November 26, 2012

The funny thing about getting air, you expect time to slow down the way it does in videos, the way

The funny thing about getting air, you expect time to slow down the way it does in videos, the way it does when a body is facing some majorly dramatic or traumatic event, crawling to a snail’s pace and giving you time to look around, spot your landing, maybe post a photo to Instagram.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, at least not for me. No, everything seems to happen faster. That grab I envisioned? My hand only makes it about to my knee before time’s up. The landing that seemed a month away? Uh-oh, here it comes. Time shifts, all right, just not in my favor.

But still, it’s air, unnatural for the human animal and thus even more thrilling. There’s that split second of weightlessness, but even better is the sense of touchlessness, of being unbound by the material, unmoored and unroped to drift and fly and arc without constraint. When skydiving, there is the resistance of the air, when gliding the resistance of the canopy, when wingsuiting the resistance of your suit. But at the lower speeds of hucking, there is nothing to restrict you except for the inexorable pull of gravity.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if the biggest appeal of getting air isn’t the flight but the landing. No matter what happens in the air, the splat into a thick blanket of powder is just plain fun. Go dig up archival footage of 1970s huck sessions — before there were today’s tweaks and jibs and fakies, skiers were content simply to launch themselves without care to their landings. They just jumped and counted that the deep snow would protect them — and it did, whether they landed on their backs, their skis, or their heads.

Life is hard, but snow is an amazing cushion. At some level, conscious or unconscious, I think we understand that it offers the rare opportunity to risk it all…but with little real risk. It’s like a baby being tossed in the air by your dad — strong and sure hands catching you every time as you shriek with glee. He could drop you, of course, but never does. And you just trust and laugh.

Photo by Mattias Fredriksson See more from Mattias here.

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
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