Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Best Movie I've Ever Seen, and A Truly Amazing Day on the Snow

Click here to watch the trailer.
One of the funny things about being totally new to skiing is that I have SO much to learn! Its pretty amazing, every single day I learn a HEAP of stuff that I didn't know before. And I understand skiing in a totally different way at the end of almost every day. I am so totally enthralled by this, and here in Jackson, I am just steeped in skiing history.

For the last few days I've been skiing with Jonathan Selkowitz, who I met at Demo Team Tryouts this year. As we've been touring around in the Teetons, he's been telling me the incredible history of Jackson Hole and the people who have really shaped skiing here. One of Jonathan's good friends was a man named Doug Coombs. now, because I am a total neophyte here, I had no idea who Doug was.

Over the last three days, I feel like I've actually gotten to know Doug a little bit through Jonathan's stories. Then, last night, we watched the movie STEEP for the first time, which features Doug and his wife, who pioneered Big Mountain Skiing in Valdez, Alaska in the 1990s. I am just barely beginning to realize how beholden I am to this amazing man for being so giving with his love of skiing out of the resorts.

Most sports are very elitist at their highest level, and for Doug to have been so excited about how he felt when he was skiing, that he wanted to share it with anyone who wanted to try it is just truly giving and pioneering. I think it shows a tremendous example of the fact that the mountains don't "belong" to anyone in particular. That if you love them, you should come and play with other people who love them, too.

This has been my experience so far learning to ski. Everywhere I go, people seem excited to share their favorite experiences, to help me and teach me and show me how to do it better, and safer, and to have more fun. There is no exclusion, just new friends, good friends, and skiing. And I thank Doug for that.

I have to tell you, quite to my total shock, I cried through most of the movie. Like, bawled uncontrollably. We had to pause it so I could find something to wipe my face on so I could see the screen. GOOBER. But here's the thing: something about the way these people talk about living in the mountains, and what its like to feel alive, and to know the mountains are alive, and what it feels like to make a turn, and another, and to ski something steep and challenging that requires so much individual focus...

I felt like someone understood me. I felt this overwhelming feeling of calmness, like other people could describe what it was that I was feeling, and I felt so very happy to know that there were more people out there who feel the same way, I'm not strange or different.

I dreamt about skiing all night, fell asleep skiing the lines from the movie in my head and woke up understanding something about movement on steep terrain in a fundamentally different way. I feel like something is happening to me. I woke up excited and still skiing, and knew, just felt that it would be a phenomenal day.

I woke up this morning at 5:45, rolled out of bed and straight into my ski pants and a tank top. I stood up and the first thing I put on was my avalanche beacon and checked the batteries. I grabbed my backpack and headed down the stairs, pulling my hair back on the way. I was eager eager eager to eat well, look at the mountains in the early morning light from the dining room table, and get hiking. It felt like a rhythem, the third day in a row, familiar with what the peaks looked like around me, excited to put my feet on them where they haven't been yet, excited to feel the skis turn under me, excited to ski in the sunshine with new friends.

The morning felt easily methodical, calm and happy, and we all piled our gear in the truck and headed up the pass. There wasn't a car in the parking lot, and I feared that it was just too warm, we wouldn't be able to do it. But we made the call to go up and look, with some bale out options, and sure enough the snow was firm all the way to the top.

I hiked much faster than I usually do, and it was all bootpacking today, up Glory Mountain again, then across the ridge a ways out to the Great White Hump.

I felt full of energy, just like I could hike all day long, and I felt so strong on my skis, solid, happy, present, focused, and I skied over my feet rather than behind them, and it was easy, fun, light... and I had so much fun playing in the variable snow...

It was a really magical day, with great company: Bob Peterson, who I met on Epic Ski, and his wife Ruthi, who rips, Mike Maples a ski instructor from Jackson, Jonathan and I. The snow was just firm enough to make some amazing turns in the sunshine, Ruthie and I sang out "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS" from the top of the Great White Hump, it was such a great day and the group had such great energy that Jonathan couldn't help but ski around in circles on the corn snow.

This leads me to Perfect Moments, which are a post of their very own, but that will have to come AFTER our windsurfing adventure this afternoon!!

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