Marolt: I’ve skied a lot of faces, but …
It’s like one of those internet tests indicating some mental acuity or another. You stare, and if you are a genius, you’ll see a certain image. If you can’t see it, you might have a rare brain disease and need to call for a free clinical test, but only if you are one of the first 10,000 to get through.
It’s also a little like that photo in front of the mountain lion cage in every zoo in the world — the smiling family, mother with babe in arms, standing on the edge of the woods. If you look closely, though, you will see the beady eyes staring back from the brush directly behind the people. Then you see the fangs and then the entire outline of the big, drooling cat. The family was completely unaware until they got home and looked through the photos from the outing.
I took a picture that is a little bit of both.
We drove up Independence Pass last weekend for some delicious skiing on well-buttered corn snow. We did the usual routine for car skiing up there: east-facing Mountain Boy at sunrise and then back up for Fourth of July Bowl, which looks more northerly and doesn’t absorb the sun’s warmth until after 9 a.m.
Man, was it great! I was with my kids and my wife and our friend named Zane under clear, edge-of-the-atmosphere, deep-blue skies, and a guy in the parking lot even invited us to look through his seriously expensive-looking telescope directly at the sun. You could see lines and spots and even a solar flare that shot off the gaseous ball’s surface to a height of about 100,000 miles. Incredible! And it only delayed our trek a couple of minutes.
The thing is, an astonishing phenomenon was happening directly beneath our edges as we carved through the corn, and we didn’t realize it until we got home. At the end of the descent of Fourth of July Bowl, we crossed the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. We leapt across a tenuous snow bridge in exchange for a few quick heartbeats aspiring to be an adrenaline rush and then post-holed our way through deep slush up to Highway 82 and our vehicle.
As with many such excursions, those last 100 yards required a pretty good physical effort without the excitement of anything to look forward to at the end. My oldest daughter reclined against a snowbank at the side of the road, big smile and a sigh of relief when we eventually reached the car. I snapped a picture of her recovering below the face we had just conquered.
At home, I noticed the revelation. Perusing iPhone shots I’d taken to keep my recollections of the day clear, high above my daughter — in the center of our backcountry ski run — was a face formed by the preternatural sprouting of rock outcroppings in the snowfield. To me it was obvious to whom the face belonged. It was Thomas Jefferson’s! Fourth of July Bowl, Independence Pass — it all made perfect sense!
I showed the picture to my family and some friends over dinner. Most saw Jefferson instantly. A couple saw no face. We discovered that those who had made up their minds about this fall’s election saw Jefferson, while the undecideds couldn’t make out any image at all.
The next day, on my way to Denver, I stopped at the spot from where the picture was taken. It had been another day of high temperatures, and the face had been transformed. Nature had caused a small slough of snow to slide below his left eye. It looked like a tear. Our tracks over his cheeks had grown more pronounced under the sun and resembled, dare I say it, worry lines. I knew there was meaning but could not gather it within the limits of my gray matter.
A truck pulled up and parked in front of me. It had a bumper sticker reading, “I’m voting for Trump because he has balls!” On the door was a placard reading, “This vehicle protected by armed security.”
“I’m traveling across the country spreading the word on Donald Trump,” said the driver as he stepped out. “Do you know his stance on immigration?”
“Get the hell out of here,” I replied.
“That’s right!” He exclaimed and then asked what I was doing.
I pointed up the mountain. “Do you see a face up there in the snow?”
“Oh, my goodness. Yes, I do!” He smiled. “It’s Adolph Hitler!”
Roger Marolt now wants to take a harder look at the Face of Bell next winter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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