For our first issue of the third volume of Forecast, Dave Treadway asked us if he could pen an essay on risk, and how fatherhood has altered his outlook on skiing big lines, and whether or not it's worth it, in the wake of so many of our ski heroes no longer being with us. Given how thoughtful, intelligent and insightful Treadway is, we jumped at the chance, and below is the result, which consists of questions worth asking, how he deals with it, and what he's learned.
Dave & Kasper Treadway. Photo by Bruno Long
WORTH THE RISK?
Words by Dave Treadway
We waited patiently all winter for the sun to appear so we could attack the alpine. I love storm skiing, though spines under clear skies are my favourite. But last season, it wasn’t until the clouds cleared in late March that we had the opportunity to get up high. On an early morning start, we pinned it up the Coast Mountains on our sleds, which allowed us to see what an entire winter of pounding snowfall produced: caked mountain faces brimming with spines.
One exposed line jumped out at me right away, and my selfishness said "mine." After some stability tests and a warm-up run on a mellow line, there were some subtle red flags in the snowpack that cautioned me to slow down and remember why the heck I was even out there, and what my ultimate goal was for the day—to come home safe.
I used to think it would be cool if I died doing the thing I enjoy most: skiing. Now I think that’s foolish, and I want to die as Shane McConkey wanted to, 90 years old while simultaneously orgasming with my wife in bed. But Shane didn’t die old in bed. He, and many others, died way too young. In fact, alongside BASE jumping, skiing has one of the highest percentages of pro athletes dying while doing their sport.
So how can I be a grandpa to my kids’ kids, still show them that life is worth really living, and not be held back by these fears?
I’ve shifted my mindset about goals. Instead of summiting a certain mountain, or skiing a certain line, my goal now when I head out into the backcountry is to simply be in nature and listen to what it’s telling me, and where it’s allowing me to be on that day. This way, I’m not setting myself up for failure when the conditions aren’t right.
I expose myself to as little amount of danger as possible, for as little time as possible. When I’ve decided that I’m comfortable with the risk of skiing something or passing through somewhere that’s potentially dangerous, only one in our group is in the “danger zone.” Meanwhile, the others are attentively watching, and I’m in and out as efficiently as possible. That way, if something goes wrong, my partners are ready to respond.
I didn’t end up skiing the exposed line that caught my eye that day. Instead, I opted for some more playful lines with fun slash turns. Six months later, as I reflect back on the highlights of that day, what stands out to me is simply being in God’s beautiful creation, hooting and hollering with my friends after each run, and the smell of spring as we descended back into the valley safely.
Does having kids change how I ski? Of course it does. Do I feel that I’ve lost something or am missing out by passing on some opportunities because I’m not confident in the conditions, or not OK with the amount of risk involved? You already know the answer.
Chase life, not death.