Double ski session today. Morning skin in the hood, afternoon taking laps at Loveland Ski Area. Why not – they are on their way to their best season ever with more than 550 inches of snow so far and ten more days to go. Crazy cool light, awesome spin drifts and my best friend. May and June are coming. Early morning skis in the Indian Peaks, overnight trips to more remote peaks, mountain biking, snow, tundra, rivers, sun, fog, summits. And love. Tis a glorious season coming up. Decided to brush up on my ski photography, and had the perfect subject for all the shots – my wife. Ski like a girl me thinkest!
This April has been quite the month for snow lovers. Everyday it seems for the past two weeks, it's snowed a couple inches during the day, more at night, and been foggy, wet and cold. Nederland and 8,000 feet above sea level seems to be Ground Zero between spring and winter, which means just a little big higher, where we actually ski, it's been winter. I have to admit, I was a little burnt on skiing for a bit there, but this latest storm cycle has the season ending on a stoke. I don't know how long this can go on, but it's unlikely to be more than a few weeks more, if that. The sun is high – mid-August high right now – and the snowpack doesn't survive high pressure systems this time of year. There was one year, 1995, where it snowed right through May – I remember doing the Iron Horse Classic Road race down in Durango and getting marooned on the top of Molas Pass in a full on snowstorm…on Memorial Day…but that was a unique year. Unless we're in for another May of freak-a-tude, the end, at least down low, is near (up high I expect the conditions to be quite good on, say, July 4th!).
So what's a skier to do – go skiing as much as possible and ride the wave till it breaks. Elaine and I are ready for spring when it comes – meaning the mountains bikes are tuned and ready to roll for the inevitable warm-up – but we're enjoying the moment. Here's the breakdown of this winter:
It's already been a good year, and it's ending with a flourish. Today Elaine, Stella and I headed up to Caribou to check it all out. Absolutely a ton of snow up there…the most I have ever seen. The drive up was wet and greasy (next year I need to invest in some real snow tires), but the skiing was divine. Around 11,000 feet, the snow was light and powdery.
Back at it tomorrow morning for day 118 on skis. Despite what some of us might hope, it's not an endless winter, and that's what makes it so important to get out as much as possible, right now, while the perverbial iron is hot. Or, in this case, cold.
Hard to believe it's almost May. Skin track to bliss.
The ski dog, known as Stella. Next year I'm definitely selling the BCA becons and getting the new dog system from Pieps. And then continuing to ski safe terrain with her, despite the extra precautions. What can I say, she's family. It's been a grand ski season for her – of my 118 days, I'd say only 15 to 20 were at the resort, meaning the rest were backcountry. When we ski the B.C., Stella comes along, so she must be somewhere around the century mark for the season.
Elaine shot all these black and white ones. She calls this one, "Into the Abyss."
Yours truly trying not to fall into the Abyss and look non-chalant at the same time. Wow, that's a lot of snow.
In a world of black and white, these two girls would be my color.
People ask me sometimes if I go to church.
I don't go to that church, for that building and the happenings within are breeding grounds for evil (even Jesus smashed the money coffers of the church). Unfortunately I have witnessed too many people who are saintly for one hour a week and jerks the other 167 hours. I have called ministers in my darkest, darkest hours and been told by them to look elsewhere for help. I have had people who profess to be religious and forgiving go, with no hesitation, for the jugular. It's one thing to sit in church and preach forgiveness and kindness to all. It is completely another to do it in real life. The disconnect between the two is striking. These people, those churches, do not represent my God.
But I still believe. In something – I'm not sure what – but something. A higher good if you will. And because of that, I go to my own church just about every day. Like today, Easter Sunday, with a skin up out of the fog, above the clouds and into the light. It's an amazing cathedral, and if there is a God, or an Allah or a higher power than us, than it is up here.
Mud season in the Rockies is not often publicized by the Chamber of Commerce. Which is perhaps why it's one of my favorite times of year. The town has cleared out of skiers, Frozen Dead Guy Day revellers and snowshoers, and the traffic of summer – the Harley's, the hikers, the mountain bikers, the road construction crews – have not yet arrived. Nederland has become, at least for a few weeks, a town for the locals.
It doesn't really feel like spring, at least in the traditional, "tulips are blooming," type way. It's snowed everyday for the past week, and the weather forecast for next week looks the same. While in Boulder the flowers are blooming and people are going to work in shorts, here in the mountains nothing is blooming and I'm still wearing long johns everyday.
It's a little tough to figure out my daily exercise this time of year. I'm still skiing, but truth be told it's getting a little iffy. There is this breakable crust that is not the most pleasant thing to ski, and the inch or two of snow we've been getting on top of it hides more than it helps. The high peaks are still difficult to access as the dirt roads that get you closer to them are buried in snow. And the trails for mountain biking and hiking are still covered with a foot deep layer of ice. It seems winter and summer are fighting a war right now, and at least today, it's a dead stand-off.
Of course, summer will win the eventual battle in the upcoming weeks. I have learned that once it goes, it goes quickly. Things melt out, the rivers rise, the pine trees give off the marvelous odor of spring and the trails are opened. I'm looking forward to it. Elaine's bike is just about ready to roll, and it's with much anticipation that I look forward to teaching her the sport. And then on the days off, up early to ski the big peaks, boot-packing up and skiing the sweet corn down.
For now though, that must wait. For it is mud season, the deep breathe between the glory times. There is a beauty and a relaxation to this time where, finally, the hills are left to the people who dwell here.
Today is my birthday. It is a day of celebration, because it's a day that I am alive. But it extends far beyond that. I feel like, for maybe the first time in my life, I'm living life the way it was meant to be lived. I've always been passionate about the outdoors, but now those passions have expanded to things that I believe have even more power. I love my family. My wife, she is my rock, she is the light that makes the day revolve. My parents and I are closer than we have been since I was probably 13 or 14, and my relationship with my sister is stronger than it has been since I was five or six. I have a wonderful dog who accompanies me on all my outdoor adventures. Elaine and I live in a 125 square foot caboose, and we never fight. We joke about the time, if we ever get a real house, how we won't use it because we won't want to be apart from each other. We're den people in a sense. Beyond this, I have my health, I have skiing, I have backpacking, I have mountain biking, I have the great outdoors. I have a good head on my shoulders. And now, after walking through the fire, I have experience and toughness to see through most anything. That can't be underestimated. I have this belief that life does not really start until you go through something like that. Finally, there is honesty now, and that is liberating. I have too much student loan debt, but otherwise things are good. That will work itself out somehow.
I got a chill tonight when I thought back to September 19, 2009. The thought of the cold steel in my fingers, the dark feel of the woods, the utter dispair and loneliness. I get scared when I think how close I was to ending it. Thank God I answered when my parents called. Thank God. I get a chill when I think that everything that has happened since could have not.
I have realized that my old friends may never come back. And I think I've been fighting to get them back, and missing a whole family of new friends – the Neptune crew – who are there and present and don't judge anything. It's time to let that old go for good, and embrace the new.
A ski today. A ski tomorrow. Getting Elaine's new bike set-up. A summer of exploring the woods with her. A trip to the desert. A life together with the love of my life.
It's a good birthday.
Day Two Ski Building Class
The second day started off, and while it took me a bit to get back into the groove of handling the tools, it took much less long, and by the time lunch rolled around, I had gotten as far as I had the day before on the second ski – in half the time. My shavings were still not as nice as Woodworking Man’s, but they could actually constetute as shavings, rather than little shards of wood chissled out of my plank. I was quite pleased with myself, and broke for lunch with Dan.
I fell apart when I came back from lunch. I took my two skis, and lined them up next to each other to compare them…and WHAT? What on earth was going on? One was A LOT thicker than the other. I puzzled over it for quite a while, then decided to fix the bigger one. I took it and traced the outline of the thinner ski, and then took the planer to it. It still didn’t feel right. I stop, unclamp the ski from the table, and begin comparing the skis again. The more I look at it, the more wrong it feels. The tip didn’t look like what I’d done with it. Neither did the tail. And my name had been written in pencil on the tip, and it wasn’t there anymore. Where had it gone? And why was there the tracing of a tail on the tip? I was so confused. I stood there, turning them both from side to side, trying to fathom what was going on.
Finally Woodworking Man looks up from the ski he was working on and asks how the comparing is going.
“Terribly!” I declare. “Absolutely terribly. I just don’t understand why they’re so different.”
“I used a different ski than you did for your model,” was his reply. Wait…what? Turns out, the thinner ski had been his. I’d somehow mixed up our skis and thought I was comparing mine. I was so glad that I wasn’t losing my mind. When I picked up both of my skis, they were pretty much the same shape – minus the little bit that I had shaved off when I thought that Woodworking Man’s ski was mine and that they didn’t match up.
Feeling so much happier, I went back to work. But that incident had opened the flood gate for the inevidable heckling a girl gets in a situation like that. A little later, when I was comparing my tails, I said “I think one of them is a bit fatter.” Maybe I should have said “wider”. Anyway, Gary started poking fun of me saying comments along the lines of “Just like a girl. ‘Do these skis make my butt look fat?’ Dan had better not put on a single pound.” I don’t give a damn how much Dan weighs. I didn’t marry him because of what he weighs. I was only saying that I thought one of the tails was a bit ahem, wider than the other.
They also started saying things about how the tools I was using were never going to be useable again, as once a woman touches a tool, it’s never good again. It’s all in good fun, so I’m not offended by it.
So I went home that night, content. (Exhausted, yes, but quite happy with the day’s work, as well.)