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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


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Adventure Travel

Jun 18, 2018

Meet Alex and Cindy: In Search of “Perfect Spots and Freedom”

Meet a kitesurfing nomadic couple who live and travel in their van, in search of happiness and ultimate freedom.

WRITTEN BY

Alex and Cindy

The Outdoor Journal had the chance to catch up with Alex and Cindy and ask them a few questions. But before then, if you haven’t met this awesome couple before, make sure you check out their own little video intro below:

How did this happen? How did a guy and girl from France end up living the lives that you do? What led you to this amazing adventure?

It was quite natural in fact, we had a van, and like many people we used to go away for weekends or our holidays. Alex participated in quite a few kitesurfing competitions and we also used the van for that. And then we had done a lot of seasons on the southwest coast of France to escape the winter. This often transformed into a trip of 3 to 6 months. Living this part of the year in our van, the return was sometimes difficult 🙂 So, why not try a full year? We let go of our apartment, and more or less overnight, we did it. 

It’s now been more than 4 years since we’ve been living in our Van and it’s rather nice…

Describe kitesurfing, what does it mean to you when you’re out on the water?

Kitesurfing is possibly, for us, the perfect equation between sport and adventure. Most athletes often train around the same spots, or along a sandbank to achieve their tricks, without ever considering that they have, between their hands, an incredible tool of exploration. We can travel at good speeds serious distances, and go where boats cannot. We can also fly, and that’s magic. So what does this mean? Freedom, maybe, a great tool to escape.

What has been the highlight of your adventure so far?

We try to tell ourselves that we still have time to arrive at the culmination of all this. However, perhaps in secret, the goal is to never reach it, but to always find new things to discover or imagine. However, to try and answer the question, when we find places like the Mauritanian desert, right next to a world class kite spot, there we told ourselves that we found a little piece of paradise. “Sure, there must be another place even better just a little further, so let’s go, to the next stage “, and off we go! 🙂

If you could let yourself dream, which places would you travel to over the next year?

We have a couple of projects in our minds, maybe many. We would like particularly to find virgin places, not necessarily that no-one is aware of, at the very least that no-one has really explored fully. That’s why nothing is ever 100% defined, but we would like to explore European coasts. Around Greece of course, but also Nordic countries which make us dream, their wild coasts full of history. That’s why, at the end of June, we’ll change the entire setup of our small home on wheels, to be best prepared for all conditions.

What plans do you have for the future? Is this a pursuit that you will follow forever?

Honestly, we only plan for the short term, because almost anything can happen. We work a little bit in the kite world, as riders for a brand called Zeeko-kites, but, budgets are small in this industry, so we continue little by little. Apart from this financial aspect, our plans made for always evolving, which we explore based on our ideas.

What advice would you give to people who live the rat race? Who work from 9 till 5 day in, day out, but dream of doing something different and following their dreams like you have done?

If I were to tell everyone to give up everything and just go for it, that would be far too radical and would certainly stop the vast majority of people. But at least try to detach oneself from all these “needs” and these “rules” from time to time would be a good thing. To live a little more simply reveals itself to be an easy and rewarding thing, we find in it many advantages, we see life in another way, people, and all that is around us.

We do not tell anyone to cut themselves off from the world, we would be poorly placed ourselves. One of our goals is to film, photograph, and share our journey on the internet and be followed. But in any case, the less we attach ourselves to things that seem in the beginning indispensable, the more we are better off.

So, we have chosen to live like this, we do not regret it at all, we see new things every day, do not believe in politicians who sell dreams on television, they will certainly not change our lives, the only ones who can, are you and us.

 

You can watch all of Alex and Cindy’s videos on The Outdoor Journal YouTube Page. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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Travel

Jan 15, 2019

Not Your Father’s Ski Trip: Jackson Hole, WY

Inspired by images of her dad’s Jackson Hole college ski trip, the author heads north to tour the Tetons and tack a few pictures to the family scrapbook.

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WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

The author’s father launching a cliff at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort cerca 1987

This film shot of my father going big on a set of ridiculously thin, twin-tipped K2s cerca 1987 instilled in me a deep gratitude for today’s fat freeride sticks and a sense of duty to keep the family’s cliff-hucking legacy alive. Scrapbook open on his lap, my dad extolled the terrain of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which he visited “back in the good ol’ days” at Colorado State University. He described a steep wonderland besotted with cliffs that beg for reckoning. After the past several seasons of wimpy Colorado snow totals whilst Jackson churned out foot-deep day after foot-deep day, I was enthused by the resort’s inclusion on my 2018-2019 Ikon Pass. With my own graduation looming in May, I figured the time was right for some Teton escapades. Like father, like daughter.

Car outfitted with a socioeconomically oxymoronic stash of ramen and expensive ski gear, I punched seven hours northward and arrived the night after a vicious storm cycle spat 20 inches of fresh flakes onto the mountains. The next day popped bluebird and my posse navigated the foreign slopes via trial, error, and the inexhaustible freneticism of college kids on vacation. We nabbed fresh tracks on Headwall and Casper Bowl, giggled down pillows on the Crags, and pinballed around the Hobacks. A ride up in the iconic Jackson Hole tram revealed a closed Corbet’s Couloir, ostensibly requiring another wave of coverage before its seasonal unveiling. I was forced to settle for a waffle at Corbet’s Cabin instead of matching my dad’s drop into the legendary chute. With the blood of my father and powder-fueled adrenaline surging through my veins, I willed myself over the most tantalizing cliffs on offer in Rendezvous Bowl.

The iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram, cerca 1987
Corbet’s Couloir: a timeless classic
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, cerca 1987

In the words of the great Cyndi Lauper: Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls, they wanna have fun.

It’s part and parcel of parenthood to agitate over the safety and well-being of one’s children. I’ve subsumed backcountry skiing into my hobbiesnew territory for this family’s lineage. On my nascent out-of-bounds outings, my father, a textbook concerned parent, grumbled about avalanches, terrain traps, and my insurmountable naïvity. Several seasons of diligent education, one avy bag, and countless snow pits later, I’ve earned his reluctant acceptance, if not enthusiasm, for my backcountry pursuits.  In the words of the great Cyndi Lauper: Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls, they wanna have fun.

Finding deep snow on Headwall
Pillows aplenty on the Crags

After two days of charging in-bounds, my psyche longed for the solitude of the skintrack. Teton Pass, Grand Teton National Park, and the resort sidecountry make the area a veritable playground for backcountry enthusiasts. It’s a family affair in Jackson; a fraternal ethos is evident in the fact that 97% of the nearly 4 million acres of Teton County are federally owned or state managed. Locals are quick to mark their territory on Teton Pass with the exclamatory hieroglyphs of first tracks, but the terrain is ample enough to find virgin snow. After giving the snowpack several days to stabilize post-squall, we found wiggle room on north-facing aspects along the Mail Cabin Creek drainage. Our final line of Day 1 was the Do-Its, a bifurcated powder track that converges and meanders twelve hundred feet back down to the road. At the hill’s zenith, minute snowflakes collapsed into liquid and rolled from our hardshells. We stood atop a wind-plumped knoll and observed the gnarl of peaks, foregrounded by Mount Taylor and Mount Glory, tumbling into a horizon of exposed rock and liquescent white. The unperturbed flank below screamed for human contact. I was all too happy to oblige the siren’s call with a quick tuck into the void. My skis made that sanctified first contact with the snow below. A crescendo of polestrokes invoked a maelstrom of flakes to drown the world in white. Hips squiggling, mind locked to the minutia, dopamine and adrenaline flooding the nervous system, and a raven on high with a vantage point a ski cinematographer would kill for. Then I burned through the mountain’s vertical; the dance with gravity ended in an expository wave of white smoke. I looked back and the sublime evidence was a single, undulating track across the otherwise unblemished face.

Cloud inversion over the Teton Valley from the top of Mt. Glory
Top of Mt. Glory

My final day in Jackson came courtesy of Exum Mountain Guides, an 80-year-old Teton-based guiding service that offers instruction and adventure on rope and skis in North America, the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas. The service traces their lineage to local legends of the 1930s like Glenn Exum, Paul Petzoldt, and Barry Corbet. They’re the granddaddy of Jackson guiding services and the resident experts on Grand Teton National Park. Despite the government shut-down and limited National Park operations, dedicated employees were plowing the entrance road and ensuring access to some of the Tetons best snow staches. My guide for the day was Brendan O’neill, who informed me of the birth of his daughter Jessie three weeks prior as we puttered to the Taggart Lake Trailhead.

If newborn Jessie was taxing this new dad’s sleep and energy reserves, his athletic, assiduous pace on the skintrack suggested otherwise. I asked Brendan about fatherhood, hoping to glean some insight into my own dad’s relationship with raising a daughter. He hopes to have Jessie on skis the second she can walk; he would be thrilled if she took to alpine or nordic racing, but amenable if she chose not to compete; he is excited to show her the world beyond the boundaries of a ski resort. As we muscled up towards Amphitheater Lake, I mused that twenty years from now, Jessie might look at pictures of her dad guiding in far-flung locales and make plans to fill and transcend those footsteps. I wonder if Brendan knows how much she will look up to him and his accomplishments.

Exum Guide and new father Brendan O’neill

  Even the evergreens projected patriarchy: the tallest trees nucleated their sapling broods with paternal solemnity, each molecule of powder glistening in the shaggy green branches. We broke through the forest onto snow-covered Amphitheater Lake, a cirque bounded by the bald, mangled granite of Teewinot to the north and Disappointment Peak to the west. On a snack pitstop, we watched another party of skiers lay down tracks in Spoon Couloir, a steep, enticing chute on Disappointment Peak’s lower haunch. Brendan seemed to sense my desire to get after a big alpine line and suggested we bootpack the Spoon must have been his newly acquired parental mind-reading superpower. After crossing the lake, we cut a haphazard zig-zag to the top of the Spoon’s apron and transitioned to the bootpack. 500 feet of vertical boot-punching propelled us up the gut and bookended the nearly 5,000 feet of vertical notched from trailhead to objective. From our humble perch on Disappointment’s flank, an electric blue sky slumbered atop a soupy mass of clouds, hallmark of a Teton Valley temperature inversion. Backgrounded by this topsy-turvy atmosphere, I skied down the hard-packed snow of the spoon’s handle into its apron of softer powder.

The Spoon Couloir visible on looker’s left of lower Disappointment Peak (center)
Bootpacking up the Spoon

Grand Teton, senior pinnacle of its range, poised with patriarchal authority over Middle Teton, Mt. Owen, and all the rest

To redeem the remainder of our hard-earned vertical, Brendan led us through a mellow glade percolated with unrumpled pillows aplenty. Matching his cuts through the pines was reminiscent of a childhood spent following my dad around the resort as I learned to trust my edges and my body. As I ripped skins back in the parking lot, giddy with alpine energy, I turned to gaze up at the Grand Teton, senior pinnacle of its range, poised with patriarchal authority over Middle Teton, Mt. Owen, and all the rest. I owe this unforgettable trip to Jackson Hole to my father for choosing to raise and inspire (and generously fund) a skier.

Thanks to Exum Mountain Guides for making this trip possible.

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