Standing at 9,000 feet has become a normal thing for me. Close my eyes, imagine the line and how my body will feel and move as I make my way down the mountain. But today this doesn’t happen. I’m terrified and shaking on my second feet, afraid my violent shivers will throw me out of my skis. This is my first day back on a mountain since my accident. Loosen up my neck, check and double check my helmet is tight enough. Tug on my goggles and run though my basics: name, age, location. I can't afford another brain injury. I take a deep breath and exhale, letting the frozen breath hug me, as if it was telling me I can do it. The wind whispers words of encouragement and I push off. Life is like the mountain. I have to maneuver steep passages all while avoiding rocks and other obstacles that are hidden under the snow, revealing themselves as I pass by- no warning given.
(I have to ski THAT?)
No one ever said the line I would chose would be easy, and one quarter done with the task my muscles are screaming and I am no longer afraid. My mindset has changed and I start to believe I can do it. I’m even picking up spend, my technique is no longer jerking but is fluid like the wispy clouds above me. I focus on the near approaching mid mountain and shift my feet, slicing into the snow as if it’s my fear I’m directly cutting.
I could tell you about my fears, the thoughts pulsing through my head. Will I crash? What if I mess my brain up more? Or fall so hard I piss? (Which is a genuine fear, I'm not wearing shorts under my pants.) Shifting your focus is difficult. As panic starts to set in I remember why I love this sport. Why I chose to doit again, and in Montana of all places. This isn't the Tahoe snow I'm used to, the slopes are much steeper, the parks smaller.
I am a hawk, fast, sleek, and not afraid to dive, I am the pulse of the mountain, the breath of the trees and I can overcome anything. I begin to dace, elegantly weaving a pattern, leaving a fair trail behind me so that others can see I was here. My dance picks up pace and incorporates second body, someone who like me has challenged this mountain, has asked their body to respond to the ever changing environment. I no longer see myself being thrown down the mountain, being hit and left to fend for myself. Images from months ago are forgotten, slowly replaced by new ones, ones that I’m making in the moment.
Of course, by the time I reach the bottom I realize my run wasn't as cool as I thought it was. But what matters is going for it and getting past that fear. Chasing your passions is what we all strive to do. I love skiing, it’s what makes me who I am. Getting back on my skis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it needed to happen. Get back on your skis, chase that trick you can’t stomp, take that line you've always wanted to. Do anything but quit.