“What does it mean, ‘Sendy AF?’” Evgeny Matalyga asks with a perplexed look. He’s scrolling through Instagram on a comfy couch beneath ocean-view windows, one of many at the hostel in which we’re staying. Courtesy of @jerryoftheday, the Sendy AF shirt catches Evegny’s eye because he, and everyone I meet in Kamchatka, is fascinated by mainstream ski culture.
The Kamchatka Peninsula is not known for its local ski scene, nor for being on the edge of pop culture. The spurt of land, jutting 800 miles into the Pacific from the westernmost edge of Russia, is known for its monstrous bears, massive fish, active volcanoes and huge swaths of wilderness. The capital of Kamchatka, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, is the second largest city in the world unreachable by road, but the entirety of the peninsula is home to less than 350,000 people. Add a nine-hour flight from Moscow, and it’s easy to expect a community lost in time.
But that’s not the case at the Bay House, the Kamchatka Freeride Community’s [KFC] headquarters and base of operations. Located at the southern edge of the capital, the building is bright and modern, and the fancy gear-drying room downstairs is packed with the hottest skis, bindings, boots and avalanche gear. As I try to explain the intricacies of “Sendy AF,” two cute girls in their 20s offer espresso and buttery porridge before flipping on the big-screen TV to videos of local freeride competitions. Taking place on the birch-forested slopes surrounding the city, most participants speed straight down the run until blowing up. And, for lack of a better term, they are purely, utterly and completely stoked.
This is Kamchatkan freeskiing…