Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Skier's Christmas Carol by John Nicolich

The second week of December was bleak and depressing. Johnny-Boy and I had just returned from Targhee, driving all night through a blustery storm that seemed to leave snow everywhere but here. Our mountain had only inches and we needed feet. Then a severe cold snap bit into our area plummeting temperatures well below zero. The wind howled and snarled and cold air crystallized any bit of skin left exposed to its wrath. It hurt to breathe and needless to say it did not snow. In this horrible setting our family tried to get hold of the Christmas spirit, but busy lives and countless activities made each day a chore. We didn’t even have a Christmas tree yet. Ever the cheapskate, I joked that we should wait till New Years when we could get one for a bargain. My kids called me Scrooge, and the Grinch. Meanwhile I buried myself in work to distract my longing for the addiction. Would it ever snow again?

Finally, Silver Mountain (about 2 hours drive from home) promised to open on Thursday December 18. They had about 10 inches of "snow" as a wind-scoured base and the temps were still in the brutal subzero range, but hey, at least it was skiing. On Wednesday night I attended my daughter’s piano recital that’s given every year at an old folks home to cheer the elderly. I was bitter and cold, and tired from a long P90X workout (now is a good time for a recovery drink!). As I sat in the room warming my frigid bones, I mingled with some of the residents.

When the Christmas songs started I suddenly found myself thinking back over Christmases past. It started with memories of gifts I received as a kid. I remember getting my first sleeping bag and practicing rolling it up again and again. I reminisced about the cool slot car set I got when I was nine. The songs of the concert kept rolling along but my memories went deeper and deeper. I could see my long dead grandparents, as they were when they were young and vibrant. I could taste the Christmas Eve seafood dinner and the laughs we had afterwards playing cards. My grandmother always cheated by feeding me her cards so I could win.

This was getting weird. I lost track of the present and was now flashing through the past in vivid, descriptive terms. I quickly scrolled through more recent times like my son’s first Christmas and traveling with two babies and a diaper bag to get home for the holiday. When the recital was over, the elderly gal I was speaking with before looked over at me and winked knowingly. All this was strange enough, like scenes from "It’s a Wonderful Life," but by the time we left for home it was snowing and there was an inch on the ground. The cold, hard wind had stopped and light flakes fell gently to the ground.

That night the news reported a winter storm warning. They advised that most schools would be closed and to keep off the highways unless absolutely necessary. I left my house at 6AM and entered the storm of the century. More than 2 feet of snow had fallen. The roads were caked with fluff higher than my car’s clearance. The news reported that Spokane and Coeur d’Alene were crippled from the dump and they advised all non-essential vehicles to stay home. This was opening day. This was essential. I blazed a trail through the dark, emerging morning over mountain passes, past wrecked cars, and around slow moving semis. Winter storm warning my ass, I’d drive through the gates of hell (and jump the toll) for a good powder day.

I made it for First Chair with crazy expectations. The snow was thigh deep and the cold temps meant it was lean and light. The first descent was a straight-line, as the snow billowed up before me. The entrails splashed on to my chest, then over my head as I picked up speed. I was alternately laughing and choking as the cold white filled all space. Was it perfect? Non-believers would report on the rocks, stumps, and other unseen obstacles underneath the deep. They would comment on the lack of speed, and the need to walk out of any flat terrain. For me though, this day was perfect.

This day turned my spirit around. I came home and hugged my kids and kissed my wife. I laughed deeply as I described my day to any one that would listen. Most couldn’t believe I would brave the elements and risk my life on this seemingly trivial pursuit. But really it saved me from despair. It also marked the beginning of a set of storms like no other. It’s been cold and snowy ever since that day one week ago. I’ve been skiing everyday since. Seven days in a row.

Today I marvel that just one week ago everything seemed so bleak. Today I continue to live the dream. This afternoon, as I made my way through my favorite tightly spaced tree runs, it occurred to me that I could see nothing but the spaces. The trees were there, but my path through them was easy, unimpeded. As I made my way through I had no plan, no fixed route; I was just reacting to the terrain. There were no obstacles today; there were only opportunities and reaction. This is true freedom. This is the power of the addiction. This is my church and this is my religion.

So as this Christmas Morn looms, remember this true tale. If your spirit wavers you may be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas past. If you are truly blessed you will be rewarded with a gift. The gift may not be apparent at first, but if you recognize it, it can change your life. As for me, I’ll be skiing with Jacob Marley tomorrow and I’ll not worry a bit about the future. The Moment suits me just fine.

Peace and Merry Christmas to all.



Anonymous said...

Tony, I'm interested in the P90X program. My question is: can we use push up bars in lieu of the chin up bars? Please advise. Thanks.

Pamela said...

Hey Tony: Isn't it amazing how life brings those moments that turn us around just when we really need the attitude adjustment? After many months of struggle, I have to admit that you and P90X have definitely been big contributors to my AA. Thanks!!!!! need to come ski Colorado. Vail back bowls....stellar!
Pamela McMcMaster (Mimigo)

nick C. said...

Yes, the three P's: prayer, patience and persistence. Seems like your good buddy over there, J, had it all coming to him when he needed it most. His stalwart persistence and patience got him up onto those hollowed pillows of white, where he skied his heart out. Maybe his grandparents were able to pull a few strings upstairs, if you get my drift-;) One of the beauties of life lies in its ever-present mystery. Just when you think you're driving the car is when the car starts driving itself. Why is that?

Oh, BFT Combo Platter, it's the way to go!


Don said...


I'm deployed overseas as a Gov't contractor and I am part of a group that is doing P90X training. So far, I'm down 11 lbs., 2% BF and 2 BMI points and I'm loving the program!
My point in writing is that my little Utah town of Liberty got 70 inches of Utah blower in 10 days! Yeah, you can read that read it right the first time. All I can think about is getting back, ripping down a slope and filling my cheeks full of Utah pow (Snow Squirrels UNITE!!). Keep the workouts coming and have a very X New Year!!


LisaErin82 said...

All these skiing stories are almost enough to make me want to go out and learn how to ski.


And then I have the almost-immediate self-reminder of the fact that I can't stand being cold; I don't like being bundled up; I love being at home, nestled under a blanket, warm, and next to a fire.

Almost :) I'll stick to learning how to water ski someday....As for snow skiing--I'll leave that insanity to you folks!! Safe skiing this season. Looks like it'll be a good winter for that :)

CT Olson said...

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't do it the wistful bliss skiing brings. It helps so much for me to get through those dark depressing winter months (think I got a bit of SAD disorder or something). But getting out in the fresh air in the glimmering whiteness (or even gray and icy) just replenishes the soul! The feeling of freedom and movement sliding on the snow is like no other I know.

Christi N said...

Hey my name is Joe and I would love to know how to contact you without paying to join your club. I am a US Army Ranger and I work in Eglin AFB FL. I would like to talk to you about scheduling you to come here to promote/demonstrate your p90x program to our BN of Rangers. If you can shoot me an e-mail that would be great.

Charlotte Welcher said...

Merry Christmas
nice post and thanks for sharing...
The great art of giving consists in this: the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated.

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