Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Johnny Strikes Again!

My ski buddy John is such an awesome story teller that I had to post his latest tale of adventure. Whenever you give yourself the gift of fitness the world becomes a giant toy chest of fun. Here's John's last day in the snow. Enjoy!

T. Horton 

Spring has finally sprung.  The leaves on the trees get fuller everyday, the flowers bloom in vibrant vivid colors, the birds sing in a dizzying cacophony signaling the progression of life and a new generation. Lovely. 
With all this drama and vitality, why am I so down.  The list is surprisingly long.  I hate the growing lawn that needs to be mowed.  I hate the early sun rise that breaks my slumber before its done.  I deplore the warm weather baking my brains and driving me to an uncomfortable sweat with any sustained effort.  And those rat bastard birds are making way too much noise!
I miss my love. And because of the bounty of the past solstice, there have been opportunities.  I squandered many of these opportunities early in spring.  After Black Sunday, when Schweitzer closed for the season (April 6), another local hill - Silver Mountain, remained opened on Saturdays for as many weeks as the conditions held; provided they had at least 1,000 skiers.  A reasonable and gratifying policy.  Unfortunately, all my capital (moral, monetary and otherwise) had long been spent on the addiction, and it was time to face the long list of responsibilities that life requires of me. 
My boss - always relieved when ski season ends - loaded me up with work.  My son plays lacrosse which requires traveling across the northwest on Saturdays and Sundays.  My wife blessfully waited for her required medical attention (nothing serious) until after ski season.  So in April I was Mr. Mom, Mr. Dad, Mr. Nurse, and Mr. Chauffeur.  Meanwhile, it was snowing throughout the month.  Many mornings I would wake to accumulations of several inches, feel the twinge in my heart and realize it was over.  This bounty would go unclaimed by me.
After a few weeks in May, my grieving abated and I rationalized enough to alter my reality.  After all it had been a great season and I had many days  of glory and joy (61 for you counters).  Besides, the skiing probably wasn't that great.  By mid May I had emotionally moved on by focusing on other things - an essential survival mechanism for any junkie.  Then one day last week in casual conversation, my wife mentioned to someone she was speaking with that Silver Mt was still opened.  My jaw dropped open. "Still?"  I interjected, stunned by the news.  "You mean they are still open...."
In the next few days I tracked the weather every few hours - would Saturday be too hot or too wet.  My mood swung wildly from excited to tentative.  Surprisingly, I found a thousand reasons not to go.  Poor conditions, waste of money, my stuff is put away - on and on.  Finally, Friday night I was committed - I was going skiing!!
I woke at the crack of dawn to a light rain and thought it might be snow on the mountain.  Already, my mood turned optimistic from a day earlier.  Two hours later I was on the Gondola still worried about the day. The weather was overcast - not too much radiation from the Evil Yellow Disk in the Sky. The snow was mushy, heavy mashed potatoes.  The rills on the snow showed stark evidence of the recent rain.  The surface was dark and dirty, covered with the debris (twigs, cones, bark) from a long hard winter.  This detritus was the accumulated remains of a seasons worth of storms revealed for the first time in months by the retreating snow pack, as the pages in the seasons history continue to turn, nearing its epic conclusion.  
My first few runs were slow and tentative, the mushy surface and poor tuning of my skis played havoc with my technique.  The day progressed run after run through the mush without much passion.  Then something funny happened.  It started to rain, just lightly at first, then getting a little harder.  I thought "Well, that's it.  Fun while it lasted."   But instead it triggered something inside me, like a bright light suddenly illuminating a deep, dark space. 
I unloaded the chair, cranked the tunes, and put my skis on edge.  Suddenly, I was flying, carving through the dirty mush like it was virgin POW.  With my new found speed and technique, I was able to gain air off bumps just like Stan.  I was moving into full aggro mode now.  I started to look for the goods like a hungry predator, and found some ancient cornices to get my blood going.  Through the rain I heard something strange but oddly familiar.  It was a guttural laugh and it came from deep inside me.  I hadn't heard that sound or felt that feeling in a long time.  I was now back where I belong, moving seamlessly from edge to edge, flowing easily over the terrain.  I was skiing.
I wanted more of a challenge and started to explore the deeper woods.  It was a little tricky because the surface was riddled with debris and the tree wells were opening into huge cavities with only narrow precipitous passages in between.  I flew at reckless speed into a tight treed area and found spaces large enough for only one ski.  With no time to stop, I improvised, loaded one ski, picked up the other and shot the gap.  Soon I was doing it everywhere, flirting with the abyss on both sides and dodging obstacles left and right. 
At the bottom, all I could do was laugh.  This was true adventure skiing, using creativity and reaction to move without hesitation through sketchy and treacherous conditions.  In my exploring, I launched off a blind cat track and at lift off, realized I would land in exposed dirt and rock.  I quickly lowered the landing gear, got the last scrap of snow and lifted again slightly, just clearing the rocks underneath me with a barely audible scrape, but no loss in speed.  I never even slowed down to gather my senses.  I just laughed.  Deeply. 
Suddenly, I realized that this is not normal.  This is maniacal.  This is sickness.  This is f**king fun!!  I kept going till they roped off all my routes and closed the lifts.  Once again, I was the last one skiing, and the lifties cheered me on, laughing at the lunatic.   On my way to the car, the rain lifted, the sun peered out and brightened the sky. 
Starving by now, I changed into shorts and went in for some food.  The village was full of people milling about and buzzing with activity.  There had been a bike rally in the valley and the resort had just opened up a new water park.  As I ordered lunch, the woman asked me about my day - did I like the bike ride?, how was the water park?...I just smiled and said  "Ma'am, I was skiing."


nc said...

Oh, yes, necessity is the mother of all invention...and I guess it worked out perfectly in this case. When we're forced to modify our actions in order to achieve a desired purpose, the results are almost always noticeable, even if not at first. There's always some good that arises out of any situation, no matter how dire or unrewarding. However, Tony, I'm really glad your buddy over there didn't share the same fate as Sonny Bono or one of the Kennedy boys a few years back.... I'm sure it was well worth the risk:)

Oh, Tony, just a side note: Next time you find yourself in a Malibu mansion surrounded by obnoxious, superficial wannabes pretending to be interested, just sit back and thank the Lord almighty that you're just a normal, good, decent guy who grew up in a wonderful little Connecticut town off the Merrit Parkway:))


CT Olson said...

It's been a great ski year. Snowbird is skiing weekends through Fathers Day. Back in January I had my best ski week ever in Ootah with a few friends - 7 days of waist or deeper powder perfection. Only problem was keeping the roads open to get there! There's still skiing out there being posted on the forums, pics will be enough to keep me going til next winter. It's great to get out in the mountains in nature, up high and enjoy yourself like this.

Joseph said...

That was one of the most well written articles that I've ever read Tony! That guy described summer skiing at its best! Can't wait for some fresh POW!

lizzy said...

Who is this guy? I think I need a picture to complete the story!

Anonymous said...

Greetings to The Tone. No longer have your email addy so thought if use this venue to send greetings from Texas. It has been awile my friend but dang if I can't turn on the tube without seeing you. xoxo AML

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