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Spike avoidance

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It was more of a spike than a stump. I uncovered it, right next to my heart, as I went to push myself out of the snow.

It was about 2 inches round, pointed, and the dry snow fell easily away from it, revealing it as a foot-long spear coming out of the depths.

I had fallen, slowly and onto my left side, right beside it. As slow as I was going, the thin, dead stump of an aspen tree probably wouldn’t haven’t killed me if I had fallen on it. But if I had come tumbling onto it with some speed, well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

I had skied into a thick section of untracked snow just down from a traverse I’d never been on, and I had missed the line. I had been trying to keep up with some of the fastest, strongest skiers on the mountain.

They had just flashed one, two, three different bump lines on a top-to-bottom bombing run. I couldn’t keep up, or ski the lines, with much resembling either style or control, at least compared to them.

And then I came in low to the traverse, bogged down and fell over. As I floundered around, I uncovered the spike.

“Shoosh. That was lucky. That could’ve really hurt. Maybe the snowpack isn’t that deep. Maybe you should act your age. Maybe you shouldn’t try and keep up with those guys.”

The interior monologue was speeding up as I found my feet and sheepishly worked my out to the groomed terrain.

Why was I being such a gaper? Couldn’t blame it on age, some of those guys are just as old. Couldn’t blame it on a recent injury. I know at least one of them is all baling wire and stitches. Couldn’t be the skis. Just got new ones.

Sigh.

I just haven’t been skiing enough. And I’ll never ski as fast or as well as the guys and gals who ski around in packs.

The next day, I went back and skied the bump runs. Retraced the specific bombing run. At my own pace. I found the traverse I had missed, just above the spike.

And it was there and then I decided to go ski again today.

It had snowed lightly on Sunday and the forecast was calling for 2 to 5 inches overnight. The rest of America was going back to work and school on Monday, and I intended to go skiing through fresh snow.

The groomers would be soft and the bumps would be coated with a new layer. And while the 1,700 college students here this week would likely be out on the slopes, the Christmas crowds would be thinning out.

Another corner had been turned in the season. We made it through the holidays, balancing friends, family, clients, customers and ourselves on skis.

And now it was time to simply try and keep up.


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