Wolf's Tongue This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 20, 2018

Nothing compares to the woosh of sleek skis on groomed runs. I swerve around the tracks of early morning skiers and slide down the mountain on fresh snow. It was too cold for my goggles to mist up, too cold for bare noses as well, but I didn't own a fancy face jacket.
     

Riding up the lift was the grueling part: five minutes of snow gusts and freezing extremities, not to mention the snobby boarder who sits next to you and breathes. But the ride down was worth it.


“I’m going left,” I say to the bundle of expensive gear beside me.
“Right,” it nods.
“Right as in going right?” I feel like an idiot.
The burton helmet dips forward again, “correct.”
    

We scoot to the front of the icy bench and glide off. The snowboarder cuts in front of me and goes right. I wobble for a moment, then straighten up and head left.
    

A multitude of winter sporters are milling about at the top of the mountain, and I edge around ski poles and children on their backs in the snow on my way to the slope.
A teenage boy with a mohawk helmet nearly bowls me over, “nice skis.”
I mumble a ‘hmm’ of thanks and shuffle past him
    

And then I’m skiing. Through the trees on a shortcut to Hornblower, my scarf flapping.
Inside the thicket of conifers, everything is quiet save the occasional tree ridding itself of snow. It is warmer too, less wind.
    

Last year I had been afraid of tree wells and death by vivisepulture, but my father had convinced me to ski through that fear and I quickly came to love the trees.


Now I swerve out onto the run on my right. It was empty, ungroomed. I skid to a halt and peer around. This wasn’t busy Hornblower.
    

My heart rate snowballed, this must be Wolf's Tongue, a run cleared out last summer. I remembered skiing through trees in this very spot. I slide slowly forward, my skis jolting over ice clumps (death cookies, as my grandfather would say) and moguls.
    

Up ahead I see silhouette picking its way across the snow. I stop and pull up my goggles.
A red fox is standing still in the center of the run, glaring up at me. I’ve never seen a fox so close before. Its carroty fur is thick and its tale is bushier than that of Fantastic Mr. Fox. I stand silently in admiration.
    

I smile, then close my lips, recalling how canines view teeth-showing as aggressive behavior.
I move to fish out my camera, but the creature bolts away on bed-spring legs.
With the hushed awe of seeing an animal in its birth habitat, I continue down the mountain.
    

Up ahead I see people rushing down Hornblower, their bright coats blinking through the foliage.
I take one last glance up Wolf’s Tongue and join them.


Anonymous, I wind in and out of the dozens of skiers, enjoying the fresh glow of speed and rosy cheeks. The fox’s eyes still peer at me, all yellow and unblinking.


I smile.






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