots as she stepped through the front door of Fanatyk Co Ski and Cycle Shop in Whistler British Columbia. It was as if she was in a different universe – surrounded by four walls stacked with planks, each so different in size, length, sidecut radius, flex and profile. In the centre was a giant monolith, yes, like that in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a monolith which enshrined hard shoes for the feet. It was so strange, so foreign, but Stella couldn’t help herself from being attracted to bright colours and shiny buckles. She timidly patted the glistening plastic and sturdy metal. Her eyes widened, as her fear slowly started to develop into excitement.
She was instructed to sit down on the first of four thrones, placed high above the store room floor. She sat, nervously, while a calm and gentle man took a few moments and examined her model-esque feet. Without saying a word he assessed, he measured, he contemplated. Only then did he politely excuse himself for a moment.
What was Stella to expect happen next? She had no idea. But it wasn’t more than four minutes when the man returned and presented her with a box. As he opened it, a bright gold, striking light peered through the edges and the angels from heaven began to sing. “These..” the gentle man said “.. are your new ski boots”.
Stella timidly slipped her feet in the true last, control fit liner. For the next 35 minutes she walked in circles around the floor room while keen skiers browsed for their own goodies. Her toes embedded in warmth and comfort, enrobed with polyether, she gained confidence with every step. And those steps continued.. all the way to the next evening when she threw her second-hand skis to snow, ready to step in and bomb down the Cypress Mountain intermediate hill at Mach 2 speed.
At the top of the lift, she watched the wide-planked pylons (snowboarders) sitting on the cold ground, struggling to clasp their flimsy binding straps – she suddenly felt different.
Skiing came naturally to Stella stemming from her old ice hockey days, backed with the on-snow experience of snowboarding. She was a natural and in no time was swishing side to side in good form. She was glad she didn’t have to stop in the off-loading area and block the way of others. She didn’t have to hobble as if dragging a ball and chain like a clumsy fool. She was glad she didn’t have to ask her friends to wait up for her. A part of Stella felt happy and at ease as a skier, ready to rip down the mountain. And that’s when she realized, a small part of her self – her snowboard alter ego – had disappeared.
170 days later a pair of G3 Cake skis with Fritschi Freeride Pro AT bindings sit in the corner of the gear room waiting to taste the sweet, sweet, cold snow. Yes, it has been a tale of struggle, self-sacrifice and determination. But for Stella, the story has just begun….