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The best examples of Alaskans are incredibly proficient at a dizzying amount of things, but, ultimately, there are too many things. This, of course, is good, because if you’re a kayak guru, you can take a break and hike a mountain and not exactly be slumming it.
Jeff Lund: Far from the snow, close to the streams 122017 AE 1 Jeff Lund The best examples of Alaskans are incredibly proficient at a dizzying amount of things, but, ultimately, there are too many things. This, of course, is good, because if you’re a kayak guru, you can take a break and hike a mountain and not exactly be slumming it.

One of the reasons the author hasn’t used his snowboard since moving to Ketchikan in 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeff Lund.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Story last updated at 12/20/2017 - 4:02 pm

Jeff Lund: Far from the snow, close to the streams

 So there I was, waiting in line at a ski lift in California with my buddy Nate. I had traded a road bike for a snowboard my buddy never used and, being a novice, I bought a helmet because it wasn’t a matter of if I would fall, but how often.

Nate, 6 feet 7 inches tall, had a long way to fall every time, but shrugged at the thought of a cranial protection.

“It’s a Carhartt beanie,” he said, as if the brand name would protect him.

As I leaned down to adjust my boots, he dropped his board. It grazed my forehead, putting a gash in the helmet.

“Good buy, Lund.”

That was all that was needed to be said.

So, when I moved back to Alaska everyone, including me, thought I’d become a snowboarding maniac. But that’s the thing: there’s a ton of good country, you just can’t get to it in winter without a lot of work or a snow machine.

The year I moved back to Klawock, on days I didn’t have a sub job, I’d throw on the snowshoes and hike up one of the mountains behind town on a long-abandoned logging road. If I didn’t mind the exercise, I’d board up and down the same run a few times. When I was ready, I’d take the old logging road all the way down, or until I reached my limit.

But since I moved to Ketchikan, I haven’t used my board. As much as I want to do as much as possible to make the most of the outdoor opportunities here, some things just don’t end up happening. Basketball season takes up a lot of time too, so snow sports have stayed just beyond my winter routine.

A couple buddies of mine went up Dude Mountain (about a 45-minute drive from downtown Ketchikan) back when winter was white and took some pretty spectacular pictures of backcountry skiing. As much as I’d like to, I wonder when I will actually get back on my board. It’s easy to say that I need to make it happen, but I don’t know.

No matter how motivated you are, it’s impossible to do everything here. If you’re heading to the high country to board or ski during the weekend, then you’re not fishing for winter kings or steelhead. If you’re messing around with recreation, then you’re not living a subsistence lifestyle trapping, or putting your hat into predator management by pursuing wolves.

Maybe that’s one of the things we have to come to terms with: the ultimate Alaskan does not have time or daily energy units to be an expert at everything, and mediocre folk like me just try to keep from being overwhelmed. The best examples of Alaskans are incredibly proficient at a dizzying amount of things, but, ultimately, there are too many things. This, of course, is good, because if you’re a kayak guru, you can take a break and hike a mountain and not exactly be slumming it.

When I lived in California I lived in a town that was “centrally located” which I found was a euphemism for “nowhere.” I was two hours from the mountains, two hours from the beach, two hours from the city. Yes. Nowhere.

Nate and I always swore we’d do some weekend trips “to the snow” and even thought buying a season pass would make us more determined to make it worthwhile. We never did and we rarely went.

So now I’m in Alaska and while everything has changed, my snowboarding life hasn’t. I’m closer to the snow, but it just doesn’t happen thanks to myriad of other things to fill the hours.

Plus, I can’t find my helmet.

Jeff Lund teaches and writes in Ketchikan.