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The Garrett Russell Experience, Part I: The Mystique of Adventure, The Beast Within

It exists deep within us. The mystique of adventure pulls at the heartstrings of our most basic of needs—the desire to search, to explore, to reach is an innate human quality. It is as much an enterprise of the body and a testament to brawn as it is of the heart and of the soul. Somewhere inside us all exists the desire to live under the banner of The Lost Boys, of Sal Paradise, of Everett Ruess. We yearn for the solace of the starry night, the deep peace of the wild, the wild ones, and the wild parts. The fascination with new and open space ripples upon the glassy surface of our spirit and it descends upon me like a dream:

After the snow has gone and the cruelty of summer thickens, Cavafy comes to me and desires at the gate grow with unrest---

“In these darkened rooms, where I spend

oppressive days, I pace to and fro

to find the windows.”

And it paces with fury in its cage, rattles the bars, and claws at the walls. It yearns for the meaty center of the initiation of the turn, salivates at the memory, and screams to feed on the frothy explosion of snow, to feel the boiling of white cold smoke crawling up the body. It scrapes and cuts, and tears at my flesh in desirous fury, drunk with lust. It consumes me. Whitman courses through my veins:

“I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

Garrett Russell, inspiring the guttural bellow in Argentina this July. Ben Girardi photo.

My chest heaves. I let go a guttural bellow atop the mountain within me, and scream, scream, scream from the origin of desire. But the ferocity of this spirit is unsustainable and I keel over in exhaustion. I see the stillness of the mountain canvased in a fresh coat. I see the snow falling with slow syncopated softness. And like Wordsworth, the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions is recollected in tranquility and all is calm.

I return to Cavafy’s window. I see Garrett Russell on the face and he reminds me of the purpose:

“The Mountain is my wife and my enemy.

It consumes me.

I must learn to love it

beyond fear.”

Using only the paintbrush, never erasing or editing, Garrett affects the surface purely with spontaneous actions driven by soulful communication with the natural medium. Avoiding unnatural obliterations and leaving the action of his vision intact, he remains a true conduit between inspiration and creative expression. He sets true lines, with intent and contemplation. The art is the moment’s reaction and the traces of it are seen in the scars of white. He is a two-planked poet; skiing’s vanguard. He integrates his soul in each turn, and in the diverse contours of his brushstrokes exists a deeper meaning and satisfaction. Garrett goes after that which gives his life meaning and each line is an expression of this search.

"The mountain is my wife and my enemy... I must learn to love it beyond fear." Ben Girardi photo.

His vision abuts the mass appeal of skiing’s modern-day blandness and recoils from it like a hand from flame. One hundred-mile-per-hour, 100-foot machismo aerial pursuits are for the wicked and celebrated by the depraved; the barnacles of this “sport.” Free from these hangers-on and their mentality, G. Russell spends time with his canvas which is framed in his heart, and pays tribute to its vastness. It is not what you do; it is how you do it. He honors impermanence, observes futility, and exalts the moment with each meaningful and deliberate turn in the white expanse. I am left amazed and inspired.

Engulfed by sentiment, I comb the walls looking for an out like a blind prisoner. I walk with purpose, but without direction. First the right foot, now the left foot. My arms are outstretched, my hands, my fingers reaching for emotional satisfaction. I feel the cold of winter’s chase; the sightless craving yearns to whet its appetite, unimpeded by moderation. I find a ticket and light breaks in with brilliance.  SASS Global Traveler's, my fellows anointed in this snowy trudge, say welcome to Argentina, the land of chilly odyssey. The beast within smiles and screams and whoops with raucous delight. All my desires, all my needs, all my wishes for Another Time, Another Place will be met with love and opportunity in Bariloche, a town which ascends the ladder of my craving into the Andes. I am headed toward the direction of my dreams, I am headed into cheering thoughts, I am headed to frosty vitality. I am headed for The Garrett Russell Experience.

The Garrett Russell Experience is an original story and video series, coming to this fall, that will explore the skiing and spirit of skier Garrett Russell. Captured in San Carlos de Bariloche, the series will explore the vision of one of skiing's true originals. Stay tuned, and for your chance to win $5,000 in Garrett's gear from Under Armour, Gear Junkie, The House, Line Skis, TGR, and SASS Global Travel, enter The Garrett Russell Backcountry Giveaway.

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Just wanted to thank Paddy 0’Connel for making this project happen for Garrett.  G$ is one of the most complete skiers on snow: he shreds everything, and has more fun than just about anyone, and he passed all this stoke along his compadres on the hill every day. We hope to see some of this endeavor at Coldsmoke this year in our new web series category.  Rock on rockers!