A cold winter gust lifts flakes off dry dusty snow up past the transparent confines of my goggles and helmet. With the suns radiant heat warming the front side of my jacket, I make my way up the snow covered hill of the Des Moines River valley. Shovels and ski poles consume my only two hands, while my line of sight is focused on the pile of freshly made snow. The wind the night before blew the atomized water into the frigid winter air, transforming them into the round ice spheres, that is man-made-snow, creating a shape offering endless possibilities.
The mental enjoyment of building a feature consumes my senses, causing a euphoria which fuels my imagination and pushes my known abilities, creating outcomes that I never thought I was capable of achieving. Before I even begin to gouge away at the snow, I take advantage of the natural contours created by winter itself. This is the purest form of freeskiing; taking no action besides that of locking my boots into the bindings of my skis, and pointing it down hill. The sensation of buttering into a spin and keeping my body relaxed, while at the same time, feeling my way through space looking to spot the landing, is only the beginning of a day filled with the seldom joys of freeskiing.
Winter visits only once a year, displaying the forces of old man winter to the dormant landscapes. The short span of winter illustrates how brief and precious our time of existence really is. The freedom I and others enjoy that has blessed this land for over two hundred years, that has grown the fruit on the tree of liberty that is modern existence, is being destroyed by design. Skiing is expensive, and with the current fiscal policies that are in place, the ability in the future to be able to enjoy my time of existence, on snow, is coming to an end. With this always in the back of my mind, the daunting task of contriving piles of snow into a functioning jump, which is built proportional to the height and span of the piles themselves, becomes a moment I wish will last forever.
Whoever builds it, hits it first. This is the common courtesy agreed upon by all riders. This jump is mine; the geometry reflects my personality and style of riding. When the time arrives for the first hit, I turn up the music built in to the ear pads of my helmet. All of the problems in the world seem trivial at this point. The only thought entering my mind is “how fast”? Immediately when my skis exit the lip of the jump, I know whether or not I will clear the gap to the landing. The few seconds of airtime seem brief in comparison to the time and effort involved in making it happen. These are the simple joys of freeskiing that illustrate to me how brief and precious human existence really is.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.