It had been – and continues to be – an exquisite ski season. I think a lot of that has to do with my ski partner this winter. I suspect a lot of people might think it's not the coolest thing in the world to want to go skiing with my wife more than anybody else. I guess skiing is thought in some circles to be this "get out with the boys" type of thing, where the women stay behind while the guys conquer mountains. I did this for awhile – many years in fact – but I can absolutely say that skiing this year, with my wife, who also happens to be my best friend, has been much more rewarding. It's just…a chiller, more fun, more trusting experience. There is no stupid underlying competiveness, and I'm beginning to realize that sharing something, doing it as a team, is way better than the solo excursion. It's not that we're not getting after it, because we are. She's young, but she's just about as strong as the boys, and as her confidence continues to grow I feel like…well, we're going to roam a lot of mountains.
A cool day on the Red Lady the other day. You have to understand, coming to Crested Butte can be intimidating. Everybody in this town is a bad ass. In C.B., the passion to get after it and slay the dawn patrol is the norm. So when we left the trailhead at Kebler Pass to head up to the top of the lady (and I will write a proper blog about this mountain and the controversy surrounding it, because it deserves such), and there were four dudes in a truck next to us who had just returned home from Jackson and were spraying about climbing this and skiing that and how they climbed this thing a couple times a week, I think we both figured we'd be lagging way behind. An intimidating amount of testerone in the parking lot.
But then we started going up. And Elaine has a lot of pride, and I just let her lead the way. And man, it was like the coolest thing in the world, to see her just plucking along, quick stride, strong, and light. She's a natural going up. It was funny to watch. She caught those boys, and when they turned around and saw a 5'6" tiny framed girl going up the hill with a giant smile, pig tails waving, well you could tell by their reaction that they were surprised. For me…it's awesome to see. Elaine has always had a stoke for the hills, but three years ago around this time she was neck deep in depression and more likely to be found locked in her room than summiting a peak. As recently as last year, she had life-shortening meds pumping through her body. And now, she's med free, depression free, and rocking up a 12,000-plus foot peak, soul free and smiling.
We got to the top alone. And I'll be honest, it was a little intimidating. We don't have runs like that here. I gave her some basic instructions and then her watched her – after a tentative start – arc some nice turns right down the face. And when I skied down to her – well, the look on her face was priceless. Pure joy. I asked her if that was the best ski run she had ever done. She corrected me, "no, that was the coolest thing I've ever done in my life." It wasn't said with ego…just pure stoke.
Skiing with the girl rocks. Way better than the boys. With her, it's not about skinning up hills faster or more days or better lines. It really has nothing at all to do with anybody else. That becomes irrelevant. It's all about personal fulfillment, the feeling of the wind as you stand on a ridgeline, the kindship to nature you get when you see a coyote track in front of you. With her, I feel that more than I ever have before. I look at it this way. The mountains are our cathedral, our church. They bring me great joy. Why in the world would I want to share them with anybody other than the person I love most? Share the best with the best.