Words by Jill Macdonald.
Late February, northern BC. In a rented SUV stuffed full of gear, food bags, skis and people, fresh off the plane from the Dolomites, Italian skier Silvia Moser dozed through her jet lag. Above her right temple was a round bald spot, partially hidden by her long, beautiful dark hair.
Alopecia is a type of hair loss that happens when the immune system falters. It’s caused by stress and can be permanent. Sometimes, the body reveals our story.
Silvia was in BC to recover from a tough year. She lost four dear friends in various accidents and had just made the decision to quit the Pro Freeride World Tour. For a young competitor whose star was rising, it was a momentous turn in life.
Skiers losing friends or their desire to compete is not a new story. It’s part of the territory. The personal side of business however, is more difficult for some. “I had no motivation. No joy. I did not want any of my friends to do anything anymore. No climbing, no skiing. Nothing for the camera.” Mortality is something professional outdoor athletes have to stare down early and often. At twenty-seven, Moser questioned the path she was on and the business behind it.
In her hometown of Cortina, high end shops line the downtown streets. It is the Rome of the mountains. Moser is the antithesis of this. She’s simple and strong, vital, like basil. Family-oriented. “I love food, I love people, and yet, right now, I am not sure that it’s a good thing to bring children into this world. That makes me very sad.”
Many tamari almonds and various candy bags later, the SUV still tracked north and westerly. Outside, an arctic outflow wiped out any illusions of legendary BC powder with severe cold winds and popcorn dry air. Empty stretches of frozen dirty highway blurred into more empty frozen stretches of highway. The thermometer stopped at -27C. Moser’s trip was shaping up to be a cure by adventure.
“There is a word in Italian for what snow does; it’s like muted or silences.” She did not experience that on the first leg. 45 minutes by helicopter out of Stewart, BC, the team’s Brucejack base camp was brutally cold (-40C with wind chill). Skiing was terrible and there was zero relief from the wind. It hammered across every aspect. At dusk, Silvia lined her sleeping bag with hand warmers, crawled into her tent and waited for daylight.
Four days later, a huge system of precipitation was predicted to move in. The team faced a decision: Stay for the snowfall and run the risk of being held hostage for an extra 3-5 days more than planned; or take the helicopter out in the morning. Everyone was cold, tired and brutalized by the conditions. But they wanted that powder. If the helicopter couldn’t make it in, due to winds or poor visibility, there was an epic option to ski out that required leaving most of their gear behind. “There is no wilderness like this in Europe.” Moser’s toes were frozen, frost burn had darkened her nose and cheeks, and she was tired from lack of sleep.
When the chips are down, what we truly need and love rises to the surface. The temporary nature of life is erased, replaced by the well-being of knowing who we love and the realization that we don’t need much. The team retreated.
Plan B. It’s important to have a plan B and be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions. Plan B was hastily put together, but it held magic. On the morning of setting out, snow started to fall. Stewart transformed into a snug, inlet town and the mountains calmed.
The legendary northern BC snowfall did not disappoint. Silvia immersed herself in the weightlessness of joy.
Follow Silvia on Instagram.
Check out the full length video from Silvia’s trip to Stewart, BC: