Today was a good day. I came to this sort of realization on my ride this morning…that I am who I am and what I do is OK. Meaning, I look around at people and I think to myself, here I am and people are doing this and that and I'm a ski technician at Neptune Mountaineering. And I think there was a little sense of…I'm not doing enough. But as I was climbing up Caribou Road this morning on the bike, past John Mattson's house with all the prayer flags (author of a great mountaineering book), over the steep sections, across the flats and past the Cross Mine, I realized that I have nothing to be ashamed of. That this mountain lifestyle that we are living, and in particular this profession, are just fine.
Tonight Elaine and I spent an hour in the Boulder Book Store. We do this fairly frequently…it's a common date. We often don't buy a book, but we love to just go there and read. I picked up a book today about the history of skiing called "Two Planks and a Passion: The History of Skiing." To say this book is a detailed account of the history of our sport is an understatement. It's elaborate and meticulous. I read an interesting fact: the first skis were found 7,000 years ago in peat bogs in Siberia. That means the ski is actually 3,000 years older than the wheel. And it made me think…what I do for a living…it's an ancient craft. Working with skis, a primary mode of transportation, of survival back in the day. Today it's a plaything, a tool for recreation, but it's no less important.
When I worked at the mountain bike advocacy organization, I started to feel guilty that I wasn't doing enough to make the world a better place. So I got into teaching. And, with the notable exception of coaching skiing, I was miserable in the profession. I was an out-of-place misfit. So while it was a job that in theory "bettered the world" I was not following my passion.
So now I'm a ski tech. And I think, with some experience in life, comes wisdom. This is a good profession. Skis bring people joy. They bring happiness. They tap into something ancient, both historically and in our own lives. This is a good thing. This is a good way to provide for myself, for my family.
I think I'm going to stick with this one. Today was my first solo day in the shop. Over Thanksgiving, the other techies are leaving town, so I've got to be ready, because I'll be it. I have lots to learn in a short amount of time, but I'm smart and I can do it. Today was filled with lots of full-tunes, some lessons with the grinder, some mounts, some skin trimming. No mistakes today. That was my goal. When I get in trouble in jobs, in life, it's because I stop thinking and just react. That works for skiing, but in the shop I am making an effort to think. My most powerful tool is my brain.
When I tune somebodies skis I envision what the are going to do on them. I try to make them fast and sleek. I envision every skier as Bode Miller, as Daron Rahlves, as Chris Davenport, and I want to make their skis follow suit. I don't want to let them down. I am a craftsmen in training.
If every dollar I make from this day forward involves skis and mountains – be it ski teching, or writing about skis, or making hats for skiers, or making skis themselves – I will not be upset. Follow your passion and the money will follow right? That's what I aim to do, to follow my passion, to use my brain to get good at it. I think it's possible.
This blog is lame of late. I mean, it's better than it was a year ago, but it has not met its potential. I was reading Arctic Glass the other day, Jill Homer's blog, and I realized that I can do much, much, much better. I need to bump up the images, I need to write more eloquently. Most important, I need to dream the dream of adventures and ideas that are original, and inspire again. I think I'm back in a place where I can start doing this. I have a wife who wants to be part of these adventures. Instead of having to do it alone, I have a partner. I like this, but more importantly, I need this.
I've decided to write a book. It's a tale of my adventures. The chapter list looks something like this:
1. Montezuma's Revenge
2. Colorado Trail
3. Alaska/Yukon Trip #1
4. Yukon Trip #2
5. DoJoe torch incident
7. Skiing w/Elaine when she was sick
8. Project Alta
9. Racing the MTB Circuit
10. Working at IMBA, access issues versus environmentalism
11.Working at Neptune Mountaineering
12. Three months of hell: NOLS Instructor to Suicide attempt
13. Leadville Trail 100
14. Soggy Bottom 100
15. 24 Hours of Moab
16. NOLS Waddington
17. Spring skiing the peaks
18. A walk around Mud Lake
19. A Spencer Mountain Ski
20. Stunts and bridges and secret trails
21. Whitney/Great Basin/California recovery/a night in jail
22. Kerry Way to engagement in Galway, Ireland
23. 1999 – The early days of singlespeeding
24. 1991 – The early days of mountain biking
25. Ski race coaching at Nederland
26. Alpine trip to Taos with three feet of snow and a night in the hospital
27. White Rim Ride with brochitis and garbage bags
28. Stoke of the season
29. Environmental diatribe
I think it has potential. It's a unique story full of ecstacy, hope, despair, mistakes, love, hate, loss and renewal. I've lived enough, I'm in the right place to do it.
Today may have been the last ride of the year. The snow is supposed to arrive Tuesday, the weather is supposed to shift. Quietly, unassumingly, this fall was my best spurt of riding since summer 2007. Almost three years exactly. I feel like a mountain biker again. On the morning climb up to the old mining town today, there was a rider up ahead. So I did something I have not done in a long, long time. I let that ancient urge of the hunter take over, rose out of the saddle, and bridged the gap. Caught him, silenced my breath and smiled, and continued on. Silly competitiveness I know, but I think in this case it's a positive. It's good to be a mountain biker again. When the snows of this winter melt and spring comes anew next year, that passion will almost certainly still be there.