Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A day on the slopes

In every direction, it's whitish grey and the visibility is limited - clouds plus blowing snow from the wind.  The lift ends above the tree line, so it's all very bare and exposed - there's something almost desolate feeling about it. I'm well bundled up, but I can feel the frigid air on the gap between the top of my goggles and the top of my balaclava, and on the tip of my nose.

A photo posted by Wendy Jacobs (@wendyalisonjacobs) on

I ski over to the top of the run, where the incline starts. It's a steep run, classified as a black.  I'm wearing my low/flat light goggle lenses, but I'll have to really focus on the snow, both to avoid ice patches - there have been a few of them today - and also because the light sometimes makes the surface look like nothing but a fuzzy white expanse, without any ability to see the detail.

I start down, at first at a mellow pace, checking out the snow and the light.  The snow feels good - my skis turn cleanly, and I can see the surface just fine.  So I pick up speed. I feel my heart rate start to increase, the muscles in my legs engage, feel the wind on my face and the rush in my ears.  The run makes a big curve to the left, and right at the curve there's a sharp increase in the pitch.  I take it down at the steepest point, picking up even more speed. I'm going very fast, bringing me right to the knife edge of safety - if I catch an edge or lose control at all, I'm in real danger of being severely injured. So I pick a line and stay on it, keeping my core and my legs rock solid, shutting out everything in my life except what my body is doing at this very instant.

My legs start burning, so I hold the line until the terrain levels off a little bit and I can stop to take a rest near some trees. Feeling the pounding in my heart, I take some deep breaths, giving my muscles a short break.  I look around and marvel at the beauty around me - the grandeur of the mountains, the snow on the trees, the sun that's starting to peek through the clouds.  I stand there and smile as my heart rate starts to go down again.

After a minute or so, I head down again and finish the run.  And I spend the day going up and down and up and down the mountains, trying to cover as many different runs as I can.

It's exhilarating. I love the gorgeous setting and the strenuous physical exercise. I love the speed. I love that I have to be totally engaged and focused, both mentally and physically, in order to avoid killing myself. I love that sometimes it's a little bit scary. I even love the cold - it assaults my senses and makes me feel alive.   The entire experience shuts out every stressor in my life and puts me totally in the moment, which, with my constantly buzzing brain that I can't turn off, is a respite.

At the end of the day, I head back to the front of the resort and make my way down a final run to my car.  Along the way, I see a ski patrol person on a snowboard, pulling a sled behind her containing a guy who apparently injured himself.  She passes me and I'm surprised she's going as fast as she is, because it's a blue run that has some steep sections where it seems like it would be harder to maintain control if you're attached to a big, cumbersome sled behind you.  But hey, what do I know?

All of a sudden she catches an edge and falls, and the sled carrying the injured guy passes her and starts sliding down a steep incline.  She's on her stomach with her arms out in front of her, holding onto the rope attached to the sled, digging the edge of her board into the snow in an effort to slow herself down.  But the sled is too heavy, and it continues to slide down the hill.  Then it hits a bump and the sled tips over, dumping the injured guy onto the ground and grinding the whole spectacle to a stop.  I ski over to her and ask if she needs help or if she wants me to call someone.  She waves me off, clearly annoyed and embarrassed.

I feel like it's all a metaphor for something, though I'm not sure what.

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