Let’s be clear:I love snowmobiling. With all of my heart. I live, sleep, eat, and dream of it. Maybe it’s the adrenaline, or maybe the physical challenge, who knows, I’m still trying to figure that out. Whatever the case, I still get the little kid butterflies in my stomach before each ride. In fact, it seems that it grows stronger as I age.
My riding is pretty different, now, than most people out there, but also quite similar. For instance, rarely do I get to go ride with my friends. However, over the past few years, I have become great friends with a lot of the pro riders, and have slowly lost my last group of friends, probably due to the fact that I just don’t have time to keep up with them. So, I guess I still get to ride with my friends.
Next, I don’t spend nearly as much time as I used to, in regards to researching snow to find the best gamble for that epic weekend. And, where I used to have to fight to get people to ride with, my services have become a lot more in-demand, so I’m often confronted with having to choose between friends, which I don’t really like. I mean, I like that I have people that want to ride with me, but I don’t like having to tell folks “no”.
Finally, I’m a lot more committed to the drive than a lot of people. Typically, including work, I drive about 1,000 miles per week. I try to arrange my schedule so that where I ride isn’t too far out of the way. It doesn’t always work. For example, two weeks ago, I was in Williston, ND for work, drove to Fort Collins, CO to pick up my gear, and headed over to Idaho Falls, ID. But, last week, I was in Midland, TX and conveniently hit Wolf Creek, CO on my way home to Fort Collins, maybe 200 miles of a detour.
Either way you look at it, things are different and the same. What hasn’t changed, but maybe gotten worse, is how I prepare before each ride. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about, and how I overcome it. I’m interested to hear your steps.
Each week, I start with denial. I tell myself that I’m not going to ride this coming weekend, and that I’m going to spend time with my family, work on chores, and enjoy the youth of my children. It never fails. As soon as pictures are published, usually on Monday mornings, I start the denial phase. I unpack all of my gear, wash it, and set it out, but never put it away.
Following denial, I have anger, humerus in hindsight. I don’t know why, because I love snowmobiling, but it’s almost like I’m mad that I ‘have’ to ride. I know I’m not angry about that, so maybe it’s anger that I’m not hanging out with my family, or maybe it’s some form of anxiety from the backlog of work that I need to accomplish that is now stacking up. Maybe it’s anger that there just isn’t enough time in the week. Maybe it’s not anger at all, and just some frustration. Add to that, the fact that I’m generally not home all week (I travel for work, almost full-time), and maybe you can draw the conclusion as to what I’m talking about here. Whatever the case, the anger phase is usually pretty quick to dissipate. However, I’m generally irritable during this phase, quite helpful to my ‘clients’ since I generally am not in a place to take guidance, criticism, or requests (sarcasm).
The bargaining phase is usually the longest and most difficult for me, especially now with WTI-Crude holding steady below $40 per barrel (a huge portion of my income, and in fact, the basis of my real job is dependent on strong oil prices pushing for construction of additional oil and gas assets). Given the current state of the O&G market, I’m worried about by real job, to say the least. Times are tough and it’s very competitive. It’s not necessarily wise to take a portion of every week off. Hence the bargaining. “If I work tonight, until midnight, and start again tomorrow, before six, maybe I can justify it”, or, “hey, maybe there’s a future in this photography thing”, one of my favorites. I also really like the “I’ll take my computer with me and work after I ride”; yeah, right. I also like to bargain with my wife: “If you come with me, we can at least hang out at night”. She never bites on this deal. This phase usually lasts the majority of the week.
It’s not depression that I’m riding, ever, but I do feel guilty about what I’m not doing.I think that the Guilt Phase is a great name for it. I fell guilty that I have a real job and three hungry mouths plus one gigantic dog that are counting on me to make the money. I feel very guilty to the companies that have made some sort of trade to me for product or donation to the Right to Ride fund, and whose work is piled high on my desk. I have an obligation to them and I have a ton of unfinished work. Probably, when it’s at the worst, is when my son FaceTime’s me and I see him growing up without me. This is, by far, the worst stage.
Ok, so the guilt phase is the worst, but the acceptance phase is the best. Once you can finally clear the guilt, it’s just a small step to get to acceptance, and what a glorious place it is. Acceptance is where I start daydreaming of riding. I catch myself thinking of nothing but riding. Unfortunately, as the greatest phase, this is also the shortest. I suppose it’s the ‘high’ of the process, and rightfully so. It’s a bummer, but it means I’ll soon be riding.
This is the stage that has changed the most for me. At one point, maybe just a year ago, this stage would consume me, possibly being more disruptive than riding. I would spend countless hours checking sites like SnoTel, OpenSnow and NOAA, in a feeble attempt to tilt the odds in my favor for hitting an epic storm. Now, I have the opportunity to work with so many talented folks, spread across the West. And, it seems that people must be appreciative of my work, because the requests have increased in volume. So, once the season gets rolling, I am thankful for the fact that I’m in demand. I often get calls throughout the week from different folks about storms that are forming. I usually get a lot of data, without having to research at all. And, it becomes a lot easier to choose a location, when I have the data from the athletes that are listening to their local weather station, and can honestly probably see the storm developing. No, now planning has a different meaning. Now, planning means figuring out the logistics of getting to my destination, usually involving locating lodging with little or no notice. It means trying to get myself, gear, and sled to a location, when I’m probably sitting in Texas or North Dakota. It means watching as much film as I can to learn how people are doing it. It means researching different camera angles and ways to use my camera and lighting. It means a lot of things, but looking for the snow isn’t too high on the list.
The anxiety stage, for me, usually doesn’t start until pretty late. If I’m driving down the night before a ride, it starts when my head hits the pillow in the hotel room. If I’m driving down the morning of, it usually happens about the time I’m done with the final fuel-up. Generally, these drives are early in the morning, unless I’m riding with Kim Long who seems to like to sleep in. So, it’s generally dark for the entire drive. There usually aren’t any cars or traffic. It would be a great time to think, if my mind weren’t racing. So what do I have to be anxious about? First and foremost, I’m always worried about keeping up. I’m sure my riding abilities are up to par, but I always worry about it, even if I’ve ridden with someone before, and even if they aren’t a ‘pro’. I worry that my camera settings will be changed during a shoot. I worry my camera won’t perform. I even worry that I won’t capture the shot. I’m getting better at knowing in my head that I’ll get good content, no matter what. I try and tell myself that, every time I head out, but I still think about it. I do think it helps keep me conscious about making sure I’m doing a good job with framing and my settings, but I try not to let it get beyond that.
Dealing With It
So, if there’s this much work into just the mental preparation of the game, and riding is so awful (sarcasm), why do it? Plain and simple, I love it. I think it’s healthy to have some stress about your job or something you love. Even before I was a part of this industry, if you can call what I’m doing a part of ‘the industry’, I still had the same stress. Maybe they showed up a little differently, or maybe it was a little different triggers, but I’ve always had stressors like this. It’s because of these that I know I love the sport. I can only hope, that someday down the road, one of my kids or grandkids will be able to look back and say I did a good thing for the sport, and, that’s the legacy I hope to leave. Not to turn this into a job, not to try and have my name known, but for the hope that I’m doing something to help keep snowmobiling around for generations. I want to know that my grand-kids will be able to ride off-trail, and teach their kids like I will with mine.