The Mountain

Photo by Glenn R Keller

I’m not sure if I can really describe the feeling, but apparently, describing things is my thing. The first instinct you have after exiting the lift is to turn and look at the view. There are times when it is trees and that is all you can see, or a valley floor, or sometime it is just mundane, as it often is in the midwest: cornfield or a pasture. But there are other times, when it takes your breath away. You see snow capped Appalachian mountains, rolling and verdant, as far as the eye can see. Or if you are in the western US or Europe you might see the jagged rocky outcrops of a million mountains all covered in snow. They look like a painting in three dimensions, lifeless. But you know they are full of moose, bears, marmots…and cats you don’t want to even think about.

The view, mainly a feast for you eyes, assaults all your senses. The air smells different, you can hear the wind and feel the cold crisp air on your cheeks. Later, when you eat, even notoriously crappy ski resort food will taste like a feast. Miller Lite tastes like the best craft beer. All the women at the bar are happy to be called snow bunnies and they feel like they’re 10 years younger.

I am skiing with a buddy…we are at different levels…I am older and more cautious and he wants to push the limits. So we ski together for a few runs in the morning and then we break off agreeing to meet for lunch at one of the on-slope restaurants. Everyone here at the restaurant: the staff and the patrons are skiers and snowboarders…its is literally the only way to get here. We all belong.

There is one thing every skier and snowboarder agrees with: this is special. Breathing the mountain air, filtered by the pine trees and chilled with the winter air is a privilege. Seeing the snow capped peaks, stretching out before you as far as the eye can see is a privilege. Being with people that can appreciate all of this is a privilege.

You don’t have to be great or even good to experience this exhilaration of going fast enough that a mistake could hurt you, of skiing through thick forests and popping out to see alpine vistas. Of knowing that the person next to you on the lift might become your good friend for the next 5 minutes on the ride up.

The adrenaline and the endorphins, sharpened by the cold air, the air that would send you running indoors anywhere else, combine to brew up a buzz.

You find a little used trail; it’s all to yourself. And you meditate as you ski. Muscle memory takes over and your brain is hyper alert. The squirrel dashing across the trail, the woods buried in snow, the bluebird sky. All are in technicolor.

© Glenn R Keller 2022, All Rights Reserved

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