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Ode to the Great Bardini

Can this pleasure be measured in thousands of feet or number of turns or breadth of our smiles? Our joy ran like a current between us, a product of that whimsical flying feeling that is skiing… —Tom Carter and Allan Bard, “Redline,” Powder, Nov. ’83

Allan Bard died recently. Most of you have no idea who Bard was because you’re too young or too new to the sport or, if you’ve heard of him, you think he was some granola backcountry telemark retro old guy who had nothing to do with today’s skiing. Fact is, Bard was one of the coolest, sweetest, and most unassuming ski mountaineers you could meet in this or any lifetime, a legendary storyteller who inspired me and many others to travel the world in search of romance and adventure on skis. Along with partner Tom Carter, he prowled the mountains of the planet and brought back tales of skiing hijinks and incredible wonderment at all that the high peaks had to offer, and each trip found him more amazed at the places he visited, not world weary or cynical the way so many travelers become.

“Bard and Carter.” “Carter and Bard.” After years of stories in the pages of Powder, the names seemed so natural together, so made for each other, symbolic of a partnership forged on serrated ridges and sharp metal edges. In their friendship, we readers who were fans saw and felt something we longed for: connection, backup, belayer, travel buddy, and fresh tracks on really high mountains.

I wasn’t the only one who waited eagerly for their next expedition to appear in the magazine. Countless readers stood impatiently by the mailbox, wondering where they’d turn up—Chile? Ecuador? Mexico again? Or deep in their home range, California’s Sierra Nevada? I remember being bummed at a long Bard and Carter absence and then being absolutely thrilled to see an issue arrive with this color blurb: “BARD AND CARTER ARE BACK! OUR DARING DUO SKIS TO HIGH ADVENTURE IN THE SIERRAS!” It was well worth the wait—this time the boys had pioneered the Redline, a 200-mile, three-week three-pin ski tour along the spine of the Sierra Nevada. What studs!

Bardini’s passing would be sad under any circumstances, but to me it seems especially tragic, tragic because there are so few men like Bard left in the world. Allan had such a freshness and enthusiasm, such a wit, that you absolutely always felt better for having been with him. He was a raconteur in the truest sense of the word, with a permanent twinkle in his eye and another incredible tale always on his lips. I guess, in that sense, Bardini was indeed retro—retro in the way that he was reminiscent of an earlier age when you could use words like “swash-buckling,” “bon vivant,” and “elan” and have them mean something.

Those words ring hollow now. I hate to make generalizations and I hate to sound old, but we live in an era that values totally different things, and I don’t think it’s good. The world feels more aggressive, extreme, and in your face than it once did, and when that pushes out the nice guys and the simple pleasures, well, that’s a bad thing. Fortunately, we’ll always have Bard’s words to keep us true; to remind us…and to inspire us.—Steve Casimiro

We had not conquered or skied the ultimate line, but the intimacy we gained on this ski route made us realize that this was only the highest line for us. There were many secret high lines, with hidden treasures waiting to be skied…

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 26.2, October 1997. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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