A young man pauses to reflect on his life's path
| Alex paused at the top of the snow-covered mountain. The sun was blinding in the bright blue sky. Snow glittered like diamonds, sparkling with color in the sun. Leaning on his board, the blond eighteen year-old never tired of this spectacular view. He wondered in amazement at this expansive beautiful vista and marveled as he thought about his snow journey.
A vignette of a three-year old on his first pair of skis flashed through his mind. He remembered how excited his Dad was and the grainy brown early digital film clip that he took surfaced over and over in family videos that Grams created on her computer. With each new milestone he achieved in skiing on film, it seemed that antiqued clip always made an appearance somewhere in the video story. Alex knew that each time he saw that clip, the excitement he heard in his Dad’s voice as he awkwardly clumped around the tiled floor in his first skis was enough inspiration for him to return to the slope.
He brushed his snowboard lovingly with his gloved hand, dusting off the clumps of ice from his last run. Nearby he heard other boarders swooshing down the mountainside whooping for joy as they jumped and spun, trying newly learned tricks or practicing old ones.
“Hey, Alex”, he heard as his buddy Jacob came to a stop aside him. “Smokin’ POW, huh?” he asked, flashing a toothy grin. His freckles splashed over his face, as a shock of reddish-blonde hair straggled loose underneath his Colorado cap.
Alex smiled at his snowboarding buddy. They were little skiers once, becoming good friends, competitive on the slopes but partners in mischief off through their growing-up years. He remembered the first time he had heard someone refer to the powdery snow this way.
“Hey, Dad! Did you see me go down that slope?“ he asked his Dad at the end of his advancing ski lesson. An elated five-year old Alex was flush with excitement and pride.
His Dad answered affirmatively, “Yes, son, I did. Great powder you had to ski on today," he commented. Nodding in agreement, Alex remembered his response, “Dad, the slope is fast! It’s got really good POW!” And he remembered his Dad’s look of surprise as his instructor joined them and commented on the state of the POW on the mountain that morning.
Thinking back on that moment, Alex was suddenly aware of the impact of that first successful run and how quickly he adopted the mountain slang for describing powdery and very ski-able snow. He smiled inwardly at the memory of the moment his love for skiing was born.
Squinting against the sun, Alex turned his attention to Jacob. “What are you practicing today? Jumps or spins or just having fun?”
“Oh, I thought maybe I’d try that new spin we learned in class last week. Have you tried it yet?” Jacob queried.
“No, I just did a fun run. It’s so beautiful up here today. I can’t work tricks and spins on a day like this – at least not yet. This day was meant for dreaming and remembering”, responded Alex.
“What are you talking about, Alex?” asked Jacob, looking puzzled, then a little worried. “Dreaming can get you into trouble, remember?”
Alex wrinkled up his nose, his bright blue eyes crinkled as he recalled his friend’s warning reference. Once when they were skiing a blue-black run, Alex was indeed sidetracked by the beauty of the mountain he was skiing down, when he hit a rough patch with no poles. He had maneuvered through most of the rough spots when he hit a bump. Unprepared for the jump, he tumbled into the snow, crashing into trees and eventually stopped, but not before hearing a cracking sound and feeling searing pain in his leg. He had sustained a spiral fracture and was returned to his parents on a ski-sled. Eight weeks in a cast and a lot of rehabilitation taught him to be more vigilant of his surroundings, to ski with poles and to stop if he felt like dreaming and admiring the scenery. Initially, it wasn’t clear if he would ski again. An eight year old heals quickly, however, and he just wanted to be back on the mountain.
Jacob knew by the look on his friend’s face that he had struck a nerve. But he didn’t want to lose Alex to a preventable accident. He didn’t want to see him carted off the mountain again like that – in such pain, tears streaming down his face, rescued by staff and transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. He lost his skiing buddy for two months of prime ski season POW, but he had to admit that Alex fought his way back to the mountain.
Alex shifted his weight and placed the board on the snow. He looked at Jacob and sighed. It was Jacob’s idea to switch to snowboards. Alex had boarded once when he was quite little, with his Dad. His fledgling attempt was recorded with a message to his grandparents that he was “snowboarding”. True to form, Grams turned that into a digital postcard, that, truth be told, he watched over and over and over on her iPhone. He really wanted to get back to snowboarding. But his parents insisted that he take ski lessons first and learn the basics. They weren’t too sure about the snowboarding lifestyle either and were a little concerned for his safety. Skiing had its risks, no doubt, but there were more controls built in for the skier’s safety. With skiing, sooner or later you came to the bottom of the run
Snowboarding, on the other hand, was about who could jump or twist or spin the highest, farthest, do the most complex trick and the limits were still being tested. It was fraught with risk to life and limb. His parents were not fans of snowboarding and reluctantly agreed to let him switch to boarding, as he called it, when he was twelve. It has been the most wonderful six years of his life.
He loved the challenge of twisting his body high in the air in complex patterns that defied gravity and pushed the boundaries of the laws of physics. No trick was too complex or daunting to try, but many were still too complex and daunting to achieve. Still, the rush of cold air into his lungs, sitting on a cushion of air as he expertly maneuvered his snowboard down black runs and gleefully boarded with friends on blue-black runs, enjoying the rush of adrenaline, was a high not experienced in other sports. This was his love, his passion.
Flicking a scoop of snow at Jacob, Alex indicated he was ready to leave the mountaintop, as he settled his boots on the board and secured the buckles. He inhaled the crisp, pure air, took one last look at his surroundings and plunged down the mountainside with Jacob in hot pursuit.
Laughing with sheer joy, he settled on a cushion of air, bending knees and rocking to and fro as he sashayed down the mountain, fearless and confident in his abilities. He realized, as he fairly flew over the snow, how much he loved skiing as a child and how it was shaping his future now. As he maneuvered down the run with Jacob, Alex knew that his Dad’s support helped cement his love of skiing. Suddenly, he grinned as he impulsively spun in the air and landed a perfect 360!
Alex slid to a stop on the fresh mountain snow feeling happier than ever before. He knew, without question, he would always ski the POW.