I awoke early that day, about 5 am. Tired and in an affectionate, cuddly mood, I begrudgingly hoisted my warm body out of Bryan’s inviting bed and began dressing myself for the quick drive to my house. After slipping into many layers of ski attire, pulling my blond hair back into a ponytail and refreshing my mascara smudged face, I felt confident and ready to go. Bryan arrived promptly as always and after a series of unfortunate mishaps such as forgetting my ski-backpack, smacking Bryan in the face with the ski-backpack and a minor that-time-of-the-month emotional episode, we were on our way. The sun was rising, meaning I didn’t need to use my newly purchased head lamp and the time was approximately 6:15 am. Skis strapped tightly to my back, ski boots fastened and ipod cranking, Bryan and I made our way up the bootpack with high spirits and smiles on our snow-kissed faces. My dear Bryan can easily ascend the bootpack in about 40 minutes from bottom to top. We estimated the process would take the two of us together roughly 1 hour, 30 minutes. Just about 10 minutes into this process, my body is already feeling the effects of climbing this icy stairmaster. I realize that my lungs are working harder than a two-bit hooker the day before her rent is due. My arms are screaming louder than a fresh lobster submerged in boiling water. And my booty? Let’s not even go there. After multiple stops where I was barely able to catch my breathe and countless hard-core Jacksonites surged past us, I looked sweetly up to Bryan and asked, “Are we at least over half-way through?”. His bluntness hit me like a mack truck, “We’re allllmost half way.” Great.
The slow process of climbing this never-ending white staircase seemed to drag on forever. Minutes felt like hours. Steps felt like miles. Bryan was not only making the same movements but also packing the snow firmly into the foot holes to try and ensure my balance while I huffed and puffed along side. He could have sang an opera and I could barely speak. Finally, my eyes rose and I could see Bryan at the top of the pass, gazing down upon the valley. Success! I. Had. Done it.
Happy to be rid of the burden of carrying two large skis on my back, I excitedly slid into my bindings with ease. Little did I know, I would be stepping into those bindings many more times on the seemingly short trip down. Any experienced skier or snowboarder will sing the praises of skiing untracked powder the day after large pillow-like flakes fall from the sky. The ground becomes blanketed by thick layers of velvety, flour-like clouds which skis and snowboards glide across effortlessly. However, for a beginning skier, this is most definitely not the case. Being my 11th day of skiing since birth and having never skied powder before, I looked down the mountain and felt a wave a panic shock my body from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes. I looked over at Bryan, who could undoubtedly feel the fear oozing off of me and he smiled. As we began, the panic began to grow larger and larger. The snow did not feel light and cloud-like as others had described. As I slowly trekked down, boulders seemed to force my skis deeper and deeper into an ice-cold abyss. When it came time to make a turn, everything I learned about skiing went out the window and down I went. Legs flailing, arms outstretched, skis detached from my boots and doused in snow, Bryan was forced to crawl back up the mountain to locate and retrieve my missing ski and assist me in re-attaching it to my boot. The frustrating process of attempting and failing to complete simple pie-wedge turns continued to worsen as my body grew colder, sorer and my cheeks were stained with tears. Bryan’s encouraging words and positive energy allowed me to muster the strength to push through the complete and udder frustration I was feeling inside to finish the ski down physically un-harmed.
Riding home in Bryan’s warm Jeep with my snow-saturated jacket and stiff boots peeled from my body, I felt…well, relief. I had done it. Not only the most physically challenging feat I’d ever completed, but also the most emotionally and mentally draining as well. Although sniffling, sore, tired, cold and wet I was excited and happy at what I had just accomplished. Life is about challenging yourself to achieve great things. I used to think the crazy mountain-climbing citizens of Jackson Hole were silly. I guess now I realize the amazing power the mountains possess and their stirring ability to strengthen the mind and ultimately, elevate the soul.
5 thoughts on “Natalie vs “The Pass””
I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!
I think I could have written this post 🙂 I’m a “new” skier and my Fiance comes from a family of hardcore skiers (they actualy spend time in Jackson each winter)… I know the feeling of “I did it” (and thank God it’s over, for now ) all too well! Good job!
So good to hear from a fellow “newbie”! If you’re ever in Jackson Hole during the winter, let me know! We can practice falling gracefully =).