Pg. 062 Time­out on Town­shend

Anna and Natalie Se­gal, to­gether, re­dis­cover ski­ing’s soul

Chill Factor - - Introduction - All Pho­tos by Teddy Lay­cock

Anna and Natalie Se­gal hang out to­gether on the Main Range for some soul ski­ing and sis­terly bond­ing

Anna and Natalie Se­gal have been Aus­tralia’s lead­ing in­ter­na­tional skiers for a few years now. Grow­ing up in Mel­bourne, the sis­ters’ love for ski­ing grew from their many trips to Buller, but once they left school their ski­ing paths di­verged. Anna took the in­tense com­pet­i­tive slopestyle route, win­ning the in­au­gu­ral X Games, the FIS World Champs, and then plac­ing fourth at the Sochi Olympics. Natalie, on the other hand, was more into big moun­tains and back­coun­try, chan­nelling her com­pet­i­tive in­stincts into big moun­tain comps on the Freeride World Tour.

Af­ter the Olympics, Anna turned away from com­pe­ti­tions, her at­ten­tion turn­ing to the back­coun­try and chas­ing pow­der. Com­pe­ti­tion has also been a big fo­cus for Nat, and while she still com­petes on the FWT, she has pulled back a lit­tle over the past few years, look­ing to rekin­dle her love of ski­ing:

“Af­ter fo­cussing so many years on com­pet­ing, ski­ing can some­times seem more like a job than a priv­i­lege. It’s at this point at which ski­ing loses its soul,” Nat said.

Last spring the girls had a rare op­por­tu­nity to not only ski to­gether, but to head out onto the Kosciuszko Main Range for a few days and spend some qual­ity sib­ling time to­gether.

It was an op­por­tu­nity to take some time out in the moun­tains and re­dis­cover ski­ing’s soul.

THIS IMAGE: Nat: “Don’t for­get it’s your turn to cook tonight?’

Anna: “Yeah, but if I do, you’re do­ing the dishes … and mak­ing break­fast.” OP­PO­SITE: Anna drops in as the sun sets across the Vic­to­rian wilder­ness.

Anna:

I don’t think any­one would have ex­pected ei­ther of us to be­come pro­fes­sional skiers. Grow­ing up, we were in­volved in all kinds of school sports but nei­ther of us were stand­out ath­letes. There was one thing that both of us shared – pas­sion.

We have al­ways been dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. As kids, we were con­stantly at each other’s throats – lit­er­ally. I re­mem­ber sit­ting on Nat’s back with her curly mane in my fist, pulling at it un­til she howled. But, as the years rolled by, our mum’s prophecy be­gan to take shape. The two of us be­came the clos­est of friends.

While our method­ol­ogy has been dif­fer­ent, our un­der­ly­ing ob­jec­tive has been the same; to al­ways chal­lenge our­selves and drive our sport for­ward, while avoid­ing get­ting stuck be­hind a desk in the process. For the last six years we have lived on sep­a­rate con­ti­nents, or at least half a con­ti­nent away, and since leav­ing school we have only skied to­gether a hand­ful of times. De­spite the dis­tance, we have man­aged to some­how syn­chro­nise, and on our in­di­vid­ual jour­neys we have taken on many sim­i­lar life lessons.

Al­though Nat is two years my ju­nior, I have humbly come to ac­cept that I have much to learn from my younger sis­ter. Since mov­ing to Cha­monix seven years ago, Nat has been work­ing on skills to help her safely slay it beyond the bound­aries of the re­sort. Since com­pet­ing in Sochi, I have made a big ef­fort to spend more time back­coun­try ski­ing, but like any­thing, learn­ing a new trade al­ways takes time and pa­tience.

I’ve wanted to do a back­coun­try trip with Nat since she first ex­plained to me the con­cept of ski tour­ing. In the spring of 2015, af­ter years of wait­ing, the stars fi­nally aligned. Nat ar­rived home from a sum­mer of rock climb­ing in Cha­monix a cou­ple days be­fore my week­long mid-se­mes­ter break. What bet­ter place to re­con­nect than where it all be­gan? The moun­tains of Aus­tralia. Nat was jet lagged and I had piles of uni work. Screw it, sleep­ing and as­sign­ments could wait.

Nat:

The Aus­tralian skier draw­card never gets old when you’re trav­el­ling over­seas. There are al­ways sur­prised faces when you ex­plain where you were raised and that you learned to ski three hours from Mel­bourne. De­spite the awe­some up­bring­ing of rolling hills, wom­bat sight­ings, and slushy spring shred days, it was hard to keep Aus­tralia as a home base. For both Anna and I, a world of op­por­tu­nity via in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions drew us over­seas.

Along with the ad­van­tages, chas­ing back-to­back win­ters has its down­sides. The ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit is that you get to ski like a ma­niac all year round. The less ev­i­dent down­side is los­ing your roots. While my child­hood home is Mel­bourne, I have been trav­el­ling con­stantly for nearly six years and liv­ing out of my suit­case now feels more fa­mil­iar.

It’s not just a dis­con­nec­tion from Aus­tralia that we have both felt, but also from ski­ing it­self. Af­ter fo­cussing so many years on com­pet­ing, ski­ing can some­times seem more like a job than a priv­i­lege. It’s at this point at which ski­ing loses its soul.

Since a young age, Anna and I have com­peted in some form of alpine ski­ing. From gates to bumps, Anna went to­wards freestyle and af­ter a short hia­tus I found my­self at the top of big moun­tain

com­pe­ti­tions. The great thing about ski­ing is that it’s not just a sport, it’s a life­style. It’s a choice to spend time in the moun­tains, be out­side and in na­ture. How­ever, af­ter 13 years of ski­ing to im­press judg­ing pan­els, what was once an ex­cit­ing pas­sion can in­evitably be­come a chore.

For the last few years we’ve both been in need of an ex­cuse to rekin­dle the pas­sion that has driven us around the world chas­ing snow. It may sound corny, but head­ing up to the Kosciusko Na­tional Park felt a lit­tle bit like go­ing back to our roots. I felt like a kid again, pack­ing the 4WD full of gear, leav­ing the city traf­fic be­hind, ar­riv­ing late in an alpine vil­lage and ris­ing early to race up the hill. It made sense that we were head­ing back to where it all started to find the ex­cite­ment that we’d lost.

The Trip:

For many, just below the sum­mit of Mt Townsend wouldn’t seem the most suit­able place for a camp­site. Sit­ting pretty at around 2209m (only a few clicks below the height of Mt Kosciusko) this area at­tracts a lot of at­ten­tion from pass­ing weather. While a lower camp­site could have af­forded us bet­ter pro­tec­tion from the howl­ing wind, it would have meant miss­ing out on a week of mag­nif­i­cent sun­sets that painted them­selves across our camp kitchen. The iso­la­tion of our home base for the week may have felt lonely to some, but for our group it of­fered sim­ple seren­ity. The five of us were alone, re­spon­si­ble for no one ex­cept the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and our­selves. Five days later we tore down our kitchen and de­mol­ished our wind bar­ri­ers. While it was strange see­ing our lit­tle com­mu­nity re­duced to a few small piles of snow, it was also grat­i­fy­ing know­ing how small of an im­pact we can make.

Anna

CF: What was the best part of the trip?

AS: Our rit­ual at the end of each day was to fin­ish with a sun­set lap. We would hike to a nearby peak; wait un­til the sun hov­ered just over the hori­zon, then drop into the golden light. This would be fol­lowed by a quick hus­tle up the skin track, in a race to get back to camp be­fore dark.

How did it feel be­ing bossed around by your lit­tle sis­ter on the skin track?

When it comes to back­coun­try ski­ing, I try to take all of Nat’s com­ments as valu­able ad­vice. How­ever, once we are back in civil­i­sa­tion, I have no tol­er­ance for her au­to­cratic ten­den­cies.

How has the tran­si­tion from com­pet­i­tive ski­ing to real “freeski­ing” treated you? Do you have any re­grets?

“Real” freeski­ing. Haha. In my first year of not com­pet­ing I found my­self hav­ing mo­ments of re­gret. I in­vested so much time and en­ergy to be­com­ing recog­nised and ac­com­plished as a com­pet­i­tive skier, at times I thought I was throw­ing this all away. I even had one team man­ager tell me that they saw my move as start­ing my ski ca­reer from scratch. But one year into the switch those re­grets are a dis­tant me­mory. My ski­ing skills have im­proved and my mind has ex­panded with the un­lim­ited pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties that could be avail­able to me on my skis. I feel more in con­trol of what I want to be do­ing with my ski­ing. Rather than ski­ing for judges, I’m ski­ing along the lines of my own ideas of pro­gres­sion.

Most im­por­tant thing you learnt dur­ing the trip?

Snow ar­chi­tec­ture; how to build a snow dunny, a snow kitchen, and a snow wind wall.

What is the most im­por­tant thing in your back­coun­try back­pack?

My iPhone…. Just kid­ding! My snacks. I choose my se­lec­tion of food for the day ex­tremely care­fully. The very idea of lunch is what pro­pels me up the moun­tain.

What is so spe­cial about the Aus­tralian Alpine and why should peo­ple be en­cour­aged to ex­plore it?

The feel­ing of ad­ven­ture bal­anced with

tran­quil­lity. At times you’re bat­tling the el­e­ments, which seem like they’re try­ing to taunt you un­til you leave. But if you stick it out, of­ten you are re­warded with the most stun­ning scenery and a sense of seren­ity, which will per­me­ate through your whole group.

Nat

CF: You said you took a hia­tus from ski­ing. What was it that drew you back to it?

NS: I stud­ied Fine Arts at univer­sity for three years, but two years in I needed a break. I went to the French Alps and af­ter spend­ing an in­cred­i­ble six months in Cha­monix I re­alised that I didn’t just need a break, I needed a real chal­lenge. That is what ski­ing has al­ways been to me and I think the world of freeride ski­ing and ski moun­taineer­ing opened up a whole new set of ob­sta­cles that I could work to over­come. Th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties, cou­pled with the amaz­ing ad­ven­tures and trav­els that be­ing a ski bum al­lows you to have, drew me back.

Did Anna make any mem­o­rable rookie moves on the trip?

She made a whole heap and I prob­a­bly made some as well – in terms of win­ter camp­ing Anna and I are both kind of rook­ies. I have spent a lot of time out in back­coun­try and on hut trips but I’ve only been snow camp­ing once and only for a night. Four nights in a tent on a windy ridge was a whole new ex­pe­ri­ence. One of the big­gest rookie moves we made was bring­ing quinoa and try­ing to cook it in the snow kitchen. Let’s just say our bircher muesli was much more suc­cess­ful.

Did Anna teach you any­thing new while up in the moun­tains?

Anna is one of my men­tors, it’s that sim­ple. So she teaches me new things all the time. But what is funny is that she doesn’t just teach me ra­tio­nal things. The best thing I have learnt from Anna is how to have fun. To be my­self, to act silly when I feel like it and not worry so much what oth­ers think about me. I can also be quite bossy and Anna does a good job of re­mind­ing me when I go over­board. I lis­ten to her, but only some­times… ev­ery big sis­ter needs a bossy younger sis­ter to stand up to her on oc­ca­sion.

What is the num­ber one faux pas act/ be­hav­iour at base camp?

My big­gest pet peeve is when peo­ple sit around wait­ing for some­one else to be proac­tive. Win­ter camp­ing and camp­ing in gen­eral is one big team­work ex­er­cise. There is al­ways some­thing to do, whether it is cook­ing, clean­ing, build­ing snow walls, mak­ing tea, or most im­por­tantly, build­ing a good place to poop. Of course you have down­time dur­ing bad weather and af­ter rid­ing, but there is noth­ing worse than when some­one just sits and waits un­til oth­ers start mak­ing din­ner. Luck­ily, we had a rad team, din­ner was made, and we had one hell-of-a toi­let.

If you could have in­vited one ad­di­tional per­son on the trip (any­one in the world), who would it be and why?

This is lame but I would have in­vited my mum. We share all kinds of things with our par­ents, and it was through our par­ents that we were in­tro­duced to ski­ing. Mum isn’t into camp­ing and her first in­tro­duc­tion to ski tour­ing was not a huge suc­cess but I think if she was given an­other op­por­tu­nity un­der the right cir­cum­stances, she could re­ally fall in love with the scrog­gin-munch­ing life­style… Ha-ha maybe not, but I would love to at least try!

What is the first thing you do when you get home af­ter a week­long camp­ing trip (don’t lie and say shower)?

I eat some­thing glo­ri­ous. I love food, es­pe­cially af­ter a few days hik­ing in the back­coun­try. There is noth­ing bet­ter than clean un­der­pants and some­thing good to eat that you can’t make in a tran­gia. Af­ter drag­ging our sled back into Thredbo, we skied down the groomers, bumped into a wom­bat, and then ate fresh baked salad rolls at the Thredbo bak­ery. We couldn’t have dreamed up a bet­ter end to our trip.

Anna (in the red) and Nat, shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence on a per­fect spring af­ter­noon.

Natalie cel­e­brates as she fin­ished her shov­el­ing du­ties at the camp.

Ski­ing the Main Range in the late af­ter­noon is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence and here Nat is lov­ing ev­ery turn. To keep up up with our project check out find­ingth­e­line­film.com

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