The glare from the bright sunlight has me hypnotized in its glare. Where are my goggles? My head and heart are pounding in unison. Sweet Adrenaline is coursing through my veins. I am lying on my back. My skis are gone. I can’t move my legs. I try to look around but I can’t move my head. My face is covered in snow. I try to brush it away but I can’t find my hands. Oh, Sweet Adrenaline, pray for me.
Above the black diamonds, above the tree line, on the back side of the mountain, are the bowls. Untouched by groomers, the bowls look as if an Amazon bride, trailing a long satin train, has traversed its concave slopes , leaving deep furrows in her wake. There are no trail markers to mar the majestic beauty of this place, just a simple sign stating “enter at your own risk.” For the adrenaline junkies who come here, this is all the invitation they need. But sometimes Mother Nature just wants to be left alone.
They come for the rush. Zigging and zagging above the trees, they have no concern for the 40 degree slopes or rugged moguls. But they come armored with beacons and inflatable wings because they know that hell really can freeze over. I came for the rush. I came because there was not a single ski mark in the 32 inches of fresh powder that lay before me and I wanted what every expert back country skier wanted. I wanted to be the first.
I crouched and cut a straight path through the middle bowl, maximum speed ahead. I hit the first mogul and set sail. She’s a bird! She’s a plane! She’s Super Skier! But when I hit the snow, instead of gliding on her satiny surface, I sunk in, as if the Powder was grabbing my legs and pulling hard. I struggled to regain my balance, pointed my skis downhill, and took off. I hit the next mogul and took to the air. But, once again, when I hit the ground, the Powder started to pull me under like some crazy undertow. What was going on? I clawed at the snow, worked my way to the surface. No more tricks on the Powder. This bitch was trying to kill me! Time for a beeline to the tree line.
When I got to the trees, I stopped to catch my breath. What was wrong with me? Was I paranoid? Delusional? It must be the altitude. The snow-covered pines seemed to welcome me into their midst. They were happy and wanted to play games with me, unlike that Powder with PMS. As I regained my descent, they jumped across my path, laughing at the determination on my face. I laughed back at the trees as I twisted and shouted with all my expert skills. Swish, swish, swish. Finally the sound of success.
Year after year, it’s been Sweet Adrenaline and me, rushing along, through the spectrum of blue, green, black, and white, pure unadulterated white. She wouldn’t let me quit when I when I broke my leg, tore my ACL, froze with fear. She made me follow her, beyond what was comfortable, beyond what I knew to be safe. There was no arguing with her, she was just too strong.
I shortened my turns, staying close to the trees, pretending they were gates and I was competing in the Giant Slalom. Faster and faster down the slope I raced, now mocking the deep white Powder that had threatened me in the bowl.
SNAP. SNAP.SNAP. Suddenly I sensed a presence, coming from behind, a competitor, ignoring the rules, breaking down the gates, snapping off the trees, gaining on my lead. The Powder had risen up from the hill, whirling and swirling, a cyclone of snow. SNAP. SNAP. SNAP. My heart started pumping. No more fight. I chose flight. I knew I must ski for my life.
The Powder had no patience for me or the trees or my silly game. It caught up to me and trapped me in its vicious whirling mist. It tumbled me head over heels, heels over head, down the mountain. And then, almost as quickly as the game started, it was over. The Powder was gone, the trees were gone, and you were gone. Only a giant field of snow remained. And I was lying in the middle of it.
Sweet adrenaline, I will always remember you fondly.