By my count, it’s been almost a year since I last posted. I do sincerely apologize to the two or three of you who have been holding your breath awaiting an update, since you were probably hospitalized due to Exploding Lung Syndrome. Or is that Imploding Lung Syndrome?
I’ll spare you the usual excuses concerning the delay, although my new employment as a writer for OutdoorEquipment has fulfilled a dream of mine to get paid for writing about what I love, and the free ski pass and Ramen stipend I get from Beaver Creek as an adult ski instructor mean that I probably can’t write any more disparaging posts about Vail Resorts’ properties. There’ve also been a few developments in my personal life, but I’m thinking about starting a separate blog on that which will make me rich and famous. Besides, none of the last bit has anything to do with the purpose for this blog, which is how much I love the outdoors.
So now that I’ve gone ahead and provided excuses along with a dose of shameless self-promotion, let’s get back to that stated purpose. This year has, for the most part, been about as uninspiring as the last when it comes to snow.
Then a storm blew in last week. It was quickly followed by another. As I alternated between rubbing knees that were protesting from ten days of ski-instructor training and checking the snow reports in the hopes of subjecting them to more, I discovered that Winter Park had, on a day when I had nothing in my schedule, received a whopping eight inches. This is news to rejoice as much in skiing as in porn, so at 6:30 Tuesday morning, I loaded up my gear and braved roads that were the same color and consistency as the sky in the hopes of a Tony Montana-like experience, only with honest-to-God snow.
In spite of how awesome the roads were (and I do mean “awesome” in the Old Testament sense of the word, in which Yahweh can make you shit your pants for a chuckle), just getting off the chairlift proved worthwhile. I eagerly followed in a ski patroller’s tracks, and sure enough, he rewarded my endeavors by dropping the rope on two pristine runs that had yet to be touched that season. A heavenly chorus of angels sang out in my mind. First tracks, as both a phrase and a skiing goal, could not be more meaningful than this.
With relish, I mumbled a thank-you as he admonished the other skiers and me to “be careful, okay?” With a flourish, I headed across the hill, seeking a perfect place to turn. With gusto, I took a deep breath and guided my right ski around.
With more of a whimper than a bang, the left side of my face hit snow. My right ski was no longer attached to my foot, and with a few inches of snow that had apparently rushed in to fill the void my tracks had made, it wasn’t immediately visible. I also had the problem of what the hell to do with my left ski. When I fell over, my left side had naturally taken the brunt of my body weight, and my leg and foot were now mired in loose but heavy snow. No matter how I tried, I could not free it.
I used my free hand to dig around my left boot. In what seemed to take an inordinate amount of time, I found my left binding and, with a sigh, pushed down hard to release it. Now I had two skis to find, but at least I could stand up and move around.
Or so I thought. Every move I made made me sink further in the snow. I was literally neck deep. Moving six inches back up the hill to find the first ski I’d lost was a hellacious process that made me that much more sympathetic to climbers on K2 and Everest. But unlike those lucky bastards, I grumbled to myself, I don’t even have a rope!
It was simultaneously the height of good fortune and the depth of bad juju that I happened to be on a run that, despite its promise of fresh tracks, was relatively unoccupied. On the one hand, I could struggle along with this simple task without derisive applause. On the other hand, the fact that only two people came along in the time I was on that hill and offered help (which I, being the strong, independent, can-do kind of stubborn asshole I am, refused) meant that it took me the better part of an hour to find my skis, get them pointed the right direction, and put them back on. By that time, snow had managed to find every possible weakness in my supposedly waterproof anti-snow armor, and my deliberation with simple tasks that I’ve known how to do since I began skiing at seven–tasks that had just been reinforced ad nauseum during my instructor training–made me worried that I’d developed hypothermia. I had just enough sense to realize that I’d at least need to go in for a hot drink after this run and possibly call it for the day, so once I got those skis on, I leaned back, pointed ’em straight downhill, and never looked back.
But oh, those glorious moments going straight downhill. The clear, still-virginal powder stretched before me on an open, gentle slope, and the near-silence of my skis breaking through the top layers of that uninterrupted snow was more heart-wrenching to a skier’s ears than a Vienna Symphony Orchestra rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth.
Even though my teeth were chattering and my knees were about to go on strike from the way I’d had to bend and twist them after my fall, I couldn’t suppress a weary sigh as I leaned my skis against the rack outside the cafeteria. Especially since I had a few fellow powder-seekers gawking at me, their eyes traveling from the snow on my helmet to the ice chunks stuck to my collar to the frost smearing my pants.
“It was deep where I was skiing,” I sneered. They continued to stare as I brushed past them into the cafeteria, knowing that my stash would soon be found, but eager to check the snow report for future opportunities to leave a mark that would not soon be buried.