A bicycle, in its essence, is a way from one place to another.
But sometimes it’s also a way through something.
For Tessa Treadway and her nine-year-old son Kasper, who lost husband and father Dave Treadway to a backcountry skiing accident in 2019, mountain biking has helped move them through grief.
For Kasper, it’s a hyper-focused outlet for his errant energy. For Tessa, it’s a break from the chaos of single motherhood, as she discovers the surprise gift of joy that flows from chasing her oldest son.
In the first moments of the opening scene, two things become clear: Kasper Treadway is a supernaturally talented mountain biker, and Tessa Treadway is a fantastically courageous mom. As she watches her nine-year-old son drop into a 45-degree scree chute with a 10-foot drop in the middle of it, Tessa holds her breath, and then beams with excitement when he spits out the bottom unscathed. “Nice, Kasper!” she exclaims, only admitting under her breath how scary it was.
To passively resign yourself to the spectator’s seat while your child seemingly auditions for Red Bull Rampage is tricky, especially at a time when he’s still learning basic grammar. But for Tessa, it’s part of commitment to the philosophy she and her late husband Dave Treadway built their family around: to live without fences.
That’s saying a lot for a woman who lost her husband to a backcountry skiing accident only four years ago, and knows just how unforgiving the mountains can be. But her belief in living a full life—chasing life, as Dave used to say—endures. In her world, being a good parent means setting your kids up to thrive. To do that, she has to navigate the safe boundaries of calculated exposure, and put her own discomfort aside, along with her grief.
That’s the backdrop to Rossignol’s new film, Chasing Kasper, which follows Tessa and Kasper’s journey to heal and make new memories through mountain biking in their hometown of Golden, B.C. For Kasper, riding is a way to let out his errant energy. For Tessa, it’s a powerful form of movement meditation that’s helped carry her through the most difficult passage there is: losing your partner.
Like Dave, who was one of the boldest and most accomplished freeskiers of his generation, Kasper is drawn to scary, difficult things. But rather than try to suppress those urges and try to keep her eldest of three sons in a padded box, Tessa chooses to foster his abilities and teach him to use them safely.
Directed by Sweetgrass Productions’ Nick Waggoner, the filmmaker responsible for such seminal ski movies as Valhalla and Jumbo Wild, Chasing Kasper probes deep into the mother-son bond as Tessa opens up about loss, and invites the audience to experience what it’s like to exit out of grief and into joy, as the mountain bike becomes the vehicle for a new start.
“I felt like it was really important for us as a family to start creating new memories,” she says. “So I thought, ‘I've never had the opportunity to really try mountain biking, I'm going to go for it.’ And I absolutely loved it.”
That all started with a bike someone gave Kasper, and in many ways he’s been the one leading and guiding his mom since. By the time he was eight, he was whipping over 20-foot gaps. By the time he was nine, he was keeping up with kids twice his age—all while wearing an ear-to-ear grin Tessa couldn’t imagine trying to suppress. She admits it’s been frightening at times, but the relief and happiness it’s brought them both has made it worth it.
“To work through losing your dad, for any child, is extremely difficult. For quite a while at first, Kasper was just very angry. And it's so tricky for a kid because they can't just let it out. He couldn't just go and sit in his room or sit on his bed or on the couch or be snuggled by me and cry. It just doesn't come out that way.”
It did come out on the trails, though, and in the air—there’s nothing he loves more than getting his wheels off the ground. And while that might seem dangerous for a kid whose skills are still developing (and he has had his cuts and bruises), letting him learn on his own terms is Tessa’s own way of keeping him safe, both physically and spiritually.
“I feel like, after experiencing Dave’s loss, and the trauma, and just life in the mountains with accidents, I feel like that is something that I really want to protect my kids from. So it might look like I allow them so much risk, but it's in such a controlled environment. Yes, it is super scary, but I know that he knows better than I do what his physical limits are on his bike. If you protect them from getting hurt all the time, and from understanding the natural consequence of trying something, then they don't learn that and you have to then continue to be there for them to set those boundaries and limits.”
Allowing Kasper find the sharp edges of life, she says, has helped her keep her mind tuned to the present. And learning to mountain bike has helped lift her in ways she never saw coming. While Dave’s absence still looms large, working through it on skis and bikes has been her best therapy, as she’s discovered the surprise gift of flow that has come from chasing Kasper.
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