The season is here. Stop worrying and find the perfection in front of you.
I met a lone skier in a backcountry shelter once years ago. We talked for a while, discussing the lines we planned to ski and the condition of the snow. Then we exchanged the stickers we had coincidentally both made and both stuck on the shelter wall.
Mine said, “Shred White & Blue,” expressing what I thought—and still think of—as a patriotic solidarity untethered by politics and built on a love of our country, boardsports, fresh waves and pure snow.
His said, “Ski Here Now.”
It’s much more Zen, the way it expresses the endless possibility of making the turn right in front of you. Wherever and at whatever moment you are at in the world.
The more I think about it, the more it reminds me of what happens in winter. Once the cold comes, your mind starts to wander in the reverie of skinning, the metronome of ascending steps up the long flanks of repeating white peaks, with only your heartbeat and the wind in your ears.
And how on the way down the turns blend into each other, snaking down the slope. The days become almost inseparable, with only the memory of the faces of the friends you were skiing with that day to set them apart.
Worry Can Hibernate
My friend Peter Donahue teaches skiing at Taos Ski Valley every winter. I ran into him this past April in Big Sky, Montana, after not seeing him in person for a couple of years.
We had both traveled north to catch some spring turns with colleagues and friends. Neither one of us wanted the season to end (we did not know at the time that last season would extend well into June).
Peter, who can paint a clear picture in very few words, was matter-of-fact about how in the winter the real world disappears for him—the daily news, the Internet, unpaid bills—while he takes clients out on the hill to chase gravity, skiing all day with new friends and old, then relaxing in the quiet embrace of the season with his family at home.
“To be honest,” Peter said, “I still want to hold on to that for a little while.”
I was jealous to hear him say it, because I had missed some of the best days on the local hill. Some prior, self-made commitment had kept me willfully shackled. Some interview or lunch meeting I had scheduled or some freelance story I had due.
And in between all those said commitments, what did I do? I wasted most of the day checking out the chairlift webcams, watching dog videos on social media, and resolving absolutely not one bit of political or climatological angst by watching the nightly news.
Rather than taking the time to “Ski Here Now,” at least at my local hill, I hardly skied at all.
Back to the Start
In the wayback-machine heyday of my ski-bum existence, an Internet-free four-year memory-making tour in Jackson Hole, our hunger was visceral. We were always really hungry, hungry to the point where you start to seriously consider the lone aluminum wrapped piece of shrimp, pineapple, sausage and green pepper pizza that has been sitting in the corner of the refrigerator for months, if not a year.
On an almost daily basis, we lived on eggs, beans, spaghetti and happy-hour nachos. Sometimes, we ate nothing at all.
We thought we hit the big time when a buddy who worked at Albertson’s started dropping off wilted broccoli and day-old donuts and eclairs. One roommate—a movie-star-handsome Upstate New York farm boy who had almost made it to race in the World Cup—lived by the carb-friendly mantra that, “There’s a sandwich in every beer.”
What I remember most viscerally however, was how free it felt to be out on the mountain every day, roaming like a bird. I can’t forget that sense of only snow and sky, where any limits disappeared above you in a basin of blue.
There’s that moment when you realize that what you are basically doing for free, people pay thousands of dollars to do. But every day, you just ski because basically, there’s nothing better to do.
If I am waxing a little poetic then I am sorry. I am just writing out the script for my next personal one-on-one “get-your-love-of-life-as-you- experience-it-right-now-together wake-up calls.”
The bottom line? Nobody has it better than the person who is going skiing tomorrow! Here, and now.
—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “The greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? buy it here and read it now: amzn.to/2LmZPvN