There's no bad weather only bad clothing choices. There're no bad business conditions only bad strategy.
This year on my birthday, I skied at my home resort in Lake Louise. In the past few years of record snowfalls, the bounty of white glory had grooved us into a new normal. We've been spoiled and, as such, set-up for dissappointment en masse. This year has been thin and boney and hard on skis as natural production went back to or even below historical norms. Cycles of "unseasonably" warm weather created isothermal slush and bone jarring concrete upon refreeze. Reversion to the mean is a cruel fate: it's easy to forget that super good and super bad will average out in time. In addition to that, a treacherous instability in the snowpack across Western Canada has made skiing in the backcountry a sketchy proposition, as massive avalanches continue to carry an increasing number of unfortunate souls into oblivion. Wrong place wrong time. A sobering reminder that there are more horrible consequences than a core shot from a barely buried rock on the base of a ski or board.
In these lean and scary conditions, many of my favourite runs at the Lake have remained closed. But late morning, the ski patrol opened the gates for the first time on one of the beautiful steep gullies descending from high on the summit ridge. I floated down months of stable silky powder in a state of translucent bliss. And then we did a second lap before word was out and the hunting parties came to slash the ever narrowing slivers of joy. Right place right time.
Timing is the variable we have no control over. Preparation is something we do.
Mercifully, the chances of perishing in an avalanche are relatively low considering how many people go backcountry touring and out in snow cats and helis every season. It's unlikely but massively consequential when it occurs. Likewise, a truly transcendent powder run is also rare but also massively consequential. They are the two tail events at either end of a spectrum that give each other meaning. The great and the terrible. The best case scenario and the worst.
The safety and quality of skiing on any given day are material conditions that depend on weather and the number of other skiers and boarders on the slope. The spiritual experience of joy need not be. Weather and the resulting snow conditions are outside of our control. We can choose where we go and when we go. We can choose the people we go with, the specific route we take, the equipment and clothing we bring. We can pick our moments and make our best guesses with the training and judgement we have. We can take the risk. But the outcome and the consequences remain outside of our zone of dominion. We can choose to stay home or go. But each of those choices force consequences upon us. We still have to find a way to live, not just survive but thrive.
Lamenting about the weather is a collosal waste of cycles. Thinking through alternative approaches is not.
We all do business and life in weather of a different sort. The environment is not just the natural product of big movements like climate change: it's the economy, geopolitics and local government, generational, racial and gender tensions, social and cultural evolution, technology, markets for employees and customers. They all ebb and flow. Artificial intelligence, Putin's finger on the nuclear button, viruses escaping from laboratories or jumping species barriers in close quarters, supply chain disruptions, rising interests rates and endemic inflation, clients and staff leaving, even the family down the street that keeps their noisy barking dogs outside at night. I can't necessarily leave them but I might be in a position to lever them.
There are many things in my universe I can have thoughts and feelings about but not control. It's tempting and easy to make futile predictions about what I think might happen but I can't make something happen. But what I can do is understand what might happen and be ready for when and if it does. I can hopefully find someway to weather the storm and reduce my exposure to the real worst case scenario. And I can hopefully find someway to increase my exposure to the best case scenario. Then the bad is not so bad and the good just that much better.
Reality lives for the most part between the poles of the tail events, not unlike a normal distribution. The good and bad parts of life live here in the middle between the great and terrible. If I prepare myself for the great and the terrible, I just might unlock the levers I can pull in the higher and lower moments of my life. As the weather changes I've got the equipment in place to maximize the possibility of having a really good day.
Winter is a wonderland in Canada. If it's too dangerous to go in the back country, I can go to the resort. If there is no fresh snow at the resort I can ski the morning corduroy on the groomers. If the groomers are too icy, I can go ice climbing. If it's too cold to go iceclimbing, I can go fat biking. If it's too cold for all of that and I have a little spare cash and the flights and hotels are not too insane I can go golfing down south. If that does not work or I get hurt or I forget to bring my long underwear, I can buy new underwear in a colour I didn't already have or stay inside and write a blog like this one. If I feel sick or I have nothing to say, I can call my mom or my kids or read a book. If all else fails, I can grab a cup of tea, sit down with my spouse and figure out where we might go this summer for holidays. And when we arrive there and then, there is surely a non-zero probability that the weather could suck there too. I'll remember to bring my umbrella.
Preparation exposes us to the possibility of the great and security of survival in the face of the terrible.