I’m out in Park City, UT now, skiing under beautiful blue skies with the mercury sitting at a comfortable 50 degrees on the slopes. I woke groggily this morning as the sun snuck in through my window, quickly warming my room. As I sat up I realized that my whole body hurt, head to toe, from a rough fall that I took yesterday. We had traveled a few canyons over to spend the day at Alta, which still had some great snow even though it’s been sunny and melting for days now. The hike into Devil’s Castle proved itself worth the effort time and time again as my brother and I found sweet lines down through rock bands and tree chutes.

The Elevator Shaft from Above

The Elevator Shaft from Above

Below the cirque is a cliff band that I’ve skied before, through a tiny, 4 foot wide, 45 degree rock chute that demands a high-speed, no turns descent. Dropping into it again yesterday, I sucked a big puff of adrenaline as I hauled ass out of the chute and onto the apron at around 50mph. In one moment, I was hauling a big turn on the wet snow below the chute, begging my quads to pull through, and in the next I was tomahawking like a ragdoll. My brother said that he was convinced I’d broken my neck, but I surfaced after four or five full flips just feeling a little dizzy, and missing all of my ski gear.

After a little recovery period, when I’d collected all of my gear, we headed down to Cecret’s for some lunch, to the sound of St. Patty’s day inspired punk music. After lunch I decided to redeem myself, and returned to give the chute another little piece of my mind. This time pulled through onto the apron no problem, reclaiming my honor and cashing in on another big dose of adrenaline and ending my crazy skiing exploits for the day.

Heading down to breakfast this morning, I could hear each of my ribs complaining, and trying to look down, I discovered some serious whiplash in my neck. I gulped a few Advil with my coffee and headed off to the Eating Establishment with my parents while by brother and his friend took off to Deer Valley for some seriously warm skiing. Since breakfast I’ve just been lounging in the sun, taking the day off, an watching the occasional wispy, solitary cloud wander across the big blue sky.

I’ve been thinking lately about what place skiing has in my life, as lately I’ve had a lot of really close calls, and I am really lucky not to have been

Looking Up into the Chute

Looking Up into the Chute

seriously injured. The way that I’ve been skiing lately isn’t the kind of energy that I can sustain long term without expecting some such serious injury, likely one that would put me out for several months following painful surgery, if not some more serious consequence. I suppose I am an adrenaline junky to some extent, which is why I take the risks that I do and throw myself off cliffs and down chutes. But it’s the mountains that I love more than anything, and I want to be able to keep traveling through them late into my life. I’ve concluded that it’s no mistake that telemark skiing came into my life when it did. Telemarking has been more fun for me, and moreover, has been gentler on my body than alpine skiing has. I think that it will soon be time to devote my resort skiing energies entirely to dropping a knee, as it’ll extend my days on the slopes, and besides, I have more fun.

This isn’t to say that I plan to desert alpine skiing. There is no doubt that I am a much better alpine skier than I am a telemark skier, and I can tackle pretty much any terrain that you put in front of me if my heel’s locked down. I just think that alpine skiing has lost the ability to thrill me without taking huge risks, and for that reason ought to be taken out of the toy chest and thrown in with the tools. To this end, I plan to use it for touring and ski mountaineering, when the safety and predictability of alpine skiing will be an asset to my travels in the mountains.

Your Truly, Traversing Honeycomb Canyon

Your Truly, Traversing Honeycomb Canyon

Each of these, telemarking and alpine skiing, will find their places in my life over time, especially as my skillsets continue to expand and diversify. It’s a lot of fun to be a learner again, struggling through each little bit of progress in my tele’ turn, and feeling my progress each day. But at the same time, the sixteen years or so of alpine skiing that I’ve got under my belt won’t go to waste, but will instead let me access more beautiful places up where the air is thin.

As I was sitting out in the sun mulling this over, Laila called to talk before she heads out to Smith Rock to finish out the week climbing with our buddy Rodney. Of all the good things that have happened in my life lately, she has been my greatest blessing. It was a complicated situation that brought us together, but I am hopeful that the dust is beginning to settle and that we can finally and comfortably really let our relationship kick off, and that I can enjoy the company of this wonderful woman as much as possible before the world whisks her away at the end of the school year.

To quote Crow, who has just emerged from her cabin after a long winter, “Once you give up wanting things a certain way, it’s amazing how easy life is.” It seems like all of the energy that I’ve been putting into my life, my practice, my relationship, and my friendships is finally coming together in beautiful way. No doubt it will continue to surprise me, and will be nothing like I expect. But I can’t lie: I feel good, and I’m excited.

In the words of my godfather, “Spend it all on wine, women, and song, and waste the rest”.

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