The Backcountry Breakfast Club
A little mid-week, early-morning adventure is always worth it. Especially when chorizo burritos are involved.
By Alex Showerman
At 4:45 a.m. in late December, my alarm jolted me awake. It was still dark out. I went to hit snooze, but then I told myself, “Get up, it’s always worth it.” Bleary eyed, I pulled on base layers, fumbled to put in my contacts, then grabbed my pre-packed necessities: skins, helmet, goggles poles, and splitboard and threw them in the trunk of my car. Before departing, I ran back in to snag the chorizo sausage, chopped peppers, onions, spinach and eggs from the fridge.
It was a weekday and we had to be back to the car by 10:00 a.m. so my touring partner could get to the office. But first we needed a mini-adventure.
Backcountry Breakfast Club was born when my good friend Alek Jadkowski, a local pilot and engineer, and I were trying to capture a bit of the sense of adventure and freedom we had last spring while backcountry skiing and riding in Iceland for three weeks. There, our days were simple: wake up, cook breakfast, find an intriguing mountain to climb and ski, cook dinner, repeat. The freedom of having no real plans and the simplicity of cooking outside were part of a routine that never got boring. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of routine that works when the real world beckons and bills need to be paid.
We came up with Backcountry Breakfast Club as a way to incorporate a little bit of that adventure into our everyday lives. Each week we pick a new area to “explore,” bring along our necessary cooking gear and a meal. The goal is to skip the instant oatmeal and make a ‘gourmet’ breakfast in the backcountry using local ingredients I usually pick up at Pete’s Greens Farm Market the day before.
Our plan that December morning was to poke around the Bolton backcountry, ride a few of our favorite lines and make chorizo- stuffed breakfast burritos. We skinned up in blackness, but just as we reached our destination the sun began to light up the surrounding mountaintops.
To the north, we could just catch Mount Mansfield peeking in and out of the clouds. Below, we scoped out our powder lines.
Hungry and missing coffee, we discussed whether we should make breakfast here or rip our skins and drop in. Our thirst for powder outweighed our need for caffeine, so we decided to drop in. We hooted and hollered as we charged our way down the powdery chute, every turn enveloping us in a white wave.
“That was awesome! Another lap or breakfast?” Alek asked as we high-fived at the bottom.
“Let’s go hit that one more time, then we can get to breakfast.” I replied.
We were having such a good time that I ignored my need for food. In the skin track I started to ponder about what kind of mindset I would be in when I started the workday of writing, pitches and networking in Waterbury Center.
What I’ve noticed is that a morning mini adventure offers four key benefits to kickstart the day. Breakfast Club, I realized gives me the following things:
1. A sense of accomplishment. After a mini adventure in the morning, I feel as though I have done something for the day. This sets me up to tackle my real to-dos with gusto.
2. A clean slate to stay focused. I’ve already done something that I wanted to do for the day, which means I can focus on work without feeling like I am missing out.
3. A chance to disconnect. When I go into the backcountry my phone stays off, giving me a chance to unplug from email, Facebook, and all the other distractions of the modern world.
4. Better health. The past four years I’ve worked for employers who had flexible schedules and enabled my morning adventures. Since then, the health benefits have been noticeable. I have lost more than 40 pounds and I rarely get sick.
After our third and final lap of the day, we decided it was time to finally get to breakfast. We pulled out the stove and a lightweight, packable French press for some locally-roasted Brave Coffee while we cooked up our Southwestern breakfast burrito. The sound of the sizzling pan and the smell of the peppers, onions, spinach and chorizo seemed foreign but welcome in the peaceful forest.
Bellies full, we loaded up our packs, skinned back to the parking lot, high-fived and made our ways to start the workday. Back at my desk by 10:30 a.m. and feeling fulfilled, my mind was clear.
BREAKFAST CLUB TIPS
1. Have a partner. You also should always have a partner when venturing into the backcountry. Plus, if you don’t have someone to meet, it’s easier to hit the snooze button. If you can’t ditch your partner, you have to get out of bed.
2. Know where you’re going. Make sure you have a good game plan, including where you are planning to go, where you’ll set up breakfast camp, how long the adventure will take and when you will be back at the office.
3. Always prep the night before. Heading out the door for a pre-work mission means getting up several hours earlier than you are used to. If you still have to pack, that means you have to get up that much earlier and face the daunting task of getting your gear together. Make sure your backpack is packed, there’s fuel and your stove, and prep and pre-chop the ingredients you need. Keep them in a baggie in the fridge, ready to go.
4. Have a plan for coffee. If you’re a coffee person, make sure you have a plan. Put it on a timer, or know what stores are open early enough for you to grab your morning joe.
5. Always get up. Whether it is to chase pow, or watch the sunrise from a local summit, getting up is always worth it.
Alex Showerman has written for Mountain Magazine, Backcountry and Transworld Snowboarding. He lives in Waterbury Center.