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.