If you’re looking for Jeff Shattler on December 26, don’t. He’s busy.
Every season on his late December birthday, Shattler scales the slopes in solitude, the soft snow supplying solidarity.
“On my birthday, I go snowboarding by myself,” he said. “It’s like a tradition that I do. It’s just me and the mountain.”
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He pops in his earbuds and connects with the mountain, sometimes parting from the paved path for the road less traveled among the trees. There are no interrupts, no interjections, no responsibilities. There is nothing but earth sprawled in his sight.
“When you’re snowboarding down a mountain on a 45-minute run, you don’t have to talk to anybody,” he explained. “You’ve just got beautiful views; you see mountains upon mountains upon mountains. Fresh powder, cold day, and you’re just by yourself.”
By the time Shattler is done for the day, he’s a new man.
“It’s an opportunity to clear your mind and make yourself feel so much better,” he said. “Clear my mind, clear my head, and I feel great when I get back to my family.”
He snowboards well more than once a year, though his birthday is when he sets out alone. Sometimes it’s with his wife, sometimes it’s with a couple friends, but Jeff Shattler will get himself on the mountain when winter comes.
It may surprise some, but snowboarding is the favorite sport of the two-time NLL champion.
“It goes snowboarding, lacrosse, hockey for me,” Shattler explained. “Lacrosse has always been a passion, but snowboarding is my favorite sport in the world.”
It was lacrosse that gave him the opportunity to discover his deep love for snowboarding, though.
Shattler didn’t first strap into a board until he was 17, something he wishes had happened earlier. The late start meant it took longer for him to develop his devotion to snowboarding, but when he was traded from the Buffalo Bandits to Calgary Roughnecks in 2006, he was exposed to something greater than he’d ever known.
“I saw the mountains and what I could snowboard on, and I couldn’t wait,” he said. “I started really, really loving the sport when I moved to Calgary, because I got to snowboard in some of the best powder in the world.”
It’s a dangerous game, sending you speeding down snowy slopes with potentially unforgiving consequences. Shattler said he avoids terrain parks, but he accepts the risks associated with the sport. It’s not a bug of snowboarding; it’s a feature.
“I like going through the blades and trees and seeing that control,” he said. “At any moment, I could hit an edge or whatever it may be, but in that moment when you’re going down, it’s a freeing feeling. Just you and nature, all the worries in the world are behind you.”
For Shattler, the outdoors has always been his second home. He recently took up mountain biking, which is providing him with a similar outlet during the summer months, and hiking is a common family activity for the Shattlers.
It’s important for his mental health, so whether it’s snowboarding, mountain biking or laying at the beach, Shattler will make sure he’s collecting vitamin D.
“I always feel better when I’m outdoors,” Shattler said. “When I’m inside, no sun, no nothing, I get depressed. I like to be outside as much as possible, enjoying beaches, lakes, hikes, waterfalls.”
During the winter, there are fewer opportunities outside, making snowboarding that much more precious.
Jeff Shattler will continue solitary shredding every December 26, and he will always find a way to hit the slopes. Moving forward, his goal is to snowboard many of the world’s most wonderful peaks with his family by his side.
“I want a snowboard family,” he explained. “I want to start traveling, to see Vail and hit some really cool spokes. I want my kids to get involved. We’re all going to get better together.”