Always come home

Photos by Oskar Enander

Is it possible to make changes in life that are 100% positive? Or do they always come with a negative side too?

When my girlfriend and I found out that our family was about to grow, the split between “terrified” and “extremely happy” was about 50/50. I’ve never been a person really longing for kids, but rather one that thought that “I’ll probably have a kid one day”.

When things got real, I immediately started thinking of the life I’ve been living, and how it wouldn’t be the same any longer - how I’d have to quit professional skiing, cut away 80 % of the trail biking and fly fishing in the summer, and how I would probably be terrified over everything but flat powder skiing.

I was wrong.

When our son was born, the terrified 50% went away, and to my surprise, nothing really changed. Well, not totally true, but in general, most of the activities I’ve been loving my whole life were still there. Very present. I just have to fight a little harder to keep them prioritized these days.

Those activities are the main thing, and while I guess a lot of people get drawn into family life 24/7 (can’t blame them!), I’m actually happy that my brain tells me to keep on doing what I do.
Keep on spending time in the mountains. Keep on shredding laps in Engelberg with my buddies. Keep on shooting with photographers. Keep on spending time with those who know more, so that I can learn more.

So that I can always come home.

Even though those words pass through my mind even more since I became a father, they are not new. I once did an interview with professional skier Henrik Windstedt, and I asked him about his vision of skiing and risk taking. I wanted him to talk about all the big changes fatherhood brought to his life. His answer surprised me, but the more I thought of his words

“Nothing really changed. I didn’t want to get hurt before I had kids either” —

the more sense they made.

Now that I also have a little one, I understand his answer even better, and I can just say that I’m happy I never felt the urge to jump a cliff or ski a line when I thought the odds of getting hurt were high.
I guess “high” is a matter of definition, but I always considered my body extremely precious, and if someone asked me if I would blow my ACL for ten billion dollars, I feel very confident in my answer — no.

I guess saying that my mindset hasn't changed a single bit is naive. But considering how terrified I’ve always been about avalanches, crevasses and tumbling over rock faces, I can’t say that my mindset is much different. Obviously, I think about the situation I would put my family in if I were to break my arm and end up in a cast for two months. And even though it may sound sweet to get away from changing diapers, it’s not a situation I’d be stoked on. Because having a cast would also mean that I would not be able to ski, cook, do dishes, bike, fish, etc., and that has always been enough for me to stay away from stupid decisions. Of course, things can happen any time, on the easiest runs too, but that’s not a part of the same discussion.

Having this mindset may provoke some people to think: “When are you going to quit this dangerous skiing you’re doing? You have a family now!” To me, this is a weird way of looking at our time here on earth. Living a life that makes me happy is a big part of the equation. There are so many “normal” things that also involve big risks but everybody is doing them, so they’re just more accepted. I’m more scared when driving my car than when skiing big lines. Going 100 kilometers per hour and facing other cars all the time… this is an unpredictable risk to me. I’d rather skip some driving and take the train more often, instead of skipping a powder day. That kind of risk management makes me happy, and saying “I’m happy” is something that I hope isn’t considered ego, but rather something that makes me a better father and partner. Getting a desk job full time just isn’t for me. I need mountains and forests to function.

But this job I’m doing… how do I make sure I come home from that every day?

I surround myself with people I trust on the days when I really feel it’s necessary - people who know more about snow and the mountains than I do. In Engelberg, my winter home for almost 20 years now, it’s my good friend and mountain guide Dani Perret.

I come from a freeskiing background, and when being in really big terrain, or climbing something exposed, I obviously get scared. That’s natural and not a bad feeling to have as long as it doesn’t take over. To be able to ask questions to someone you really trust is the difference between having a shitty day and having a great day where you also learned something.

Mountain guides and friends you really trust will help you evolve as skiers, mountaineers, and also humans in my opinion. I remember this narrow ridge I was climbing together with Dani last year. It was very stressful for me, since there was a lot of “air” around us, and I’m not really used to that. But after discussing it with Dani, comparing it to the everyday skiing I do on the big runs in Engelberg, my mind slowly went to logic, and understood that the huge “danger” my mind sensed, was just the fact that I’m not used to hanging on rock ridges in ski boots with a few hundred meters of air under my feet, even if I am attached to a rope.

My understanding that there was a low risk on that climb, is the same thing as other people understanding that freeskiing, ski touring and alpinism doesn’t have to be more dangerous than driving your car or bike commuting through a big city if

it’s done right. It for sure is way more fun though!

So, back to the headline — negatives? Well, getting less sleep, having less money and changing diapers isn’t necessarily the best thing that happened to me. But as the clichés all say: it’s worth it. The fact that I’m living the life I do, and that I know I’ll be able to share this life with my son (and the rest of the family) makes it worth all the dirty diapers he sends my way.