The Overview Effect In Iceland

By | Published: January 7, 2016

Human beings are capable of creating incredible innovations and technologies that allow us to see ourselves and the world we live in from new perspectives. The reason this shift in perception is so important is because we go beyond our everyday habits and routines and are opened to more clarity which has the effect of helping us reconnect with what matters most in life. This is actually a phenomenon that astronauts experience when they, for the first time, are able to look back and see the reality of the Earth from space. From that perspective, the reality is that Earth is just a “tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.  From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this pale blue dot becomes both obvious and imperative.” (Wikipedia). It’s called the Overview Effect and third-hand observers of individuals who have experienced the effect report a noticeable difference in attitude from these individuals.


 

Earth is just a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.  From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this pale blue dot becomes both obvious and imperative.


 

Being a pro snowboarder, I’ve been able to travel to remote places around the globe; sometimes being dropped off on top of mountain peaks where civilization is nowhere in site. And I believe that this experience has provided me a similar perspective to the Overview Effect. Last winter I had the opportunity to travel to Iceland and snowboard in some wild-west-like territory of the coveted Gold Coast. This wasn’t a traditional, “let’s go to a new country, hire a guide and go snowboarding” type of trip.  This was something much more. The trip took about a year of planning and logistics and we were going to do our best to log vertical on uncharted first descents, ride during the wee hours of the night and do it all from a boat chartered from St. Martin.

The boat was key with enough room for a helicopter to land on it’s bow each day to pick us up and transport us up to the top of the snowy white peaks, it’s what we needed to accomplish our goals and our group had the creativity and the means to make it happen. Other heli operations in Iceland are beholden to the distance between the hotel locations and the Gold Coast and then of course the weather is always a major factor in combination with fuel capacities, which is why it’s very rare for most to be able to experience the allure of this magical territory. But we could post up in fjords and move around with the weather in such a way to position ourselves and align ourselves just perfectly for the time when the weather opened up and then it was GO TIME.

We felt like pioneers. We explored fjords and had some of the best guides from CMH Heli in Canada and private guides from Alaska and Iceland to help us navigate terrain and conditions and a boat crew who live most of their lives on a boat.


 

Most of the crew had never been in cold weather, let alone seen snow before and they sure as hell had never experienced a group like ours!


 

The boat crew was such an integral part of our experience. They were primarily from Greece and Italy and the boat sailed for 14 days from St. Martin to meet us in Reykjavik. Most of the crew had never been in cold weather, let alone seen snow before and they sure as hell had never experienced a group like ours! The female captain and her first mate husband were beyond excited, though, to be navigating these unfamiliar waters and were always willing to change course and re-route the ship based on our constantly changing plans. This was a trip of firsts for them as well and when they communicated the emotion they felt as they watched us descend from the snow capped peaks to the glacial waters throughout the day from their position on the Blue De Nimes, it only added to our own joy.

And that terrain was something special to behold. Even with all of the best planning used to orchestrate this trip, it still required a healthy dose of detachment from expectations and faith! Howling winds, blizzards, hail, rain, sun- ever changing weather is inevitable during the spring months in Iceland and yet our five-day window proved to be mostly blue skies and flyable conditions but at the end of the day, we had cold temperatures and winter conditions even though it was May. Talk about lucky! Near the arctic circle, the sun doesn’t really set at this time of the year. Which was another factor in our success.  Because we weren’t restricted by normal day light hours, we were able to wait out storms and fly once they passed even if that meant gearing up for the day at 5pm. Often times we would be having some of the best runs of the day at 8pm.  And the golden dusk-like light that we experienced at that hour truly made for special descents.

The terrain is totally exposed. There are no trees. It’s like you’re riding on the moon. And the snow conditions were such that you never knew what you were going to get.  From the ice hor at the tops of the runs, to light powdery hero snow, to the wetter snow that was spongy and bouncy and varied. You had to be ready for everything (even the occasional volcanic rock that might just be jutting out from underneath the surface) and if you weren’t it was possible that you could get grabbed for a tomahawk without any warning (and I’m speaking from experience here).  Some runs were cruisie and rolly but some were super steep. We even experienced a pretty big slide that took most of the snow off our run and left us for a sheer steep descent that really got my heart pumping (see below for SavGnar that we named after we were the first ones to ride the virgin line!).

But no matter the terrain or the snow conditions, each time the runs took us from the tops of the peaks right down to the edges of the deep blue arctic waters and each run was a reminder of the awe of life and nature. We walked the line and were truly at Mother Nature’s mercy. And therefore when she opened up and allowed us to pass we understood the gift that we were being given. This barren place was so full of magic and wonder, and you cant help but fall in love with it.


 

But no matter the terrain or the snow conditions, each time the runs took us from the tops of the peaks right down to the edges of the deep blue arctic waters and each run was a reminder of the awe of life and nature.


 

It’s experiences and days like these that change my perspective on life. They help fuel my involvement in social issues and my belief in the power of our own human potential.  It’s days like these that give me courage to stand up for winter and use my voice and platform to speak at events like the COP21 in Paris.  And when I do get lost in day to day living, like we all do, I’m able to draw from and remember that space and it’s what lies at the foundation of my desire to live in a world where innovation and technology is not scoffed at because it’s by-product is harmful to the health of our planet, but instead that it’s celebrated because we were able to come together as a global society to figure out ways to create innovations that help inspire us to see  things we weren’t able to see before, bring us together and connect us AND also support the health and well being of our Earth and every living thing on this planet. I know this shift in our way of living will take a movement. It will take passionate and engaged individuals who care a whole hell of a lot about nature to come together and use our collective power to continue to demand that our environment be at the foundation of every core choice and decision we make as a society. This is not about going backwards to eliminate what we have created, this is about adding that one core intention to all innovations from this day forward. So continue to adventure. Continue to explore. And continue to come together and demand that we do it all in the name of the extraordinary places that sparked and inspired that passion in the first place.