Robin Van Gyn slices down the face of a peak in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. Photo: Ben Gavelda

Editor’s Note: Life Preservers

Surviving adversity on and off the mountain.

In the mountains, we are small, vulnerable. When something goes wrong, our true character is exposed, on full display for the select few who brave the elements with us. Friendships are forged, deepened, or dismantled in these precarious alpine cathedrals. When I consider that truth, one harrowing day in the backcountry with this magazine’s new publishers, Jenelle and Olaus Linn, comes to mind.

We were in Hakuba, Japan, outside Goryu Resort hiking beneath a jewel-toned sky. We climbed a ridge and glimpsed our objective—a slope of untouched, pristine powder dotted with thick trees, their branches sagging heavily with sleeves of white. As we descended, one at a time, our eyes on each other, the snow’s stability changed. Soon we found ourselves in an avalanche path blanketed in debris. Each turn we made was breathless, wrapped in angst. We picked our way down that ridge to safety and glided through a gulley, its jagged, icy walls towering on either side. We were out of the woods, or so we thought.

Our next obstacle in the land of the rising sun—a raging, winding, icy river—rose from the shadows as we descended a treed slope. We removed our snowboards and leapt down to the river’s deep, pillowy banks. Surely there was another way across. A faint set of boot prints emerging from the other side of the river told us there was not. We deliberated. Yes, the river was the only way. After a few giggles and jokes, futile attempts at levity, we shifted into serious river fording mode.

Olaus and Jenelle removed their snowboard boots and socks and rolled up their snow pants. They would cross the slick, rocky riverbed barefoot. It was the right decision, one that Olaus urged me to follow. He reached the other side mostly dry while his rapt audience, Jenelle and I, watched. Worried that without my boots on I would slip on a rock and plunge into the frigid, snarled water, I crossed the river wearing my boots and fell in anyway. I was utterly soaked in prickly, icy water.

Cover artist Mark Dunstan assisting Dude Dog with a stream crossing on Teton Pass. Photo: Wade Dunstan

When I made it to the other side, Olaus was prepared. The gregarious snowboarder who I had shared laughs with moments earlier was a different person: concerned, methodical. He produced a towel and fresh socks from his pack and instructed me to remove my sopping boots and socks. I had to move fast, he urged. I dutifully listened. After all, Olaus is no stranger to the trials and tribulations that quickly ensue and unravel in the mountains. He spent his childhood on multi-week pack trips deep in the Tetons. Those trips prepared him to think fast in exactly these types of situations. Now, on the other side of the world, he was putting his Wyoming upbringing to use in a moment when every decision was critical, for the wrong choice could mean hypothermia.

Olaus followed close behind me on the hour-long traverse back to the resort. At every cumbersome incline, he was there to check in, to literally push me along.

During another precarious situation, it was Jenelle who came to my rescue. I often like to say she nearly saved my life when we were in the remote Albanian Alps on a 10-day trek—lost, cold and hungry. During that trip, Jenelle wasted no time slipping into expert survival mode—starting fires with sticks, securing us shelter and preparing meals with scarce ingredients.

Yes, the Linns have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. Now they have stepped in to save this magazine, too. Their recent purchase of Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine from Planet Jackson Hole’s former publisher Copperfield Publishing is symbolic. It acknowledges a snow community of people whose stories should be told, preserved. The Linns see immeasurable value in that. They will be responsible stewards of this area’s vibrant, quirky culture. I’d bet my life on it.

Robyn Vincent

@thenomadicheart

More Stories
Kings & Queens of Corbet’s 2019 Competition