Most people feel relief when the summer comes, for me it is reversed. When I squeeze my feet into my gorgeous red Scarpa T Race boots, a thousand pounds are lifted from my heart. I love the smell of the snow and the familiar sounds of the ski resorts. Yesterday was my first ski day of the season. The resort had come back to life. Lively, excited energy filled the lodges and cafes. I missed the disorganized movements of people as they try to walk in the stiffness of their ski boots. I missed the way that a company of strangers is made intimate by their common love for a sport and an element. I love how the universe uses the chairlift as an excuse to line you up with and force you to talk with people from all different walks of life.
A smile formed across my face when I made my first few turns and confirmed to myself silently “I still got it”. By the end of the first run, I was skiing like my usual self. The body does not forget the movements. It does not forget the divine pull of g-force against them or the heavenly sound of the aggressive scrape of the skis against the snow when you’re executing the perfect carve turn. It does not forget the sharp, arctic feel of the wind against your face. I leaned my body down the fall line and felt my edges respond by gripping me to the slope and I thought to myself, this is nirvana.
There is nothing quite as fulfilling as mastering a skill. Like any skill, there is always more to master. But you get to this point where your confidence relative to the skill is so much a part of you, that there is a deep ease to your performance.
Ski culture is a lot like surfing culture. That is why it is so often called “surfing the solid wave”. And there is an aquatic look to the migration of people across the snow. I often think to myself that people skiing look like a disorganized school of fish. But when you become a master skier, you become exempt from the masses. You become a shark in the school of fish. You can anticipate how other people on the slope are going to move and so, the surety and power of your velocity makes you feel like a benevolent predator weaving your way through them. They stop and stare at you in awe. I love that feeling. The ego does too. Skiing becomes so second nature to you that it feels like you have passed a test and have been invited to become part of the mountain. You sell your soul to it. You are in your element. Then, your heart leads you down the slope instead of your head. And it leads you much better than your head does. It is one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. The mountains are my temple. The snow is my prayer. The transcendent unity with earth and life itself is felt in those untouched acres where the pine trees reach from the craggy peaks towards the sky.