Marolt: The break I was looking for
There are a lot of ways to describe a typical week, but very few to make you see one that stands out. You may have been here last week. This attempt may resonate.
Most places you went on the mountain were covered consistently with a quarter inch of dough-like snow that had been gently rolled around in the hands of God for a long time and then flattened out on a hard, smooth table ready for you to make something good out of. It was easily pliable, but held its form. You could cut it cleanly with the edge of a ski, disturbing it minimally, but accomplishing your vision of precisely linked turns with satisfying but not hard effort.
Everywhere you went you were basted in deep blue sky, the kind that only hangs above great mountain ranges when crests of rock get tired of pushing back clouds and so let them pass unimpeded on subtle breezes filling in for storm winds that are resting and reinvigorating, that will be unleashed in days, possibly weeks to come. Even still, the truth of this seems no more than a myth in the present.
Of course, warm, clear days in high alpine late winter mean cold, crisp nights on the eve. For the skier this means peeling layers as the day wears on and mapping downhill routes in the mind on the way up that will adequately showcase the mighty softening effect of the sun on granulated ice crystals. The best exposures to ski are the opposite of those on a powder day; they get better as the morning comes on, then fade from perfection and give way to more western exposed slopes in the afternoon.
Lift rides become too short; radiant heat rays exploding as they bombard the body, pulsating and massaging the ache from joints coaxed to work in the frigidness of winter and now relaxing again for the promise of bicycling, hiking and playing games like tennis in the heat of summer coming in a gallop.
So powerful are the effects of weeks like this on the human soul that they make us fall in love with the things we are doing while their seven days flow around us like a mellow song with a powerful message that we absorb more subconsciously than with the senses.
It was a week like this that made me fall in love with skiing, the first time. Although it was just as what I have described, it wasn’t last week that cinched my relationship with this silly sport. The one I’ve been talking about to this point I spent turning and tucking with my son; his college spring break and me a few lines in the sketch of it he drew and shaded for looking back on and treasuring one day, a seminal moment. From the first bright morning it pretty much matched what we, who love skiing, see in dreams. It felt like a keeper right then. It caused me to bring out a treasure from safekeeping for comparison.
The week that did me in for good came as a gift almost exactly 40 years ago. I was 13 and we called that week “The Spring Break.” As time passed it simply became know as “That Week” for the five friends who spent it together getting sore and sunburned and discovering the simple pleasure of wearing sunglasses and rubbing your face with suntan lotion that smelled like coconuts are supposed to.
That one came out of a hard winter that suddenly burst into spring on a Saturday that came without the threat of homework. We went to the mountain out of habit more than desire. After seven days that successively learned from the previous how to be better, we learned what “aficionado” meant, without ever having heard the word.
We keep this on the mantle of our lives, the place from which warmth and easy, flickering light emanate to keep us company on cold, dark nights. We recline comfortably in front of it with our eyes closed, picturing everything upon it. It’s not a trophy we claim superiority from being awarded on merit. It’s more like a remarkable photo we happened to snap, fortune more than foresight leading us to the right place and time to take it.
I hope you got out there. If you did, there is no possibility that you didn’t feel what was happening; how the snow changed by the moment and changed you as it did. If you didn’t, maybe get out this week and poke around a little bit. You never know.
Roger Marolt skied more than he should have last week, but still less than he wanted to. firstname.lastname@example.org
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