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Captain Jack Sails Past Me
By Tom Reed
© Tony Jewell

Captain Jack sails past me, throwing a sheet of powder in his wake, carving the turns, dancing the dance. I push myself out of the drift, blow snow from my nose, wipe my glasses and look down the slope in grim determination.

Good God, I think, am I ever going to get this?

Crank the clock back and it is 1969: the days of five dollar lift tickets, leather boots, wooden skis. Dad is below me waiting for my eight-year-old fury to wane. The T-bar ride was bad enough, but the run down the hill is peppered with face plants and bad temper. Dad, in his classic 1950s gear from his stint working in an Army hospital in Germany and skiing in Kitzbühel, calls out tips: Keep your weight on the downhill ski, plant your ski pole, look down the hill.

Three decades later I am trying to forget all of those things that he told me, trying to erase those years. Does it really matter that my heels are not locked down? That I have to weight my skis equally, or even concentrate on the uphill one?

And so, it is down. There is fresh powder everywhere, knee deep and untracked except for those of my more accomplished friends. It is sweet, hard-earned reward for the skin up the pass. OK, you can do it, I tell myself. You are not afraid to fall. Thanks to Dad, you are comfortable with skis on your feet. Just go.

I link four turns this time before I fall, wipe, blow and go. Then it clicks. On a slope more beautiful than any I’ve ever skied at any area, I link them and I dance. Left, right, left. I hear the whooping of my buddies down below. “All right, you got it. Yeah baby!” and I pass them as I turn and turn and finally, crash. But, just like that, I have the basics, the feel of it. I am here at this moment hooked on the freedom of the heels.

Former NOLS Publications Manager Tom Reed lives and writes from his home outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. His book Great Wyoming Bear Stories was published this fall by Riverbend Publishing.

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