As the daylight of autumn shortens and the winter solstice approaches, I don’t cringe at the prospect of frigid days, ice storms and cold north winds, or blizzards with the potential to bring the Washington, DC area, where I live, to an unwelcome halt. Because when winter arrives, there is only one philosophy for any rational, hopeful, and fun-loving American, like myself, to believe in.
I believe in skiing.
I believe in skiing because it is the only and the very best reason to get up on a snowy morning. For about one week every winter, I do not put on my shirt and tie and commute to another routine day at the office. Instead, I put on my polypropylene underwear and thermal pants and high-tech nylon jacket, load up my boots, skis, and poles, and head out to some of the most beautiful places in North America. My new destination might be the Green Mountains of Vermont; the Catskills of New York; the Rockies of Alberta, British Columbia, or Colorado; or the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. I’ll spend the day at an exotic locale like Elk Mountain, Lake Louise, Marmot Basin, Snowbird, Solitude, Arapahoe Basin, or Snow Summit. These ski resorts have none of the taxing heat and humidity of a DC summer. Rather, the winter air is so cold and clean that every object and every color has a diamond – clear clarity, the sun feels like it could warm the entire world to the perfect temperature, and the sky is a cerulean blue that I have never seen at low altitude.
I believe in skiing because, as in life, it is much easier to go downhill than uphill, but sliding on snow usually has a much more pleasant result.
I believe in skiing because it is the most democratic and accommodating of sports. On the slopes, people use regular skis, “freeheeling” telemark skis, snowboards, monoskis, skibikes, and tiny skiboards. Beginners can snowplow down low angle “bunny” hills as they learn the fundamentals, intermediates can carve gracefully down groomed trails as wide as an Interstate, and experts can drop into steep and narrow chutes or bounce through mogul fields.
I believe in skiing because it is a sport that, paradoxically and unexpectedly, embraces disabled individuals. I have seen persons ski with one arm, one leg, or even no legs, using ingenious adaptive hardware specifically designed to accommodate their needs. I have seen blind persons ski, with the help of an attentive resort guide and the gracious accommodation of every other skier on the hill.
I believe in skiing because I have been lucky enough to ski “powder”, the fresh untrammeled snow of a new storm that is so deep that my skis never touch the ground, but rather suspend me semi-weightless in a state of disbelief and bliss.
And I believe in skiing because it satisfies my need for hope and optimism for the future, knowing that in just a few months, I can trade the gravity of my present life for the gravity of a snow-covered hill.
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