The lone wrapped gift sitting around after the holiday rush was beginning to collect dust on my dresser. Mailing it to my favourite journalism school classmate would have been the simplest solution, but on a clear Friday night, driving to Elliot Lake seemed far more exciting.
Plus, the adventure would give me the chance to snowboard at Mount Dufour — something I had been meaning to do for quite some time.
It didn’t take long to toss my gear into the backseat of my car. My friend’s Christmas present got to ride shotgun. Had I spent a little more time packing, I may have been able to avoid a long string of profanities somewhere west of Whitefish after discovering I hadn’t packed snowpants.
While refuelling in Espanola, I posted a blurb to Facebook about my forgetfulness. I woke up Saturday morning to a text message.
“Hey do you still need snowpants?”
I didn’t recognize the phone number, but with time ticking down on that chairlift, who was I to waste time with such irrelevant concerns? So, I simply responded, “Yes.”
Turns out the mystery messenger was Paul Kazulak, an Elliot Lake-based photographer I had met at a Battle of the Bands competition during the Spanish Rock n’ Roar festival.
When I arrived to pick up the pants, Kazulak’s boots and board were in the entrance way. The first thought that rolled through my mind was, “Wow. Is this legitimate grown-up going to come snowboarding for the day too?”
“Of course,” was his reply.
When we caught up at the hill after breakfast, I was completely shocked. This guy, who is the same age as my mom, was airing off hits, popping 180s on the hill and ollying over branches. I had to get his story. Thank God for chairlifts.
Turns out Kazulak picked up the sport less than a decade ago — given the demanding learning curve of the sport, he was pretty bold, brave and perhaps even cocky on a board.
Of course, I couldn’t let the “old guy” show me up, so I found myself riding a little harder to keep up.
Then something even cooler happened — Kazulak pulled out his Canon, and began snapping some shots of snowboarders and skiers playing on a rail. One of the little riders nervously eyeing the rail was 10-year-old Lindsay D’Amato. Rocking the girliest purple getup, the blue-eyed, blond-haired kid kept asking if it was hard to ride the rail.
Not sure if she was ready for it, I didn’t want to push her too hard, but I wanted to encourage her.
She worked up the courage to ride by the rail a time or two, and I saw the same frustration on her face I get when I just can’t seem to hit something.
Knowing exactly what she was feeling, I decided to help. With her tiny mitts in mine, I pulled her off the snowbank onto the rail and held her hands as she slid across it.
By the third time, she was pulling her hands away from me halfway across the rail.
All the while, Kazulak was quietly snapping photos off in the distance.
As the sun began to go down, I decided to call it a day. After returning the borrowed snowpants and said bye to all the people I had met, I began the trek back home.
I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of how much happiness strangers could bring.