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Balaclava This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

If you asked me to name off all the things I have to wear when I go skiing, I think you would fall asleep before I finished. The chore of pulling on layer after layer of insulated, skintight clothing is a process of at least half an hour every day we hit the slopes. There is one particular piece of clothing though that I have resentment towards stronger than no other: my old balaclava. Also dubbed a face mask, helmet liner, or ninja hood, I got my balaclava the first time I went skiing when I was five. And to my surprise, I still own it today.

I think that one of my most prominent memories of my old balaclava was how wet it always was. The condensation from my breath would freeze over my mouth, turning the pliable polar fleece to a cold, hard film over my face. When I was younger, my answer to this uncomfortable situation would be to use my small pink glove to pull the balaclava from under my nose to under my chin, exposing the lower half of my face to the elements. This was typically followed with a slew of complaints about how freezing my nose was, so we’d ski down to the bottom of the mountain and go inside for hot chocolate while my face thawed. And really, I was always up for that, because hot chocolate to me at the time was the equivalent of the nectar to the gods.

One thing that I hated about my balaclava, more when I was five or six, was the fact that it made me look like a ninja. A balaclava covers your entire head except for a hole that exposes your face from the forehead to your nose, until you cover your eyes with ski goggles. But in that little time when I was wearing my balaclava with no helmet to conceal it holds some of my most hated skiing memories. My little sister would tease me incessantly about how I looked like a ninja or a bank robber, and being the kind of person I was, I would become irritated quickly. I’d yell at her, throw on my helmet, zip up my puffer coat, and run outside into the snow. One of the reasons it annoyed me so much is because she didn’t have a balaclava to deal with. She had a fluffy blue neck warmer that always looked so warm and soft, compared to the thin black fleece that made up mine. But as we grew older, the teasing went away, and my old problems transformed into new ones.

Lunch break is always a hassle when skiing. You have to determine a time to go in, take off your skis, lock them on a rack, find an open table in the dining area, and then unload everything. That means take off pretty much all of your gear except for your base layers and ski pants. And it never seems like you can get your gear off fast enough. In the heated dining area, your cold, wet gear begins to melt and become lukewarm, making for an incredibly miserable experience. One of the first things that I’d always want to get off first was, of course, my balaclava. I’d tear off my mittens, unbuckle my helmet, and rip the dreaded thing off of my head as fast as I could. Then I’d usually locate a fireplace in the dining area and go put it near there, in a futile attempt to dry it off. Because believe me, there is little worse than putting back on a wet balaclava. I was so glad to get rid of it though.

In my last year of use of my balaclava, I tried to use it as little as possible. I’d shove it in my coat pocket in case if I really did think I’d need it, but that caused for an awkward lump in my side so I usually took it out and wore it anyways. I’d leave it at home on presumably warmer days, only to come back with my face frost-bitted and windblown. One day, I remember going to the bathroom at lunch, and looking in the mirror. Striping across my face were two red lines where the balaclava had rubbed into my skin. That was the last straw. That same trip, I went to the ski shop and bought a new balaclava: a bigger, warmer, better one made of thin merino wool. My old balaclava was dumped in a Rubbermaid bin with the rest of our unused ski equipment, probably to never see the light of day again. With it went all of my memories with it. Am I sad? No. I had it for eight years, which is far too many. It was a piece of my childhood, but not a loss now that it is gone. I’d like to think of my new balaclava as starting over. Starting over to another eight years of total discomfort.




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