Certain opportunities in life demand a do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-this-happen mindset. A free cat skiing trip to Baldface Lodge in Nelson, British Columbia, provided by Skullcandy (www.skullcandy.com), is one of those. With a first-class plane ticket, three days lodging, and four days skiing 35,000 acres of prime terrain dangling in front of me, I knew that spending a night in the back seat of the rental car, nearly being eaten alive by a rabid dog, and getting about 10 hours of sleep over the course of three days leading up to the trip, would be the best decision I'd made all winter.
The third annual Skullcandy winter retreat is the brainchild of Luke Edgar, VP of Core Sales, and wholeheartedly supported by owner, founder and die-hard snowboarder, Rick Alden. The idea is simple and ingenious: Skullcandy giving back to those who give to them—retailers, vendors, and pro athletes on board with the industry's leading headphone company. And there's no better way to give back to a bunch of powder hungry hedonists than bring them to one of the most beautiful cat skiing lodges in the world for three days of skiing, riding, brainstorming, partying, and relaxation. One of those lucky bastards, er, vendors, was Smith Sport Optics' (www.smithoptics.com) Senior product Manager Ben Flandro, who, three days before the trip left this voicemail on my phone:
"Hey Keith, want to go heli and cat skiing for free next week in British, Columbia? We need a writer/photo guy from Powder. If so, better call me tonight!" What sounded like a practical joke was a real offer.
Five days later, and having survived a sleepless, cold, nail-biting all-nighter of travel through the deep woods of northern Washington and into Nelson, B.C., I'm being ripped via snowmobile to the top of a peak by Baldface owner and founder Jeff Pensiero.
"The cat your riding in will be here in about 20 minutes," he says with a smile. "Enjoy some solitude in the mountains… take pictures of pines trees and stuff." The words were like magic. Only 18 hours earlier, I'd finished a 10-week work marathon and this brief moment of silence was my antidote.
Unbeknownst to them, Luke and Rick were giving back to even those who hadn't given to them. Well, I'd purchased a few headphones over the past few years, but this moment could not be compared to a monetary value. Snow was falling lightly through a refreshing breeze. In every direction, views of steep faces of pure powder pleasure crept in and out of the looming fog. Nothing but wilderness and wildness could be seen or heard. The stress, tension, and worry that had clogged my brain and dampened my spirit in the last few months vanished.
When the snowcat unloaded its dozen occupants, a stream of contagious and joyous energy hit the ground. High fives and intros were made and we quickly moved to the top of a 2,500-vertical-foot run—a mix of rolling, steep terrain, complete with 10-foot drops, drifts, and rollers covered in 10 inches of new snow. We all took turns ripping the terrain exactly how we chose. Everyone collectively meeting up at the bottom where the cat arrived a few minutes later. We hit the repeat button about six more times that afternoon before returning to the warm embrace of the beautiful timber-framed lodge.
At this point, I'm wasted. Not drunk, but tired and so completely reborn I can't imagine the day getting any better. Saddling up to the bar I push my arms on the wooden platform and hang my head in exhausted pleasure. "What can I get you?" a voice utters. I look up to the smiling face and sparkling green-blue eyes of Tamara, the bartender and Baldface's unofficial purveyor of fun. "A beer please," I respond as a huge smile develops.
I realize I have landed in a magical land—one where powder runs are endless, the women are beautiful and kind, the food exquisite, and the best four days of my winter will unfold like a fictional tale.
**Check out Keith Carlsen's (www.keithcarlsen.com) website.