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Is it possible to make changes in life that’s 100 % positive? Or do they always come with a backside too?

When my girlfriend and I found out that the family was about to grow, the split between “terrified” and “extremely happy” was about 50/50. I’ve never been a person really longing for kids, but rather one that thought that “I’ll probably have a kid one day”. When things got real, I immediately started thinking of the life I’ve been living, and how that wouldn’t be the same any longer. How I’d have to quit professional skiing, cut away 80 % of the trail biking and fly fishing in summer, and how I would probably be terrified over everything but flat pow when skiing.

I was wrong.
When our son was born, those terrified 50 % went away, and to my surprise, nothing really changed. Well, not totally true, but in general, most of the stuff I’ve been loving through my whole life were still there. Very present. They just have to fight a little harder to get prioritized these days.

Those priorities are the main thing, and while I guess a lot of people get drawn into family life 24/7 (can’t blame them!), I’m actually happy that my brain tells me to keep on doing what I do. Keep on spending time in the mountains. Keep on shredding laps in Engelberg with my buddies. Keep on shooting with photographers. Keep on spending time with those who know more, so that I can learn more. So that I can always come home.

Even though those words have been passing through my mind even more since I became a father, they are not new. I once did a big interview with professional skier Henrik Windstedt, and I asked him about his vision of skiing and risk taking, and I wanted him to talk about all the big changes fatherhood brought to his life. His answer surprised me, but the more I thought of his words — “Nothing really changed. I didn’t want to get hurt before I had kids either” — the more sense they made.
Now when I also have a little one, I understand his answer even better, and I can just say that I’m happy I never felt the urge to jump a cliff or ski a line when I though the odds of getting hurt were bad. I guess “bad” is a matter of definition, but I always considered my body extremely precious, and if someone asked me if I would blow my ACL for ten billion dollars, I feel very safe and secure in my answer — no.

I guess saying that my mind haven’t changed a single bit is naive. But considering how terrified I’ve always been about avalanches, crevasses and tumbling over rock faces, I can’t say that my mind is much different. Obviously, I think about the situation I would put my family in if I would break my arm and end up with two months in a cast. How sweet it may sound to get away from changing diapers, it’s not a situation I’d be stoked on… But on the other hand, having a cast also means that I would not be able to ski, cook, doing dishes, bike, fish, etc., and that have always been enough for me to stay away from stupid decisions. Of course, things can happen any time, on the easiest runs too, but that’s not a part of the same discussion.

7A6D9820-329F-4ABA-B4DD-6AF33A6CB50C Created with sketchtool. “When are you going to quit this dangerous skiing you’re working with. You have a family now!”

Having this mindset seems a bit provoking to some people. “When are you going to quit this dangerous skiing you’re working with. You have a family now!” To me, this is weird way of looking at our time here on earth. Living a life that makes me happy is a big part of the equation, and there are so many “normal” things that also involve big risks, but all people are doing them, so they’re just more accepted. I’m more scared when driving my car than when skiing big lines. Going 100 kilometers per hour and meeting cars all the time… this is unpredictable risk to me. I’d rather skip some driving and take the train more often, instead of skipping a pow day. That kind of risk management makes me happy, and saying “me happy” is something that I hope isn’t considered ego, but rather something that makes me a better father and partner. Getting a desk job full time just isn’t for me. I need mountains and forests to function.

But this job I’m doing… how to come home from that? Every day? I make sure to surround myself with people I trust on the days when I really feel it’s necessary. People who know more about snow and the mountains than I do. In Engelberg, that’s been my winter home for almost 20 years, it’s my good friend and mountain guide Dani Perret. I come from freeskiing, and when being in really big terrain, or climbing something exposed, I obviously get scared. That’s natural, and not a bad feeling as long as it’s not taking over. To be able to ask questions to someone you really trust is the difference between having a shitty day and having a great day, where you also learned something.

But as the clichés all say: it’s worth it.

Mountain guides and friends you really trust will help you evolve as skiers, mountaineers, and also humans if you ask me. I remember this skinny ridge I was climbing together with Dani last year. Huge stress for me, since there was a lot of air around us, and I’m not really used to that. But after discussing it with Dani, comparing it to the everyday skiing I’m doing in the big runs in Engelberg, my mind slowly went to logic, and understood that the huge “danger” my mind sensed, was just the fact that I’m not used to hanging on rock ridges in ski boots, with a few hundred meters of air under my feet, even if I’m attached to a rope. Me understanding that there was a low risk on that climb, is the same thing as other people understanding that freeskiing, ski touring and alpinism doesn’t have to be more dangerous than driving your car or bike commuting through a big city. If it’s done right. It for sure is way more fun though!

So, back to the headline — drawbacks? Well, getting less sleep, having less money and changing diapers (etc.) isn’t necessarily the best thing that happened to me. But as the clichés all say: it’s worth it. The fact that I’m living the life I do, and that I know I’ll be able to share this life with my son (and rest of the family) makes it worth all the hassle.