You never second guess yourself for the early wakeup. Not at that moment when you’re one of the first riders up the lift making good on the mountains promise of a 9am open. By mid-morning, several successful runs have failed to quell the cycle of anticipation as you once again slide into position and plop down in another chair ready to dart you to the top.
This triple chair’s ride offers the intrigue of a father and son joining you for the ride. Perhaps conversation will emerge as we sit trapped in this moment of time together. A quick “how’s it going?” reveals the bloodline to be less than conversational. No matter – I think about the two ladies I rode up with last time – a teacher, Robyn, from Wisconsin, and her friend, Kelly, or Kylie, something like that. I shared with Robyn how my mother taught high school from more than three decades – there’s something about the lift that makes people prone to open up. Soon we were laughing and the conversation branches out to include the weather, occupation and our core philosophies.
Regardless of where the father and son fall on the chattiness spectrum we still share the moment’s scenery as the wind begins to pry at our outerwear. From our vantage point, you can see how the runs have been carved out of the mountain, swaths of clearings among the trees look like veins carrying little human platelets throughout the whole system.
From the chair we watch as everyone goes down the mountain, our bird’s eye view granting us front row seats to the grace (or calamity) below. Each lift typically serves terrain with different difficulty levels so depending on which lift you’re going up, you’ll see different skills levels tackling the terrain. The is the expert life and skiers outnumber snowboarders two-to-one on the runs below on account of the moguls and steep verticals.
As our chair undulates up the mountain like a bobber floating on top of a pond, the sun shines through the pine trees like a strobe light. You crack a wry smile observing the beads strewn about one of the trees, the result of a coordinated and repetitive effort to share the spirit of festivity and fun with all who pass. The ungroomed areas below beckon you from the chair, “ride me! ride me!” they scream as their untouched surface of fresh powder twinkles in your eyes.
As you reach the top of a mountain, the wind whistles in your ear announcing your imminent arrival. You gaze at the approaching hut where the lift attendant huddles in warmth. A clock in the window indicates you’ve been at it for hours, yet the exhilaration of being at the top again demands being unphased by the passage of time. You quickly stand up from the chair and slide down to position at the top of the run.
It’s the best feeling in the world. Sliding off the lift after minutes of waiting eagerly in anticipation. Strapping in your back foot as your adrenaline rushes makes the biting cold totally imperceptible. Standing, peering out from the top of the mountain at the blank white canvas that lays before your feet. Gravity! Your often forgot ally whose steady force propels both the novice and experienced down the mountain at different speeds.
You skip to your favorite track as your being your descent. The snow begins to crunch as you pick up speed and begin chart your course ahead. Immediately, you’re freed by the feeling of total mobility – darting left and right – and your complete being feels present in the moment. Everywhere you look, a feeling of total control arises, knowing you tackles the trees, bumps and terrains that lay before you.
Perfection in every turn! The snow obediently sings its song – The Carve – and each precise curve is accompanied by the sweet sound of edge slicing the snow. You let out a big breath – sometimes you’re having so much fun you forget to breathe. The mountain is now an obstacle course riddled with slow movers who disappear from your perception with a whoosh as you careen past them.
As you push more onto your edge, you gain speed. You’re at your edge, knees beginning to buckle ever so slightly as you approach 25 mph. The hours spent making as many descents as possible create an immense muscle fatigue that burns your thighs. Yet as you near the bottom at top speed that tiredness immediately surrenders to the sheer excitement of pushing to you limit.
Panting, you reach the bottom bringing awareness to the level of exertion you just demanded of your body. Incredible heat bubbles inside your jacket seeming to melt winter and the cold that surrounds you. The line is long but that’s fine, a little rest is great as you unzip your jacket to cool down; an action that garners a few surprised looks. The beats are still banging in your ears and only one thought now prevails, “How quickly can I get back to the top?”
It’s a great life. Cars whose AWD make the mountain ascents possible save for the small amount of drag created by the ski rack and the boards it secures. Baileys and hot chocolate greet you at every respite, whether at the lodge or nestled next to warm fire at the end of the day. Gloves and boots adorn the baseboard where the fire and heat ducts dry the tools of your trade for the next day on the mountain.
There’s the locals, most of which recognize each other and many of which ride together and party together. There are the out-of-staters, joyed to see the snow, regardless of the conditions. People from foreign lands dodge in and out of the town, here to marvel at nature’s grandeur and the quaintness of each little ski town. No matter where you are, the big city or the small ski town, peaks dot the mountain range that beautifies your landscape.
Your heart’s in the mountains, stuck mesmerized by the force of creation that drove such mass so high into the sky and then decorated it with ancient conifers. The snow-capped peaks ever reminding you that your passion awaits – another ascent up the mountain…