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Field Journal

Close To Home

Close To Home

Patagonia presents Close to Home, a short film about adventuring on your doorstep and appreciating the simple side of snowboarding. Photography by Carlos Blanchard

Often, we are too busy searching for far away adventures to appreciate what is in our own backyard. The simplest way to explore is to look at what is around you. Fueled by this and the experiential side of snowboarding, Patagonia Ambassador, Nicholas Wolken spent the past two seasons enjoying what nature had to offer only a train ride away from the town he grew up and the result is ‘Close to Home’. Here, Nicholas explains why.

How did ‘Close to Home come about? Why not go further afield in search of snow
It’s a paradox, but by traveling a lot, I realized that I live in a great place, and there are still a lot of new things to explore in my backyard. Running on a tight schedule made it obvious that staying closer to home meant more time spent on snow and less on my butt in the air. It`s also just cheaper, less hassle and has less environmental impact.

Can you tell us about the location and what it means to you?
We filmed parts in my family friends’ alpine hut on the hill right above the small town where I grew up. I haven’t been there for many years, so it brought back memories. I felt excited to share this beautiful spot with my friends from Innsbruck. For logistical reasons we also filmed in and around Innsbruck where Christoph Thorensen (filmer) and Mitch & Bibi Töleder live. It was great going back there, I have many good friends and blurry memories from my days as a student there.

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Did this trip feel simpler and free-ing because you didn’t have to travel far?
The little time we spent on snow was much more relaxed as we knew our surroundings and therefore it was less stress. The idea was to make the simplest and smoothest movie project ever, but my knee cap and Achilles tendon had other plans. So, a little short movie project that was supposed to take 2 weeks eventually took 2 years in the making and became stressful, because I was worried it wouldn’t all come together at the end. We also ended up traveling more than we planned at first. I experienced firsthand that cutting down on things can be hard.

Was it fueled by a desire to be environmentally aware – travel less, buy less etc?
The main motivations for me were to have a good time, be out in nature with friends enjoying some nice turns. To have no unnecessary hassle and enjoy the simple life. Being environmentally aware, is not necessarily a motivation, it`s just the right thing to do.

Did your trip have a traditional/old school feel to it? Honoring the past in some way?
Before there were lifts and gondolas, people used animal furs under their skis to hike around the mountains much like we did during this trip. The simple lifestyle in the hut, which we stayed in, gives you a glimpse in to times where people needed less and had less. In the hut there were old objects with a value which does not expire as fast as objects these days. There are no trends up there – items get fixed, reused and their emotional value grows the older they get.

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What interesting learnings/takeaways did you get from this trip?
Doing this trip and working on this project really made me read up on and get interested in eco-psychology. I want to learn more about the effect of nature on our psyche and vice versa. I was especially touched by the idea of Gaia (seeing the whole planet as a giant living organism that we are one with) and I am very keen to find out more through my personal experiences about the emotional relationship I have towards nature and the parallels there are to be drawn from what we know about human to human relationships in humanistic psychology. My experiences have grown my concern about ecological matters and given me motivation to change some of my thinking and behavior…

What’s important to you in snowboarding / what fuels you to do it?
My snowboarding has really changed a lot in the past few years, it has become less about the tricks or proving myself and more about the experiential aspect of it. I really have been enjoying risking less and being more present and aware of everything that’s going on in a simple turn, trying to make it feel just right, finding the perfect spots to place those turns and connecting them to create a good line and experience that flow. I feel that even in snowboarding less is more. I have also started to appreciate quality snowboard time over quantity, ‘lonely’ splitboarding over crowded resorts.

UPDATE: You can now watch the full film here:

Instagram: @nicholaswolken
Photography by @carlosblanchardphoto






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