Day Ever" Essay Contest, Page 4
More: (1), (2),
(3), (4), (5)
The Best Day I Ever Had
I have yet to have a best day. Sure, I've
had gratifying moments, such as keeping it together on ice on
the way down from the single chair at Mad River Glen, but nothing
that I could really call "best." I'm not embarrassed
by this -- having been on skis just several times, I wouldn't
But I do have a dream of what my best day
would be &SHY; when I'm ready to live up to it.
Two years ago, when I first thought of
taking up skiing, I read about the "Thunderbolt" in
Massachusetts. It fixed itself in my imagination immediately
and it soon became something I just have to do. I like the image
it evokes of a plunging, jostling roller coaster. I like that
it was carved from the New England woods before lifts were invented
&SHY; to ski it is to revive a relic, just as skiing freeheel
brings back a technique and feel that were all but gone.
I imagine skiing it with my son, Henry,
another, but more promising, novice.
We start the trip early, while it's still
dark. A heavy snow fell the day before, and seems to be almost
over as we load the car. I have a thermos with hot, black coffee;
Henry is already sacking out in the back seat.
I'm excited and more than a bit nervous
as we speed north on the nearly empty interstate. We have breakfast
at a diner somewhere along Route 2 in the Berkshires, complete
with yellow Formica and a jukebox in the corner. Finding a diner
is almost a ritual for me. I think most people have some tradition
for road trips &SHY; something they save for just those occasions
&SHY; to help mark the trip as separate from ordinary routine.
It's close to mid-morning by the time we
reach the trailhead at Thiel Farm. The clouds are starting to
clear, and fortunately it's not one of those bitterly cold New
England days. The snow is fresh and, for Massachusetts, deep.
Climbing, I am aware that my 38-year head
start over Henry has some value. Years of cycling have given
me strength, and have taught me to let my legs do what they have
to do while my mind wanders. I see the soft shadows of
the trees and the clinging chickadees. I think of my father,
dead for three years now, who never joined my adventures. Maybe
he would have smiled more if he had joined me.
Henry's shout brings me back. His mind
is not wandering, but is focused clearly on when we'll get to
the top and start sliding. I don't think Henry is burdened by
any anxiety about what lies ahead. I've been struggling with
my fears &SHY; the Thunderbolt is steeper, tighter, and more
complex than anything either of us have skied.
And it does not disappoint. We start cautiously,
not knowing whether we or the trail have the upper hand. We're
still upright and gaining confidence as we negotiate each obstacle
&SHY; --the steeps, the awkward bends, the unexpected ledges
and bumps. Following Henrys lead, I lose my doubts and enjoy
the ride without even thinking about whether I can.
At the trailhead, we feel we've earned
the right to lounge in our personal glory, even though our run
would never earn us any honors for style or speed. We look back
and try to retrace the route of the Thunderbolt. We can't help
but admire this modest summit which lent itself to more than
adventure. I set out for a fun day on the snow, but Henry taught
me another lesson about letting go, about not thinking and instead
trusting. I wish there had been more time for Henry to teach
my dad the same lesson.
THE "BEST" IS YET TO COME
What was the best day of skiing I ever
had? With forty years of experience many come to mind. Fond memories
of deep snow so light that it floats like smoke, of crystal clear
vistas at 13,000 feet when for the first time you can see a mountain
range in the next state, of good friends laughing and grinning,
happy to be sharing that backcountry magic, of waking up in a
primitive hut to see that it has snowed 20 inches over night,
of making fifty perfect turns on a virgin snowfield, of being
stunned at the silence as the helicopter disappears over the
ridgeline all of theses are memories that I cherish, and
I suppose are contenders for the best day I ever had.
Yet, isnt the best day always the
one that's still out there? Isnt that what keeps us coming
back year after year more excited than the last? The promise
that tomorrow always has the potential to bring one of those
quintessential moments when your whole body rejoices in being
alive. For me, the feeling always comes in that instant when
nothing else matters. On the best days everything that is unique
and special is in the here and now: In the way that the snow
billows into your face. In realizing that you are flying over
and through a pristine wilderness. In the deafening silence of
a snow covered forest. In the hot shot of adrenaline you feel
as you clear the lip and realize just how far the drop really
is. In sharing the sensation with out saying a word because you
have been skiing with this guy every year since you were sixteen.
For me, experiencing the best is never
about what was, but rather about what is, or what can be. Dont
get me wrong. I would not trade my favorite memories for anything.
But the best, well the best will always be out there somewhere
waiting to happen. When it comes I know that it will be fleeting
and that it will only serve to make me crave more, to build my
anticipation for the next time. So here is a simple wish - that
you and I will be experiencing our own best day some
time very soon.
It Isn't All About the Powder
My parents finally gave me the ok to drive
up to the local mountain with my brother and no supervision.
The opportunity for independence added to the excitement that
always accompanies the enthusiasm of waking up to ski. My brother,
not being a morning person, had fallen asleep in the passenger
seat, half dressed in his ski hat and pants. I, on the other
hand, had no trouble staying awake. Driving wide eyed, I almost
shook with anticipation as the scenery changed from city to farmers
to mountain town. The road rising to the resort was covered in
a thin layer of snow, with the cloudy sky promising more to well
We arrived at the resort an hour early,
partially because in my excitement I misjudged driving time,
partially because I knew parking would be limited with snow in
the forecast. To pass the first half hour my brother and I
grabbed some hot chocolate and chatted about school and social
happenings. Becoming bored we decided to hike a little and grab
a little extra skiing before the lifts started up. This day was
my fourth telemarking and my first opportunity to climb.
While my brother hiked up in his boots
I shimmied up thinking of future chances to test my skis. We
didn't hike far and the slope was rather tame but it got us warmed
up and rather giddy. While we were climbing the snow
had started to really come down and the lifts had started sending
skiers to the top. We rode the lift to the top, laughing at sticker
on one of the poles just as we had done every day since it was
planted there. Getting off the lift we wiggled the fresh powder
off and headed to the backside of the mountain where the only
high-speed lift was located. The snow was now coming down in
torrents. Apparently the initial adventurers to the backside
we were greeted with first tracks. We chose a cruiser and playfully
intertwined our turns leaving an elegant line of figure eights.
The snow gods gave us their blessing for
the rest of the day. It continued to dump snow, and the snow
seemed to permeate our skin and infuse us with energy. We skied
non-stop, nine to four. Each run we had the opportunity to look
up the hill and admire our turns, and each ride up we talked
of video worthy runs and boasted of who was the better skier.
The whole day passed and we met fewer than twenty other skiers
or boarders. We had the mountain to ourselves to paint with our
skis and ample supply of white snow.
At the end of the day we learned that the
mountain had received so much snow that the plow could not keep
up and people were turned away. As we started home we joked about
the poor saps who missed the greatest day of the season. Within
ten minutes my brother again was asleep, head against the
window and wrapped up in his jacket. The greatest part of the
day was when I looked over and saw the enormous grin on his face.
I knew that he and I would remember this day for the rest of
our lives, and not just for the snow.
My Best Ski Day
The weekend prior I had dragged her into
the backcountry to get some turns with my friends. To make a
long story short, the snow was breakable crust and she executed
two turns in 2,500 feet, the rest were crashes. She didnt
talk to me for days. Both of us learned important lessons that
weekend. Somehow I persuaded her into skiing the following weekend
at the resort, promising her experience to be a better one. Actually
now that I think of it, I coaxed her with some pretty blue bindings.
There is something especially pleasing
about seeing someone, whom you have taught the basics to, whom
you have helped up after many wipeouts, and bought a ton of gear
for, finally get it. Its not only emotionally satisfying
knowing that they wont be struggling as much anymore, but
also a nice validation of all those gear purchases.
My memories of the day include feeling
both fear and overwhelming pride while watching her ski. It is
interesting watching a ski monster emerge in the form of a woman.
Now somewhat overly confident and emulating the styles of those
around her she began to ski very fast and straight down the fall
line. I expressed to her my concern about the speed that she
was carrying down the hill. She ignored me. I tried to encourage
her to make more turns at slower speeds. She ignored me even
more. So I decided to just stay out of her way. She would stop
every now and then to silently say "look at me" and
"whats taking you so long" with a grin spanning
to the edges of her helmet.
While skiing off the tops of spectacular
peaks in perfect conditions are always memorable ones, no single
day has ever been as great for me as the day she had her breakthrough.
My Best Day Ever?
I have no intention to vilify, accuse or
complain - I will merely recount an ironically necessary day;
a day beginning in heaven and ending in the depths of hell. Elation
lasts only so long.balance remains crucial in life, happiness,
marriage, learning and skiing.
Skiing in western Pennsylvania for the
weekend with a group of friends. Snow not so cold; weather not
so cold. Alas, it is Pennsylvania. The Keystone state does not
baffle any extreme skier with wicked steeps, heighty cliffs or
long backcountry approaches. Rather, Pennsylvania boasts modern
snow machine technology, nighttime skiing and comfortable lodges.
Here I am though. No denying that simple fact. Carpe diem? I
am skiing in Pennsylvania. Sure, my mind thrives in the grandeur
of Grindelwald, Switzerland and Utah Powder and Whistler-Blackcombian
backcountry.one can dream. My faithful, or so I thought, Black
Diamond Resolutions slid across Seven Springs' snow, and my legs
pumped to an internal rhythm - that freeheelin' groove - the
groove that can jam to a Victor Wooten bass solo or the hearts'
Lactic acid building and thigh muscles crushing, I whipped across
the slope toward the terrain park. Snowboarders and freeskiing
young 'uns vaporized as I honored the terrain park with freeheelin'
"Who's that? He's cute!" Yeah,
that's right, I am.
"What are those?"
"Why do they bob like that?"
"Why is he cross country skiing downhill?" Ahhh that
"I thought only hippies did that thing?!?"
"Whoa, he's ultra smooth!"
Yeah, that's right, ultra smooth. Heads
and torsos pivoted to watch this endangered specie crank some
sweet turns. Clearing gaps and rocketing through the sky, I approached
the last table. Going through a limited trick arsenal, I chose
an old school Iron Cross. Friends waited on the side, and I saw
bugged out eyes.
BAM-slow motion. Lip of jump approaching,
and I dropped one last turn to control speed. Legs limber, I
exploded off the lip. Right ski crossed over left ski. Left hand
grasped right boot toe. White, straight teeth flashed a winsome
smile for the astounded snow bunnies and jealous guys. Lights
flashed, shutters clicked and I live forever on a negative strip
and in the snow nymphs' nubile minds. Snowy ground flew under
my airborne torpedo body. Skis uncrossed, body poised for impact.
SLAP-I landed. A perfect jump on a brilliant
day. Absolute elation. So far. Two quick turns and I slipped
onto the snowy ground. Weird. I checked my boots - still snug.
Check my bindings - still tightly attached. I stood up and my
ski flopped like a fish. The binding pulled apart from the ski!
My heartskipped a beat, my mouth dried up and my knees wobbled.
I had delaminated my left ski. Crap. This sucks. A lot. Controlling
my locomotion, I slid slowlydown to the lift and then back to
the lodge. Finished. No more freeheelin' for me. It's only early
February too. Sullen and depressed, I resigned myself from a
sublime world of telemark skiing until I could afford a new pair
Black Diamond couldn't help. My local ski
shop couldn't hook me up with a demo pair. Now I am a poor college
student (Go UVM!!!) waiting to use an old pair of K2s. Oh how
I wish I could replace those beautiful tele skis.Oh how I cry,
oh how my tears welcome sleep every night and saturate my pillow,
oh how the Vermont slopes appear in my dreams, beckoning, "Ben,
come ski on us. We want to see your freeheelin' talent and dance
to your intoxicating rhythms. We want to know you! We want to
be your friend! When you're famous, we want you to thank us!
We love you! We love you! You complete us!"
Now I wait. Waiting for my guardian angel
to float into my life with a worthy replacement. I left my heart
and my favorite skis on the tabletop at Seven Springs.
Boom-an epiphany. Tele skiing disappeared.
The wailing, broken ski stands upright and stares into
my puffy, tearing eyes. Setting loose the child inside, I throw
a temper tantrum. No longer am I free. No longer am I sane. No
longer am I enjoying life. Gone. Fine. Terminus. Gone. And I
wait.longing for the elated and
euphoric feeling to reappear and love me again. I am no longer
saddened though. Understanding replaced the depression; an understanding
that arrives only when something disappears. My skis live in
a better place: a place of love, camaraderie, support and year-round
snow. I am happy for them, and I am happy for me. Today I stand
on my widow's tower searching the horizon and whispering into
the wind. It was a glorious day that I lost my heart and my favorite
skis on the tabletop at Seven Springs.
Boys in the Woods
Behind the frost-feathered windows of the
cabin in the Chic-Choc Mountains of Northern Québec, we
collect our packs and fill them with climbing skins, goggles,
spare mittens, map, compass, extra sweater, water, and snacks.
Between our individual backpacks, we distribute group gear: thermos
of cocoa, bivouac sack, sleeping pad, spare binding parts, first
aid kit, and avalanche shovels. We carry this equipment, and
the knowledge to use it, in case one of us breaks a leg or suffers
some other injury. After the fevered rush of packing, we buckle
into boots and zip into outerwear. I make a final dash for the
outhouse, unzipping my bibs as I stumble in half-open boots,
to rid myself of the effects of the demonic coffee we drank too
much of, again. From my seat, I hear the hut door open, and Mike
yells at me to hurry up.
Reconvening inside the hut, we do a final
sweep of the room, scouting for any leftover necessities, reviewing
our mental checklists. Marcus asks if Ive remembered the
goatherd outfit. Steven says hes got the inflatable doll.
Mike says Baaaaa, exactly like a lamb. Chris turns
purple laughing, and we all watch to see if anything interesting
will spurt out of his nose. In this group, the barometer of a
tremendous joke is Chris losing control of his breathing and
whatever valve it is that separates nose from throat. This time
he recovers. The hut finally appears livable: nylon, Gore-tex
and polypropylene now clothe us, instead of hanging like flypapers
from the clotheslines. Last night we could not walk between bunks
without bobbing and weaving to avoid the suspended wet garments
and gear. There is nothing worse than walking into a climbing
skin on your way out to pee, and having the sticky side cling
to your beard. Now Nordic day visitors, the most frequent users
of this hut, can stop in and warm themselves inside after a long
ski without ammonia-smelling long underwear dangling in their
We sneak quickly out the hut door, looking
back to see if the cornice overhanging the roof will finally
yield to gravity and slam to the deck. It refuses, again, leaving
the threat intact. Fresh snow drifts into yesterdays tracks.
Every day on this ten-day trip, we have played in new fallen
snow. Steven hops up and down and flashes us his goofy, bearded
grin. Big, clear eyes grow abnormally broad behind thick, round
eyeglass lenses as his smile fills his face. Marcus straps his
snowboard onto his pack and his snowshoes onto his feet. Chris
gently retrieves his skis from the doorway and attaches his climbing
skins to their bases. Mike and I put our skins on inside, hoping
the warmth of the cabin would help the adhesion of the glue that
binds them to the ski. We bend over, latch the bindings to our
boots, stand up, and push hard with our poles to gain a little
speed down the tiny hill the hut sits upon, hoping to show off
with a quick hop turn or two. We glide, slowly, straight down
the ten feet to the flat. The others laugh at our feeble effort.
Stevie yells, Nice freakin elevens, Sven! We
all respond to the name Sven. It is one of our terms of endearment.
At the bottom of the hill, we queue up and plod away.
As the sun brightens the morning, we ski
past the woodshed and across the narrow bridge, keeping the lake
on our left. We slip along the side hill, gradually climbing
toward an unfamiliar destination. We seek new terrain, aiming
to find a safe slope that will not keep us terrified of avalanches.
The Nordic folks we shared the last hut with had told us, Il
ny a pas de backcountry là près du Lac aux
AméricainsTheres no backcountry skiing at
the hut youre headed to. We hope to prove them wrong.
In the predawn darkness of the hut, over
buttery fried bagels, rib-sticking oatmeal and explosive coffee,
the five of us pored over the map and agreed upon the cirque
to our east us as a plausible goal. In hopes of remembering all
of the important factors of avalanche danger, we touched on slope
angle, wind direction, snowfall rate, and the bowls orientation.
Not one of us, however, presented a wholly concise analysis.
Rather, together we cobbled enough of a sketch to consider ourselves
justified in attempting the run. None of us carries or knows
how to use avalanche beacons, so we measure our risks with that
limitation in mind.
After a couple of hours spent sensing our
way to the agreed upon bowl, we stop for water and snacks. Huddled
into a protective grove of Christmas-scented spruce tree, we
pull our hoods up over our heads to save some heat, and dig out
the map. Between handfuls of peanuts and chocolate, we guess
our location. Mike argues that the map suggests the best skiing
will be on the closer shoulder of the bowl, and belches to emphasize
his point. Dude, nice one! says Marcus. Yeah,
except for the smell, comments Steven. Weve been
in the woods too long to attempt to uphold any social norms.
Back on task, Chris says the terrain looks more amenable on the
far side of the cirque. We shoot for the middle. Skirting along
a streams bank, we search for a crossing point. We find
it in the form of a fallen birch. Delicately balancing our skis
along the trunk, we scurry over, using the branches for support.
On the other side, we have another meeting, again about which
is the best route. Steven strikes out uphill, the other guys
straight ahead, and I in between. Next to a spruce tree, a well
of snow gives way underneath me. My front ski tip points skyward
and my rear ski points straight down. Stuck with neither ski
below me, I wallow, sweating, and sink deeper. The guys laugh
at me, just like they did five years ago on Mount Katahdin. Then,
on my first backcountry trip, I thought I was in perfect telemark
form, cruising on bended knee toward a snowmobile bridge, skidding
across the snowmobile-wide stripe of snow in the middle of the
bridge, onto the wood on the side of the bridge, off the wood,
into the air, and down into the deep powder in the creek. I think
a chunk of Power Bar came out of Chris nose. After they
regained their composure, they belatedly asked if I was okay.
This time, I wallow silently and sweat more, as they bend double
in a cacophony of hoots and hollers. The snow is too deep to
take off a skiwe sink to our waists without them. Eventually
I manage to disentangle myself from the lower limbs of the tree
and regain my balance atop the snow. We change tactics and form
a single line until we reach the base of the cirque. Mike, Marcus
and Steven take the center route, climbing the terrain we will
descend. Chris and I work our way up the left shoulder, opting
to leave the trail down untouched.
We rest at a ledge where we stash our food
and drinks. Without wasting time, Mike hikes a few feet above
us, pulls his goggles over his eyes, slips his gloves into the
wrist loops of his poles, and pushes off. He bounces from turn
to turn, rising and sinking as a rabbit hopping through the powder
back to its den. He shouts with delight as he disappears below
the ledge. Firm and stable, with nearly zero threat of avalanches,
the snow has consolidated into a consistent base with pockets
of fresh snow lying about as pleasant surprises. We push ourselves
to reap as many graceful turns as this bowl can offer, seeking
an elusive and effortless up-and-down synchronicity of movement
and landscape. I lose track of time, and in the jitters of plummeting
blood sugar, I stop alone for a snack while the guys take another
run. Impelled by such benign snow conditions, I choke down my
food and push off. With each run, I catch up a little more, until
I am back in step with them on the uphill track. We spend the
rest of the day skiing laps up and down this beautiful bowl.
From the ledge, we watch each other traverse along the ridge
to the opposite wall and descend as a speeding speck among the
little firs to the base of the uphill track.
From the height of our ledge, we look north
above the foothills and see flatness at four thousand feet. The
Chic-Choc Mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula of Québec
rise from sea level in the Saint Lawrence River and the Atlantic
Ocean to a height of four thousand feet where, with unexpected
abruptness, they level off. Along their tops lies sub arctic
tundra, the only environment wherein white-tailed deer and caribou
coexist. We ski up over the rim to investigate, and indeed, it
is flat and barren. Frozen crust balls litter the surface. No
snow stays up thereit blows away, down over the lip. No
caribou in sight; no deer either, and none of the rare species
of goatibou we dreamed up while drinking light beer
and watching men in snowmobile suits dance without moving their
arms to bad cover songs at Keddys bar in Presque Isle,
where we crashed on a friends floor for the night during
the long drive to the Chic-Chocs. That night we were shocked
when the topic of many of our bad jokes appeared on Saturday
Night Live in the form of David Spade as Goat Boy.
Dissatisfied with the absence of local or imaginary fauna, we
slip back to our basin. As the day winds down and the lowering
temperature begins to refreeze the sun-drenched bowl, we collect
our gear and leave our ledge behind. One last run from the center
of the ridge, punctuated by the sounds of five bleating goat
boys, leads us into the wooded creek drainage.
As dusk approaches, Marcus, Mike and I
trade leads sliding down the snow-filled creek bed. We each race
to be the first through the deep, light and fresh snow. At one
slot, I charge ahead and thread the needle between two spruces
at the top of a partially concealed drop. Mike and Marcus stop
above the drop and peer past the tree branches at the bottoms
of my skis, poles, and backpack. My body lays buried, ten feet
past the slot and five feet below, where I pitched forward into
the powder. Again, they laugh and refuse to assist. I struggle
to my feet, giggling and wiping the snow from inside my goggles
and nostrils. Chris and Steven catch up, offering big belly laughs
that echo through the hills, and together we push on.
We continue down the basin, lured deeper
and lower by beautiful snow, until with reluctance we decide
to break out onto the side hill. In the darkness of the woods,
we need our headlamps to navigate. I begin to chill, as the powder
that accumulated and melted in my bibs and jacket throughout
the day starts to exact its toll. My partners, content to snoop
along, follow some kind of instinctual sense of the direction
home. I keep pace behind them, wondering if we are getting lost,
for we have not run across our morning tracks. At the back of
the line, I stop and tell Chris, Im getting cold.
I used my extra fleece in the bowl to warm up after wiping out
before lunch, and it is soaked now, too. As the other three
guys continue without knowing we stopped, Chris offers me his
dry hat, and as we start moving again, he tells me a story about
hiking with his father when he was a teenager. The story distracts
me, and takes time, and before it concludes, we catch up with
Mike, Marcus and Steven. They stand in a small flat clearing,
on the bridge near our hut, singing a made-up Irish pub song.
Great clouds of steam, illuminated by our headlamp beams, rise
from their shouted exhalations in the freezing air. They sing
upward, to the mountains around us, to the stars in the sky,
and I no longer feel cold.
My Best Day Ever
Bottomless pow, first tracks, blue bird
day, these are all terms that most would use to describe their
"best day" on the mountain. For me, none of these terms
come to mind when I think back to mine. In fact, the elements
of my best day have zero resemblance to those descriptions.
Said day began the night before. I was
so anxious to get to the mountain; I remember staring at my shiny
new Elan RCs that leaned against my bed room wall. I knew every
inch of those bad boys; after all I had been admiring the pair
since August when my parents bought them for me. To think that
fluorescent colors would ever go out of style! It goes without
saying that I hardly slept a wink that evening. It was like the
night before Christmas.
Morning eventually came and My brother,
Tony, and I arrived at the hill before the resort had opened.
I would hardly call Powder Ridge, in Connecticut, a mountain.
Nonetheless, it was our local ski area and sufficient for the
task at hand. In my eyes, though, the hill seemed monstrous,
intimidating. I was nine years old then. That trip was going
to be my first experience skiing.
By the time we fought our way into our
boots the resort thermometer had risen to a balmy 15 degrees
Fahrenheit. The snow was more like ice with a fine dust billowing
up in the cross-winds that scoured its white surface. These conditions
were far from "epic." Tony, who had been skiing for
a couple years, was more acclimated to the cold. I, on the other
hand, was freezing. The conditions combined with the clunkiness
of my ski boots made me nervous of the endeavor.
Around 8:30ish the lifts opened. We trudged
our way up to the line where my brother helped me into my bindings.
He had done this countless times in our bedroom in the days preceding
the event. On the snow it felt twice as awkward to have the planks
locked to my feet. At my brother's order, I clumsily skated my
way into line. Its amazing how slippery new skis can be, especially
if you have never been on a pair before.
Loading onto the chairlift was the easy
part. Although not very graceful, I passed that test just fine.
The dismount, however, was another story. As the double-chair
squeaked its way up the side of the slope, I could see the off-loading
area approach. Intimidating visions of the possible scenarios
that could prevail upon off-loading ricochet through my mind.
I tried to shake the images from my head as Tony reviewed the
procedures for getting off of the chair. I knew, regardless of
his advice, I was most likely to bite it upon exit. It turned
out to be the one thing I was right about. Out of control I sped
down the snow ramp and parked my body in the snow atop the bunny
slope. My face burned with embarrassment. The numerous others
who followed a similar off-loading technique reassured me that
I was not alone. Tony was unfazed by the Keystone Cop act. It
was obvious that this was just another rite of passage into the
glamorous world of skiing.
Now that the chairlift fiasco was behind
me I was ready to learn to ski. My body had finally warmed. The
adrenaline had worked its way through my blood leaving a slight
coating of sweat on the inside of my parka. I hopped up and down
on my skis, eager to get going. "Bring it on," I commented
to my brother, who stood there silent waiting for me to stop
acting like a jackass.
"Are you ready to learn how to ski?"
He asked once I had calmed down a bit.
"Absolutely!" I replied. My knees were shaking from
all of the pent-up anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear.
"Absolutely!" I repeated.
"Okay then." He said and put
his hand on my back. With a quick push, my body propelled forward.
I stood up straight with a slight backward lean; a natural reaction
that I hoped would slow me down. It didn't. My body flailed and
my skis wavered until I finally managed to wipe out. My butt
took the impact of the fall as I bounced and finally stopped,
my side rested in the small mound of packed powder I had displaced.
I rolled over into a sitting position to gain my bearings. As
I sat up, snow dust on my face, parka, and pants, my brother
skied down after me. I could see his smile peering out from beneath
the collar of his jacket.
"Why did you do that?!" I yelled
at him, holding my tears in check.
"Did you learn how to stop?" He asked, trying not to
"What the heck!" I started to lose the battle against
"Did you learn how to stop?!" He asked again, only
this time there was no hint of laughter behind his query.
"Well....yeah, I guess." I muttered under my breath.
I was looking at the snow on my pants, hiding the one tear that
had managed to escape from my eye.
"Good!" He said. "Now I
will teach you how to ski!"
With that, he bent down and helped me back to my feet, wiped
the snow from my outerwear and patted me on the back, this time
without the force to propel me forward.
Tony kept his word. For the rest of the
day, he took his time teaching me to ski. He showed me how to
snowplow and eventually I figured out how to hockey stop. Somewhere,
as the day progressed, my snowplowing transitioned into something
that resembled parallel turns. As my odd 'S' shaped etchings
scarred the corduroy of the bunny slope, I could hear my brother
cheering me on. And at the end of each run, he would greet me
at the lift line to congratulate me on the things I had done
right and offer advice on how to improve the things I had done
wrong. His instruction was only outmatched by his patience. That
is what impressed me the most. The whole day he spent by my side
encouraging me. It made my experience that much more fun. He
was even able to turn my falls into laughter.
Before we knew it 4:00 arrived. My father
sat in his car patiently waiting for us to dismantle our equipment
and board the vehicle. Sitting in the back seat my body was tired,
bruised and sore, but my emotions were electric and my appetite
for adventure satisfied. To think, I could only get better! I
Here I am, nineteen years later with countless
powder days, first tracks and bluebird days under my belt and
no doubt countless more to look forward to. I have changed from
alpine to alpine touring to telemark skiing. Regardless of all
of those days spent on the mountain or all of those changes made,
the memory of my best day of skiing draws me back to that day
on a hill in Connecticut. Despite being banged up and beat, I
was smiling. After all, I was learning to turn with my bro. It's
not every day that you take the initiative to try something and
have it result in a multitude of things to look forward to. For
me, that was my best day of skiing.
"My Best Day Ever"
Y'know how sometimes you can look back
at a point in the past and see a time when it all clicked? When
you really got the hang of the clutch on your Dad's car, or first
body-surfed a wave, or when you inhaled after your first eskimo
roll. Well, this is the story of when I finally got the telemark
An early morning drive from Lincoln, Mass.
up to Lincoln, New Hampshire, then west on 118; "he said
the parking is just past the height-of-land. Shit, it's already
9:20." My lovely telebabe, C., and I were late to meet Dave
and his two buddies for a day trip up and down Mt. Moosilauke.
We found the little turn-out and pulled in behind Dave's Corolla,
the one with the "If you don't like logging, try using plastic
toilet paper" bumper sticker. We apologized for being late
and set right to getting our acts together. John and Scott said
hi, but seemed a little anxious to get going, and eventually
did head up the trail. As I put a shell into my MountainSmith
butt pack, I glanced up to see them shuffle off, each with a
full 2-day pack. We finally got skins on and skis on and headed
off after them.
C and I had been tele skiing for about
2 years. C got to her level of comfort pretty quickly and is
intent to ease on down an intermediate trail, and take on steep
and bumpy stuff here and there. I had taken a few clinics, got
the basics, then set out to learn on my own by watching others,
asking questions in the lift lines, then pointing 'em downhill
and seeing how many turns I could string together before the
fall. I found TelemarkTips.com, watched video, adjusted my stance,
etc., etc., and had made some progress; but I was still working
on balance, weighting, and getting rid of the step turn to make
quick foot changes and tight turns.
This was our first 'back-country' trip.
We were excited to see how our lift-served skills would translate,
but a little nervous that we were out of our league with Dave,
John and Scott. Their big packs only made me feel like more of
a novice winter outdoorsman, heading up a New England mountain
without much in the way of emergency supplies. I'd taken all
the AMC safety courses and wilderness first responder, so I know
that a team should have a sleeping bag, ground pad, stove, etc.,
etc. But I definitely get complacent when heading out on a minor
New Hampshire peak on a beautiful blue sky day.
So we skinned on. We caught up with John
and Scott, started up an easy conversation, and found them not
hurried or impatient at all. We spoke about work and other skiing
adventures for a bit, and then fell quiet as the trail steepened,
and we eased into the rhythm of huffing breaths, shuffling legs,
and squeaking bindings. I was happy to be back in the spruce-fir
forest, missed since I'd moved to the oak-pine woods of eastern
Mass. Two ravens croaking in the distance and a small flock of
boreal chickadees made the scene complete.
I pushed on up the trail, shedding layers,
and falling behind the boys. I was feeling bad enough about being
late, then packing a little light, and now being the slow, newbie
skinner. Finally we caught the three of them at an overlook;
they had pulled off their packs and John was rooting around in
his - for a shovel, a clinometer, a screwdriver? No, he shouts,
"Who's thirsty" and pulls out a six-pack of Bud Light!
Scott says, "No way man, I'm not lightening your load,"
and pulls a six out of his pack. No hardcore safety gear in their
packs at all, just a 12-pack of suds, each. I gratefully accept
and think, damn, I like skiing with these guys!
Refreshed, we pushed on up through the
thinning balsam firs, through the krummholz and up to the wide
open summit. There we sat in the glorious sun, stripped off the
skins, and between sips from another beer or two, loosened the
legs on the low-angle upper slopes. I was finding it difficult
to get all my weighting right in this untracked snow, but I got
a few good turns in. With lunch eaten, and empties packed away,
we set off across the ridge to the top of Carriage Road Trail.
The ridge starts out open and slightly
rolling, narrows into a slightly pitched trail between stunted
vegetation, then tilts down into a tight stand of firs, the several
feet of snow putting the skiers eyes squarely in the overhanging
branches - whack whack. The 5-foot wide trail doesn't allow for
any turning at this point, so I decided the only way to ski was
to point down the trail and step lively. Now, as I mentioned
above, my m.o. for learning to tele was to ski hard until I fell
(4, 5 turns?) then get up and try again. Well, here I was, expecting
to augur into a tree or snow bank, but every time a tree got
in my way, my legs popped, my feet switched, and my tips steered
clear of danger. A few of the others came semi-snowplowing in
behind me and said, "I can't believe you just bombed down
that trail, it's like three feet wide..." I was pretty surprised
myself, but I felt good.
The next section of trail opens up a bit,
15 - 20 feet wide. I was anxious to maintain the vibe, so I turned
downhill again and - bam, bam, bam - started throwing turns!
There was a tree branch - hop-switch-turn - a rock - hop-switch-turn
- an ice patch - hop-switch-turn. I made a series of tight, consistent,
controlled turns, and I was ecstatic. My tips were going exactly
where I wanted them to go, I was committing to turns early, I
was looking two, three turns ahead, I was seeing the contours
of this narrow path and focusing on the line, not on the obstacles;
the neurons in my brain were firing, and my legs were following!
I was getting it! I was getting the pop from one turn to the
next, the lightness. I was getting the rhythm. And it was sublime.
The rest of the trail is lower angle, and
my groove continued all the way down; but that top section changed
me. Call it what you will - seeing the light, finding the zone,
experiencing flow, non-self - whatever it was, I was changed
from one who wants to tele to one who teles.
We had another beer at the bottom, and
it was good. It was my best day.
Truly a Mystical Experience
Man, what a day! It was Tuesday evening,
and I had just finished one of the most amazing ski days of my
life. And it wasnt about to stop there. I was a college
student in Boston at the time, and had just flown out to Denver
with my roommate that Sunday for spring break. I had gotten myself
pretty psyched up on the flight with some weather reports proclaiming
exactly what my ears were dying hear. Snow was on the way for
Dillon, CO. Little did I know exactly what snow could mean.
Snow was not new to me. I grew up on the
east coast and have been skiing since I was in first grade. I
unleashed the heel 4 years ago, with the bastard child, the teleboard,
and the grandfather of them all, teleskiing, and of course never
went back. But I digress.
Monday night we had slept in the car in
the parking lot of A-basin, awoken to 18 inches of fresh and
a continuing blizzard, and skied the whole day until close. And
it was still snowing. We made the mistake of heading down into
town from the mountain base that night, the road back up closed,
so we couldnt get back to sleep under the lift. But we
were only 15 minutes from the parking lot so we thought we would
be set. We woke up to more than a few inches of snow on the car,
and continual dumpage, and busted it up towards A-Basin. Doest
mine eyes deceive me? Is that a huge traffic jam trying to get
up the road? Not a traffic jam, Loveland Pass was closed. We
waited in line with a hundred or so other diehards for 4 hours
until they could clear the road up to A-Basin. Most people gave
up and pulled off at Keystone. But finally at 10:30, they had
the road cleared and we headed up.
Why would we wait for 4 hours you ask?
Wouldnt Keystone have also had freshies? Oh, Ill
tell you why. Fifty-Four inches of snow in the last 36 hours
is why. None of the resorts in the area even had half that.
Finally we got there. The Palli
was the only lift open, the double chair gateway to double diamond
heaven. My roommate didnt ski the doubles so it was gona
be just me today. Straight out of the car I sprinted for the
lift, my heart was pounding, my whole body shaking. The lift
was turning, there was already a line, and it looked like a few
lucky ones were already sweetly gliding their way down. It was
the longest lift ride of my life. I could hear the glee filled
shrieks and shouts, every now and then I would see someone cross
under the lift, their upper torso bobbing up and down, in and
out of the snow. Going down for a turn they would almost completely
disappear under the snow. I saw a guy with a snorkel. I was dying,
I couldnt wait. I wanted to jump off the lift. Then, finally,
I was at the top. Huge fields of untouched snow lay before me.
I dropped in off a small cornice, and my life was forever changed.
They say that once you pass 20 inches it
becomes bottomless powder and it doesnt matter anymore
how deep it is. They are wrong. Nothing can describe the feeling
of making a turn in snow so deep you submerge your self completely.
You are no longer gliding over the snow. You are gliding in the
snow, with the snow, experiencing the snow. Through that experience
you come to find a perfect rhythm with this world that we live
in, and so often fail to experience fully. Pure, untouched, effortless,
and beautiful. Some say the world ceases to exist, but in actuality,
you enter into a harmonious existence with the world so that
you can no longer distinguish a difference between you and it.
You enter into song and dance with time, and it holds you there
enraptured seemingly forever. I skied 5 runs that morning. Every
moment of every turn of each run lasted an eternity. I skied
open bowls, I skied steeps, I skied trees, I skied off ledges,
I skied everything my skis could find in those 5 runs. The best
5 runs of my life.
Such skiing is truly a mystical experience.
The snow is everywhere; muffling and muting sound, sight, and
touch. But at the same time intensifying your experience of them.
Its like looking at the world through an intense microscope.
You cant see, hear, or feel much at any given time. But
what you do see, you really see. What you do hear, you really
hear. What you do feel, you really feel. And youre in constant
motion, always gliding on to something new. You experience the
entire mountain, not only through your senses, but necessarily
also through time. Unable to see it all at once, you are forced
to experience it slowly, and fully. And as the turns link to
runs, you find you are really and truly experiencing the whole
of the mountain.
After the fifth run the main lift opened
up and I went to ski with my roommate. It didnt even bother
me that I had to leave the best skiing on the mountain. I had
been in perfect melodic rhythm with the snow, the mountain, and
even time itself. I had given the mountain the best I had to
offer. And likewise, the mountain had given me the very best
it had to offer, something far beyond any of my craziest dreams.
I couldnt stop smiling for a week.
MY BEST DAY
God promised no more huge floods but he
never said anything about snowstorms. My most memorable ski day
ever was at Mission Ridge ski area in central Washington. The
day before was great, the day after it was great, but the day
in the middle was only my single most memorable, wonderful, fantastic,
TelemarkTips cover photo-type ski day in my life (by far). Keep
on reading and youll hear all about it the snow, the skiing,
the fun and everything.
First I will tell you about the snow since
that is one basic part of a good ski day. The snow was so smooth,
consistent and powdery that you felt like you were flying thru
something so unimaginable that I dont have a word for it.
The snow was so dry that if you were to put it on the palm of
a sweaty hand it would take at least 25 seconds to melt.
Oh yes, the skiing. The best part about
a ski day is the skiing. The best run of the day was an unmarked
run called Castle Glades. You get there by riding up chair 4
traverse to the run called Castle. Take the second trail to the
left, up around Castle Rock and then down the 45-degree glades.
We only learned about this run because a tele patroller told
us about it after seeing me on tele skis. Ill probably
get in big trouble for telling people about it here.
There were lots of other great runs: bowls,
glades, chutes, and bumps. During the morning, the snow was falling
so fast that you couldnt see your own tracks the next time
down. We kept looking for something steeper and we'd just come
up laughing if we fell.
You get a good view from the Mission Ridge
ski area almost every day, but after the sun came out I had the
single most beautiful view of my life. Im only 11 years
old, but the view was still special. If you looked up at the
ridge from the midway lodge you saw the very snowy ridge with
the huge Microwave Bowl to the left and on the right the awesome,
cliffy Bomber Bowl. Looking back east you saw the Columbia River
dividing Wenatchee and east Wenatchee with rows and rows of orchards
behind the cities. Heres a picture of me in the white
room coming around Castle Rock with the Columbia River
in the distance.
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