New territory, new land, new trail with boundaries only set in my mind. Possibilities endless. Life is like skiing.Learning to ski again is proving to be more of a challenge and more painful than I could of imagined. However, sometimes with great PAIN comes great REWARD.
Last time I went skiing I was a junior in High School and had no formal lessens. While visiting some family in Idaho, someone shouted out “Hey lets go skiing today” and off we went. It took us two hours to drive to Silver Mountain in Kellogg. Stepping out of the car and into that winter wonderland I felt pretty confident. I had just lettered in soccer, was on a touring softball team, I could roller skate and skateboard- this skiing stuff looked easy. Equipped with my big 80’s sweater, a cotton polo shirt underneath, jeans with cotton thermals underneath, rental gear and nothing even resembling Gortex, I thought I was ready! The “adults” went on to the advanced slopes and left my brother and I to fend for ourselves on the bunny slopes. We were continually taunted by little ski brats as they zipped by us. One confronted my brother on his awkward looking technique, not realizing that those were the first two hours of his life on skis. “Well my parents aren’t rich corporate bastards like yours, who can afford to take me skiing every year since I was two you little prick! Now f**k off!” …man I love my brother!
By the end of the day we looked like we had been tortured by the Russian mafia- wet, cold and bloody! “Did you kids have fun?” Somehow through the frost bite, fiery darts shot out our eyes at our parents: “We thought you loved us! Now we’re not so sure.”
Fast Forward to 2010.
Moving to a new place located so close to Mt Baker, I had to learn- properly this time- how to ski! While getting ready, I discovered there are five different types of snow conditions for skiing and snowboarding:
Power is freshly fallen, untouched, soft snow. It is the perfect surface for controlling your speed, holding your edge and for landing in because it’s so soft.
Crud is the next phase of powder. As more and more skiers ride through the powder the snow piles up and becomes tracked out, creating uneven surfaces and slippery patches.
Crust is formed when the sun’s rays and the wind melt the top layer of power then the cold air makes it freeze into a harder icy surface. If the crust is soft you will punch through it making for a bumpy ride.
Slush happens when the air temperature becomes warmer than the freezing point.
Ice is the exact opposite of powder it’s hard & slippery. Its snow that has been melted and frozen again for a number of times creating a solid surface of icy compact snow.
Friends also offered up some advice:
“Don’t wear a scarf, it will pick up snow and be annoying all day. Plus its dangerous you could get it caught on something and hang yourself”
“Don’t wear a backpack, a kid was wearing a back pack while on the ski lift, got it caught on the chair, couldn’t get off- was hanging like forty feet off the ground. He had to cut the strap to escape!”
“You’ll also need a helmet.”
“Why? I’m not snowboarding.”
“It’s not so much what you could hit; it’s more what will hit you.”
I joked it sounded like I need to carry a switch blade more than ski poles. When did it get so dangerous?
Finally my ski day arrived- a week before Christmas no less. Just that morning 12 inches a fresh snow had fallen; an early Christmas present! The day was full of enchantment and wonder. The instructors are so kind and helpful at Baker, and this time instead of taunting a close friend offered much needed encouragement. Thanks to a water proof/wind proof/falling down proof outfit this experience was much better than my first. Pain equaled great reward.
During lunchtime while watching the advanced skiers and snowboarders playing in the powder, I knew that could be me one day. Right now I live on chair 2 and the bunny slopes. Could I ever be good enough to go on a double diamond? I’ll do my finest. With the right equipment and attitude many things are possible. One day I’ll be out there shredding powder like the rest!