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
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
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.