10 October 2009

Literary Skiers 4

Andy and I never skied together. But I did see Andy ski once. I'd tagged along with a pack of Wolf Creek ski instructors out to Montezuma Bowl, the plunging undercup of twelve thousand foot Alberta Peak. Chutes streaked down the mountain wall like white war paint. The ski conditions were typical: post-storm crud that had been skied to an al dente wicker, still soft enough that knee-deep blocks splashed open like loose hay bales. One at a time, we all scribbled our little ant farm paths to the bottom, stacking short turns tight as puka shells. Andy came last. His turns swaled the entire width of a chute. I could see why he'd waited. He needed the rest of us out of the way. At the end of the first turn, he half-hopped, changed direction, hooked his skis back into the checkered snow and eyelinered across the entire concave of the slope--like a skateboarder accelerating in the deep end of an empty swimming pool. Another hop brought him to rest in the avalanche tailings where the group had bunched up to bitch about the chunky conditions.

I was impressed. Once on the boards, Andy--land-ethicist, eco-wonk, solo-trekker, Outward Bound-geek--had an inner Errol Flynn. Those long, pendulous garlands weren't bail-outs. There were high speed, chin-out, suspension bridge, Dick Durrance, lace 'em up, cable binding, Tuckerman's Ravine classics. The way Andy skied it, the inconsistent snow looked like good surf. I couldn't help thinking, Why didn't I do that?

"Nice turns, Andy," I said. "All three."

"Actually, four," Andy said, "if you include stopping."

--Wayne K. Sheldrake, from Instant Karma: The Heart And Soul of a Ski Bum, 2007

(Lea's pics. Thanks Lea.)

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