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The Snow Is Perfect MAG
The metal grate clanks beneath my plastic-clad feet as my friends and I walk out into the beautiful whiteness. The sunlight dances off the snow, momentarily blinding me. I reach up, pulling down my goggles until they rest on my face on the seemingly permanent indentation left there. The foam meets my skin perfectly. Soon, I won't even notice I am wearing them. The orange hue blurs the scenery for a second, making the snow a different color, then my eyes begin to adjust.
I scan the dozens of skis, looking for the pair that matters: the bright green and purple K2s. I spot them leaning against the sloped rack and walk over, slipping slightly. Walking in ski boots, while it may be awkward for many, is second nature to me. I have been skiing and walking in the heavy immovable boots for 15 years.
I pull my K2s off of the rack. Shoving my toe into the metal binding, I bend over to pull on my heel strap. Sometimes I wish I had easy alpine bindings, just step, step, click, click. Then, once I start skiing, I realize that I would rather have this difficult binding. My fingers strain against the resisting cable until, finally, an audible snap, and my ski is on. I slip on the leash and put on my other ski. I grab my flowered poles, undamaged after six years of use, and skate to the chair lift. Each push of my leg is greeted with a crack from my knees. Swish. Crack. Swish. Crack.
As usual, there is no line. I slide up to the lift, my friends flanking me. The chair swings around and the three of us push forward. Another chair merry-go-rounds the bull wheel, spewing grease and water. I slide my poles between my legs as the chair comes nearer, nearer. The lifty, Wade, catches the chair, his face concentrated as he slows it fractionally. The chair hits the back of my legs and I sit. My poles dig in like icicles as it lifts me. I adjust them so I am more comfortable. A soft creak and then a thump as the bar lowers, holding us in. I lift my skis onto the metal ski rest and my knees groan with relief.
We slowly rise above the trail. Skiers and snowboarders pass beneath us. Tracks litter the snowy ground, becoming a jumbled nest so one path is not distinguishable from another. Chatter surrounds me as the chair carries me up the mountain.
The snow-powdered boughs make the evergreens plump. Ice covers bare branches, creating a knarled peppermint forest. We pass the tree, covered in beads of ice, that marks the trail no one is allowed to ski but everyone does. Six minutes. Seven minutes. We're almost there.
We bank over the top of the mountain and the wind hits us like a bullet. It bursts into every uncovered area, slicing through jackets, gloves, and neckies with ease. I bend forward, hiding my face from the wind. The clear air makes the wind faster, dropping the perfect 20-degrees Fahrenheit to 10. I sneak a peek to check how far from the top we are. The bull wheel is in sight, and I can see chairs swinging as people stand and slide from them. I grasp my poles and pull them from beneath me. Still hiding my face from the wind, I slip my hands through the pole straps. I look to the right. The magic tree is next to me.
Linda, my former ski instructor, introduced me to the magic tree. We needed a set point to mark when to lift the bar, especially when we began riding alone. We were told that we could not lift the bar until we had reached the magic tree.
I raise the bar. My ski tips go up as the wind pushes the chair. The snow hits my skis and I stand, sliding over the small lump. We are at the summit. No one dares uncover their face to ask what trail we are taking. It's obvious. There's only one trail we take when no one feels like choosing: the trail everyone loves, mostly because it's under the chairlift so people can watch us ski. It makes us feel cool. We turn our skis and push forward, heading into the strong wind.
My skis wobble as I sink in the snow. I need to get past this hill and then I can move. The wind pushes against me, and I have to skate to keep from getting pushed backwards. I dig my edges in, willing my skis to turn. I slide my foot back, drop my knee, lean into the hill with my inside leg, and smile as my edges catch and I turn. I do it again, switching legs and turning the other way. I pump my legs a little, gaining speed.
The wind subsides or maybe I just don't notice it anymore. I feel my skis give way to my control as I will them to turn again and again. I'm picking up speed, yet I'm not scared. I'm in total control of my skis.
I look up. It's beautiful, not a cloud in the sky. I can see where Colebrook should be, and off in the distance, the mountain near my house. So far away, yet just 45 minutes by car. My skis shake and I look down. Chicken heads (clumps of snow) roll beneath me as I turn sharply to avoid the woods. I hadn't been paying attention. I hear my brother whoop behind me and feel the wind as he carves sharply beside me. Turn by turn we follow each other down the hill.
The snow is perfect for carving – soft yet not powder. My skis eat into it with strength, allowing me to cut sharply. My angled turns never give in. I go up a tiny hill in the trail, my skis leaving the ground for a second before I jump into my next turn.
Joy rivets through my bones, mixing with the constant stream of adrenaline and excitement. This is where I am happiest. This is what I live for. Nothing compares to the turns, the rapid-fire problems and obstacles. The trees on the side, other skiers, ice chunks, different snow, wind, everything is part of it. My mind doesn't think about any of these, my body just reacts. Skiing is instinctive now. I never have to think about what turn to make, where to turn, I just do it. There are no decisions to make. I just ski. I just have fun.
I pass beneath the chairlift, waving to my dad who is on his way up. He yells to be home by five. I'm at the whip. I turn my skis up the trail, spinning around. I lean back on my poles as my friends stop around me. Everyone is smiling. The same thought reverberates through our minds. The snow is perfect today. We spend a few seconds standing there, our breath coming out in heavy gusts, our hearts fluttering. Then I watch as, one by one, my friends turn their skis down the mountain.
Skiing style is like a fingerprint. Allison skis with her arms out, as though she is about to take off and fly. My brother digs his edges in with such strength that he leaves ditches for others to cross. Patrick tries to mimic my brother, yet is not as strong or clean. Eli is usually skiing backwards, and Anthony is impeccable as always.
I smile as I watch my friends. I can tell who is skiing from a mile away. I wonder what my skiing looks like. I lean forward aggressively, my edges digging in, my poles out, driving a car like a gorilla. The main thing that people probably notice about my skiing is my energy. I truly love it. I am always smiling, laughing, euphoric. Nothing surpasses this for me. I watch my friends reach the bottom of the whip. Now it's my turn.
I dig my skis in and head down. Turn after turn, I push my legs to the limit. I can feel the burn; my knees are screaming at me. I feel as though they are about to give out, like I cannot keep going; yet I do.
The last steep pitch and I am down. My skis are wobbling with the speed. The tips are shaking against the snow, chattering and making my feet wiggle. I turn my skis into the edge as the trail funnels me out. I look up the other trails for other skiers. Seeing none, I turn across the wide-open hill. I pull my skis and carve into the flat snow.
My legs yell. My knees cry. I laugh. I carve the other way, pulling my skis in the opposite direction. The bottom is near, I stand up, finally releasing my legs. I reach my friends and we head toward the chairlift. It is the end of the run on perfect snow, and the only thing left to do is go back and ski it again.