Touring with your Significant other
I have been with my...
partner, Dan for almost 10 years now. It's wild to think about, but we've been together for seemingly forever! He's my absolute favorite person in the world, and I love being in the mountains with him. That said, we've had some INCREDIBLY rough tours together. Let me tell you... For our first couple years of being in the sport, we had a couple tours that made us question why we even wanted to be out touring together in the first place. "Maybe it just isn't good for us to tour together?" I found myself thinking one day. However the second that thought popped in my head, I realized how insanely sad that would be. We both love skiing, we love being in the mountains, and we love each other. How could we not try to make this work?
Ultimately, we've found some tactics that have helped us learn to not only be good ski partners, but learn to be downright badass ski partners. To ski with someone I care about so much just makes it all that much cooler. Now, I want to preface this with the fact that the first thing we needed to sort out was our PERSONAL goals in the sport of skiing. Daniel is a natural-born mountain goat, and he loves to go super fast and light, do big days in the mountains, and primarily focus on using skis as a method of travel in the mountains. I don't think I've ever seen that dude get tired on the uphill no matter how much vert he's done. I on the other hand am someone who is lucky enough to have been skiing my whole life, and I have many days where I want to just ski for the pure joy of it. I also am a more goal-oriented skier, so if I can prioritize a couloir, a peak, or just practicing jumps and drops, I'll choose to do that.
This makes us very complimentary ski partners, and we've had many days now where one of us pushes the other well and we both grow. However, as you can imagine, it was also a major point of contention that we needed to sort out. I say all of this not only to start the article out here, but also to give you all context of why these methods work for us. Everyone reading this are different individuals, and I am quite positive that these methods are not blanket statements for every couple who tours together.
Okay, enough with my yapping. Here's the nitty gritty: The first thing that Dan and I had to do was that we both had to learn to vocalize our goals for the day. We would literally force ourselves to write down on our phone or on a pad of paper what our individual, personal goals were for the day. Once we decided on our goals, we would talk about it on the car ride. This way, everything is laid out and written on paper instead of it being brought up mid-day, fuming at each other, knowing that neither of our goals were going to happen because of this miss-communication. We'd list our "A, B, and C" goals for the day. Some days, our goals would align, and we'd end the conversation thinking for example, "Sweet, ideally we ski the Slot, Snot and Crooked, if that fails we'll at least ski the Slot, and if that fails, we'll just scout the couloirs". Other days, however, we'd find that our goals were completely different. Dan's goal would be to explore some random remote peak because "it's good skinning conditions" ;) and I'd want to find pow in a north facing couloir. Once we vocalize our goals, we are able to sometimes find a compromise, and often we find ways to make sure each goal is prioritized. Oh, and your goals here certainly don't need to be big. Some days my goal is simply to get one left turn and one right turn in. Easy peasy.
The second thing we had to do was really analyze our mindset while travelling in the backcountry. I'm going to be honest here, this is something that I largely had to figure out. I would find myself often relying too hard on his support while in the backcountry. However, I wanted to be a more equal partner for him, not only to be able to support him better, but also so that I could improve as a ski partner when I toured with my other ski friends. This kinda sounds stupid, but I had to switch my thinking from "I'm skiing with my love" to "I'm skiing with a really reliable ski partner". It's embarrassing to admit that this was a hurdle for me, but it was. I knew I was on the right track when one day, Dan and I were heading up to Snoqualmie pass. I was going to ski with our friend Tessa, and Dan was going to go ice climbing with our friend, James. I texted Tessa, "Eta is 7:30, I'm carpooling with Dan." Tessa thought it was so funny that I said I was "carpooling" with Dan. He's my husband, I could show up with him anywhere and it would be normal, but that day I was going into the mountains. I was thinking about him as a ski partner. We happened to be carpooling.
The last tactic I'll leave you with here is the unabashedly obvious: communicate what you're thinking and feeling on the skintrack. Oftentimes I'll find myself thinking on the skintrack, "man I feel really hungry, I bet Dan is too, I bet he'll stop at that knoll to grab a bite". He's not. And he won't. And I'll get mad because I'm hangry. And it is dumb of me to think we're on the same page when I don't even communicate what page I'm on, and vice versa. The more we verbalize those thoughts in those little noggins of ours, the better we can function as a team, and generally the more fun it is to tour with each other. It is funny, but when I am travelling with partners who aren't my romantic partner, I find that my instinct is to communicate more, because of course they can't read my mind. But Dan can, right?! We've got to remember, that when we're out in the mountains, we're ski partners first. We need to communicate in the same way we would with any other ski partner. More frequent communication like this has stopped many a tiff while on the mountain.
Ultimately I'll leave you all with this: There is no one way to travel in the mountains with your romantic partner, but going through the rough touring days and problem solving together is totally and completely worth it. And hey, maybe you're reading this and thinking, "Dang, that chick has come problems and I am glad it's not that hard for me to tour with my S.O." and if that's you, then congrats! You rule. And I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. However, I've talked to many a friend who've either commented on how seemingly easy it is for Dan and I to do epic stuff together, or mention how incredibly hard it is to tour with their romantic partners, and what I have to tell them is, "it hasn't always been this way for us, and it was really hard to get here... But it is super worth it." Now that we've figured out how to tour together, let's see how far we can take our skiing!
See ya out there!