Powder Turns And The Art Of Life

Tele turns by Mitsu

Mitsu’s eyes seemed to light as he delved into the subject, describing new possibilities and aesthetic nuances. It was like hearing someone talk about a song or a work of art that spoke to them. But we were talking about skiing. Tele skiing. As in, why would someone do it? Mitsu’s response—describing the subtleties available within a telemark turn—made me realize that, for him, a perfect powder tele turn is a work of art.

As a blundering, mostly blue-run alpine skier, that was a revelation: that the quest for creating a perfect turn is an eternal journey—one that, for someone like Mitsu, expresses much more than the simple act of descending a snowy mountain. It’s a reflection of his own creativity and drive for perfection.

Fashion blogger Garance Dore asked in a recent post, What if style is much more than just our clothes? She says, of course it is, and wrote that style is really all the things—large and small—that make up the art of living: “It’s putting together a beautiful dinner. Cultivating your passions. Knowing how to pick out flowers. Creating beautiful friendships. Writing a letter. Being fulfilled in your work. Knowing how to travel.” Of course, most of my friends relate more to picking a line down a snowy peak or up a crag than picking out flowers. But I think the same idea applies. In fact, I think it applies to just about everything in life.

Art doesn’t just belong to the painters, the writers, sculptors and filmmakers. It’s a way of being thoughtful about the things we do, and the pursuit of perfection, or creativity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s making dinner, building furniture or working a boulder problem. I think of my friend, food writer Anna Brones. The message I get from her blog, Foodie Underground, is not that I should be eating fancier foods. It’s that I should simply pay more attention to my food, and to preparing it. It’s about savoring the simple pleasures of a perfectly made cup of coffee, or taking pride and joy in preparing a single vegetable from the farmer’s market.

Maybe in our rush to do more, or consume more, we’ve forgotten to ask, Why do I do things this way? Or, how can I do this better? Or, what’s the most beautiful way to do this? Everything we do can be an expression of ourselves, if we let it.

I think of Mitsu because his passion for carving a perfect tele turn is the same passion he applied to building a beautiful industrial-style kitchen table for his house from reclaimed wood. It’s also the same passion he brings to doing his absolute best at his job. And it makes me wonder, how could I be more excellent, more creative in the things I do?


Photo by Mitsu Iwasaki.

7 Responses to Powder Turns And The Art Of Life

  1. Jason says:

    Awesome write-up. I sometimes wonder why I like tele skiing and fly fishing and coffee making (and other snobbery). Friends jest that its elitism, but truly, I do enjoy the art of these things… the pursuit of quality, if never perfection.

  2. Jay Long says:

    Nice essay and intriguing point of view. It seems that we just need to recognize and cultivate whatever artistic talents we possess. I guess knowing is half the battle. Great read.

  3. Alison says:

    Loved the line, “It’s a way of being thoughtful about the things we do.” So true and something I’ve been thinking a lot about, especially since moving into a camper and inhabiting a smaller footprint. And it’s one of the reasons I signed up for a calligraphy class this month!

    As an aside, that photo is of Karl Unterschuetz. It was from our time with Mitsu at the Kokanee Glacier in 2014, perhaps even on Christmas day. I smiled the moment I saw this blogpost because before I read one word, I knew that I was standing right next to Mitsu when he took this shot.

  4. Great post and comments… I love this idea of style as: “It’s a way of being thoughtful about the things we do” as Alison notes above. Or in other words, it’s about mindfulness and presence in our actions.

    I get what Jason says about “tele skiing and fly fishing and coffee making.” Sure these can be snobbery, but there’s a fine line between being a snob and just enjoying the activity in and of itself.

  5. Sam says:

    Slightly belated, but this post was one of the best things I read last week in any format. Thank you.

  6. Pingback: #GoingFurther

    • Hilary says:

      YESSS! Love this. That “our barriers are mostly self-imposed” is something I need to remind myself every day. Thank you, Mitsu! And here’s to many more miles!!

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