“Maria Debari is living the life. She’s true Gnu… doing it her way and enjoying the adventure. Congratulations to Maria for a successful season with podium appearances at TNF Masters, Freeride World Tour, Banked Slalom, and more powder days than most. She wrapped up her spring season with the overall Freeride World Tour title, but that was only the beginning of her spring international adventures. Check it out in her words…”-Barrett Christy
I left Bellingham on March 18 and by the time I returned I had snowboarded in six countries on three different continents. Initially I hadn’t planned on being gone for so long, but everything just kind of fell together.
My adventure began on the Olympic Peninsula for the Gnu Girl’s quadruple S (snow, skate, surf, spa). I got to check out Hurricane Ridge and was impressed for how small it is. I visited the Mervin factory for the first time and got to build my very own B-Pro splitboard, which I took with my on the rest of the trip. Unfortunately I had to leave early to make it to Verbier, so I didn’t get all four in one day, but there is always a next time! I arrived in Verbier at one o’clock the day before the contest which was really to my benefit because I didn’t have any time to stress out about it. Margot Rozies, Shannan Yates, and myself were all very close in the overall standings for the Freeride World Tour and between us, whoever won was going to take it.
While the concept of whether or not some judge happens to think I snowboarded better than someone else on said run doesn’t hold much value in my reality of snowboarding, I had a lot invested in these contests this season and I really wanted to win. I ended up changing my line right before I began the hour hike to the top of our face. That was good as it turned out; my new line was much more conducive to sluff management, and there was a lot of sluff.
I don’t really remember much about my run except I made it down without falling, and that was good enough to win it. It was special because my mom had come to watch, and she was so excited for me. I was really proud of myself for holding it together and seeing it through. Not to mention I had an entire month of snowboarding adventures in front of me.
After a celebrating, I jumped on a train to Livigno, Italy, where I met up with my mom. The next morning we drove to Austria and skinned in to the first hut in a series in the Silvretta region. The hut was not really a hut at all, but more of a lodge complete with hot meals and hot showers, and beers on tap. The majority of the hut’s visitors were old school Europeans on skinny skis (following any skin tracks out there was out of the question, since one of my skis was twice as wide as anyone else’s). I was by far the youngest person, as well as the only snowboarder I saw the entire trip. Splitboards are not very common in Europe apparently, and my bright pink one with the unicorn/lover graphic was quite a novelty. Everyone wanted to know about it, how it worked, if it worked well enough, and where they could get one for their son/friend/cousin who snowboarded.
It hadn’t been freezing at night, so the snow was pretty mushy, but the sun was out and the mountains were beautiful. The touring was aesthetic more than anything, and coming home each night to a few beers and a hot meal made me feel like I was really living large. Eventually the weather moved in and I opted to head down the valley and get on to my next adventure. My mom and I made a quick stopover at her family’s restaurant/inn in Ardenno, Italy, La Casa Il Baff. We ate and drank wine to our heart’s content while my mom jabbered away in Italian and I mostly listened and smiled.
I spent the next week in Chamonix. There were five other people I knew from Bellingham there at the same time, so it was nice to catch up with a few friends and reminisce about all my favorite spots at home. For the most part the weather wasn’t up to cooperating, but I did get a few sunny days. I took the tram up to the Aguille du Midi and got to do a couple of laps on some classic ski runs in the Vallee Blanche. The Midi is at 3850 meters, a 2,800 meter elevation gain from the valley floor, and upon arrival I felt like I wanted to puke. At that elevation skinning feels like slogging, and everything seems like it’s in slow motion.
I knew that my flight to Japan left on April 9th, but for some reason I thought April 9th was Tuesday, when it was really on Monday. On Sunday I got home from snowboarding and was informed via email that since my flight departed in less than 24 hours, I was now eligible to check in for it. It was 5:30pm, and I had to be at the Milan airport by 6am. I threw all my gear in my board bag and managed to catch the last bus out of Chamonix, followed up by a three minute connection to the last train to Milan, arriving at the airport at midnight. I had no faith invested that I was going to make it, so I was incredibly relieved to be at the airport in time for my flight.
In Tokyo I managed a train then a subway to find my hotel and meet up with Maribeth and Bryn, but only after two or three wrong turns. Japanese people are so nice and helpful, and without the assistance of four separate people, I never would have made it. The cherry blossoms bloom for about one week each year, and I was right in time to see them. We were invited to join a party of sumo wrestlers hanging out under the cherry blossoms. They were wonderful hosts, providing us with sake and beer and food, and then took us to sing karaoke with them. A true Japanese experience.
Hakuba is a cool little town about four hours south of Tokyo. The surrounding mountains form up with perfect Alaska-style spines. Unfortunately, it was full on spring conditions while I was there, and too hot to ride the mountains. Holy Bowly was the coolest event I’ve been to all season, maybe with the exception of the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom. I witnessed so much rad snowboarding go down while I was there. Jamie Lynn was killing it, still, and watching him do methods in person was one of the best parts of my trip.
My Japan experience ended with a Gnu party in Tokyo, where I managed to pull an all-nighter before my 65 hour travel extravaganza home. For some idiotic reason, it is way cheaper to buy two round trip tickets than three one ways, so instead of a direct 10 hour flight from Tokyo to Seattle, I flew back to Milan, caught the train to Geneva, and then began my return journey to Seattle. I am never going to submit myself to anything like that ever again.
When I’m traveling I’m usually a pretty big shit show: semi-organized chaos if you will. Somehow I made it back to Bellingham in one piece with the majority of my belongings, and totally satisfied with my trip. I wouldn’t have changed anything. Or traded it for anything.