The Sandy High Freestyle Ski team consists of just two 16-year-old skiers, but they’ve got some serious skills.
"Let the music blast. We gon' do our dance. Bring the doubters on. They don't matter at all. Cause this life's too long and this love's too strong. So baby know for sure. That I'll never let you go." — Justin Bieber
Some secrets are hard to admit to, but… I love boy bands!!!! Whenever I am feeling scared before dropping into a line or I'm feeling sad I throw in some cheesy boy-band tunes to calm me. The simplicity of the lyrics and poppy beats make me smile and I start dancing. It helps remind me that life isn't so serious. In those moments I hear the sarcastic voice of my brother Shane McConkey yelling over the radio: "Hey Indian guy!! Stop stalling! Go down there and jump off something, damn it!"
It's been a tough winter here in Oregon but winter came roaring back in April. The smiles from the long overdue face shots were contagious at the resorts. My crew of amigos decided for a summit ski mission on Mount Hood knowing the skiing would be off the charts. I also had another and more important agenda: to scatter some of the ashes of Fred Hogg, father of my good friend Wade Hogg. The Hogg family are long-time residents of Parkdale, Oregon, which lies in the shadow of Mount Hood.
I woke up at 4 am to meet my boys Carlos Martinez, Mike Joseph, Blake McCoy, and Michael Leming. I washed my face with cold water, looked up into the mirror, saw my reflection, curled back into bed and fell asleep. I woke up around 7 am and decided to head up and climb— thinking nothing of summiting but just going out to get some exercise and ski a little.
Pulling into the parking lot at Timberline, I had a feeling it was going to be a special day. Almost a foot of new snow, no winds, and the sun was out. I had gotten a text around 6 am from my crew that everyone had turned around before the summit because the winds were nuclear and it was cold, really really cold.
Getting my boots on in the lodge I had a great conversation with an old friend, Harold Cooley, about making the best of a low snow year. Packing up and getting ready to head to the lifts I got a text from my amigo Blake McCoy from Premonition Films. He had a late morning in town and was just pulling into the lot. We met at the lift exchanging hugs and High Fives.
In many cultures and mountain towns they say the souls of loved ones lie in the raven. Carrying Mr. Hogg's ashes I felt an awkward inspiration all day because a raven was up there over us all day. Taking a small rest at the Hogsback at 10,600ft, we laughed at what an incredible this day was turning out. Blake was finishing up with some photos and I began to skin towards the Pearly Gates. I heard a man ask Blake if we were going to the summit — could he join? I didn't hear the response but as I switched from skins to crampons I met our new friend Sven, from Denver.
Sven was nice but he had a million questions. I have always had an open approach in the mountains and willing to help anyone, within reason. I began to regret Sven joining us as the questions wouldn't stop and it was obvious he was nervous. This day was about Blake and I spreading Mr. Hogg's ashes while skiing powder from the summit. Now we had a guy we didn't know who was bumming on our stoke. Sven decided to post hole for us while we took photos and we repeatedly heard: "Guys. I don't think this is safe. I am chest deep and it's seems really dangerous." Blake and I ignored it as best we could until we finally had to climb up to him and take the lead.
We hit the right variant of the Pearly Gates and the snow was chest deep from wind deposit. I ended up taking the lead with a shovel and cut into the snow for about fifty feet until reaching the ice to gain purchase with my crampons. We pointed out the way to the summit and took our time to enjoy the moment with some tunes from Empire of the Sun pumping out of my phone. As we pushed for the final bit, here came Sven on his way down.
"Oh my god what a beautiful mountain!!! Thank you so much, I never would have summited today if it wasn't for you two."
His smile and excitement were so pure it made me feel like a jerk.
Sven from Denver reminded me of why it's important to help people in the alpine. He may have been irritating to us, but we helped him have a moment in his life he will never forget.
Climbing up to the summit, I began to tear up, feeling the presence of Mr. Hogg as the raven floated above us. Spreading the ashes on the 11,239-foot summit I felt a flood of happiness wash over me.
Blake and I began laughing at the fact the batteries were dead in ever device we had with us. So much for our epic footage! The alpenglow was around the corner and the skiing was going to be all time.
Clicking into our gear we looked down and high-fived. We dropped into 6,000 vertical feet of powder, being the only ones on the summit ridge.
In a world filled with technology it sometimes feels like if it’s not on Facebook or Instagram, it never really happened. On this day we were reminded that some stories are meant to live in our hearts only.
We were reminded that people are having epic adventures everyday we never hear about, and that the spirit of adventure is in the act of adventure, not the documentation of it.
On this day I was reminded to leave my gadgets at home sometimes — so I can experience the mountains as they are supposed to be experienced, through my heart.
Asit Rathod is a first generation East Indian born and raised in Oregon. He started cross country skiing at the age of five on Mount Hood and spent five winters in Chamonix, France and four summers in Las Lenas, Argentina. He is currently the ambassador to skiing for the great state of Oregon and recently completed his 200th ski descent from the summit of Mount Hood.
Other Shred Hood stories from Asit Rathod: