Aged 18, I met Inga on my first season in Whistler Blackcomb in 2002. She was this cool Norwegian chick living up the road, that I’d always see in the snowpark ripping the same features as me. I can’t remember how we met or when we became friends, but over the last 14 years we’ve stayed in touch, snowboarded and shared stories of adventure, travel and the trials and tribulations of dating in a ski town (basically a fucking nightmare). She hasn’t left Whistler since we met. Her dream was to stay and she made it happen. I on the other hand, failed at the same dream!
Now the proud owner of a dog, truck and a sled (all three, still a dream of mine), she spends winter riding alongside Whistler’s top female snowmobilers and snowboarders, and summer as a gold miner in Northern Canada. Living off the grid with her dog (Lennard) and selection of shot guns (serious bear and wolf territory up there), she is one of my biggest inspirations, proof that if you want to do something, you should just go and bloody do it!
I don’t think Alaska should be a place just for people who are sponsored and filming. Fuck it, if you wanna go, just go for it.
Taking the snowmobile North to Alaska on a solo mission
“I wanted to do this trip for a while, but when I was finally ready and able to go, nobody else could/ would. I hate wasting time and time waits for no one, so I took it as a challenge. I figured that even if I didn’t get much shredding in, it would still be a good adventure.”
The snow sucked this year on the Pacific Northwest and despite not seeing each other for a year, my arrival in Whistler wasn’t enough to entice her to stay in baron British Columbia. She busted north a few days before my arrival, deadest on her pow and petrol fix. She brought a 6 X 12′ enclosed sled tailer, did some conversion to it so she could live in it, and took her dog, truck and sled, a Skidoo summit 800, 154 track, up the Alaska highway over the U.S. boarder.
This road trip isn’t easy at the best of times but doing it alone with the soul purpose of shredding (also alone) is incredible inspiring. Kept in the loop with photo updates through her mega Herd headwear Instagram account (Inga also owns the awesome Whistler hat company Herd Headwear) or the occasional email, I was literally blown away by what she was doing. What a bloody champion!
Related article: Snowmobile Girls Breaking Trail: Meet Stephanie Sweezey
Solo backcountry travel
“The number one thing I realised in Alaska was that I need more avalanche training.”
Solo backcountry travel is not recommended at the best of times, especially in new and unfamiliar terrain. This was, by far going to be the biggest challenge both physically and mentally. When snowmobiling in a group, you have help to dig your sled out as well as other’s experience to draw on when making decisions about what terrain is or isn’t safe. It can be really hard to walk away from a tempting line if the conditions aren’t right. That decision becomes even harder to make by yourself.
When going solo, you have to play it really safe, “sometimes I would see stuff that looked amazing to shred but I didn’t know if it would be safe, so I would’nt take the chance. It was annoying but a good to realise that I need to learn a lot before the next time I go to Alaska”. Good call. Education is everything and getting clued up on your avalanche skills so you can make informed decisions is vital. Mostly on this solo trip into the backcountry Inga used her sled as a way to gain access as a starting point for splitboarding, “I still think that solo sledding is not a great idea but I do think that if you play it safe and know how to get yourself out of a sticky situation, then the sled can be an amazing tool to get you out there so that you can do some snowboarding.”
Related article: Snowmobile girls breaking trail: Meet Stephanie Sweezey
“Pushing your limits, putting yourself way out of your comfort zone, making yourself do things that normally you would have help with doing, was great challenge and I would/ will do it again.”
Learning to splitboard (solo)
I recently learnt to splitboard as a way to get deeper into the backcountry without help from a sled or helicopter. Like Inga, I also quickly learnt that splitboarding isn’t easy. It is damn humbling, and as a snowboarder I found the skiing bit ridiculously hard. Her story about her first splitboarding experience just cracked me up:
“My first time splitboarding was solo on my Alaska trip. I realise now that I probably should have done some practicing first! The first time was actually pretty good and I thought to myself: “Hell, I am a natural!”. That first time was at Haines pass, just outside of Haines, Alaska. I was pretty clueless but I figured that due to being Norwegian and being born with skis on (not all of us), that I would pick it up. At first I had some major issues with my poles, but once that was sorted I just skinned away. Shortly after, I realised that I was very out of splitboard shape… but I pushed on (thankfully I didn’t have to do any downhills).
Finally after a lot of sweating I made it to the top. I was ready to put the board together and shred down. This is where I discovered what I very much dislike about splitboarding…. putting your board back together when its windy, freezing cold and your fingers are about to fall off. After some swearing and mild frostbite, I managed to put it all back together, put those damn poles back in my backpack and shred down some nice untouched pow. So yeah it was worth it.”
CLASSIC. Anyone that tried splitboarding can relate. Especially the ‘I didn’t have to ski any downhills’ bit. That’s the worst! It’s always good to practice putting your kit together over and over again so you don’t find yourself in Inga’s situation!
Related article: Learning to splitboard: 8 things I wish I had in my pack
Summer as a goldminer in Northern Canada
“I always carry a gun up there for grizzly bear protection too. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid.”
I’ve been on man-camp in remote locations (my favourite place on earth at Points North Heli in Alaska) but nothing like what Inga does in summer. Surrounded by burly men, grizzlies, black bears, wolves, caribou and shot guns, Inga sets up her trailer and gets to work trying strike it lucky, looking for gold.
5 months are spent working in a 10-person gold-mining team just outside Atlin, Northern B.C (like the TV show, or so she thought!). A stunning town of 300 people, no phone reception, one general store, two pubs, eccentric locals and B.C’s biggest lake. She drives a 70 tonne road truck, shifting dirt 12.5 hours a day 7 days a week. When not working and learning from the other gold-miners, she is working a claim she acquired herself on some land 45 minutes from camp. It doesn’t get dark till 1-2am so when not too buggered from work, she jumps on a quad bike with her dog and bush whacks her way deep into the wild where her land is located.
It sounds completely nutts, and not to mention dangerous with serious wildlife to be wary of, “Last time I was there I saw a big black wolf about 40 meters away. Well when I got back to camp and looked at some photos I took just a few min before seeing the wolf, I spotted 2 other grey wolves in the photos… so basically I was being watched by a pack of wolves…”. She owns three shot guns, bear pepper spray and always them with her. Gnarly.
“I quickly learned with gold mining is that it is nothing like on TV and it’s very tedious work .. boring as hell. The beauty of this place (Atlin) is mind blowing. Sometimes to just get away from work I go down to the closest lake and just take it all in. I love it up here but also wish I had more time to explore and experience this place.”
Bring on more adventures
Next year I am returning to North America to spend time doing what I love: snowboarding, learning about the mountains and riding with my friends. Inga and I have been talking about doing an epic trip together since I left Whistler in 2005, but next year it’s going to happen. Take the sleds north, live out of a trailer and send it snowmobiling, snowboarding and splitboarding around the Northern BC and the Alaskan backcountry.
You know when you have a friend that you just know everything is going to be one massive, mega adventure? Well that’s Inga for me. Super chilled, down-to-earth and passionate about all the things that matter in life (chasing what you love and keeping life simple)… not to mention an absolute ripper snowboarder and sledder. I’m just pumped to get to spring next year and see what trouble, adventure, big lines and big drops we are going to get into. Dogs, trucks, sleds, snowboards, splitboards and shotguns… watch out world! I have so much to learn about sledding and backcountry living off the grid, and I’m pumped I get to learn it with and off this girl. One in a million :-)
Seriously, follow Inga’s personal Instagram for just the most EPIC stream of images like all these I re-posted as well as Herd Headwear’s Instagram page and Facebook page. Check out the HERD product too, it’s rad and synonymous with Whistler and the local crew of legends just like Inga.
For more rad pics like this, follow Inga’s personal Instagram as well as Herd Headwear’s Instagram page and Facebook page.
Editor’s note: If you are after travel insurance for your next adventure, Still Stoked recommends World Nomads. Prices are really reasonable and they insure actions sports (including heliskiing) and don’t charge mega premiums. You can also purchase insurance after you have left home for your trip; something that is quite unique to World Nomads and really helpful if your plans change as you travel.