Illusive. Inspiring. Transforming.
Riding that lift for the first time or the thousandth. Descending under the power of gravity along a path that recognizes your profile as a fixture, or greets for the first time. Years of training and dedication beget frustration or revelation. The snow beneath is friend or foe. The mind conducts mechanical parts harmoniously or conducts a civil, internal war.
But there are moments, rare, joyous and thoroughly unpredictable when all of the pieces of that complex concoction create alchemy - the perfect run. A synergy of physics, muscle, mind and elements.
I had one of those runs this weekend. The kind of run, like a powerful movie or special first date, that greets your waking mind the next morning. Like a rare dream that survives the precarious trip from the subconscious to the conscious.
I do not know why it happened. I did not plan it any more than I could schedule an epiphany. It was not the experience of a first kiss, as I skied this trail for the first time well more than 40 years ago. It was not the kind of run that could be predicted from a long view down a field of virgin powder because the surface was a mottled concoction of Nature and man made. The sun was not shining. Indeed, the trail was largely shrouded in a dense fog that fooled the eyes into thinking that the world was fashioned with soft edges, where there were none. Indeed, it was, for all these reasons, the unlikeliest of perfect runs because none of the usual ingredients was present. And that it is what made it all the more perfect.
Tote Road is the longest trail at Sugarloaf, my home hill in western Maine. Three and a half miles from top to bottom, it is the quintessential New England run. Spacious. Rolling. Undulating with unique segmented pitches each of which would qualify as separate trails at a smaller hill.
I know this trail. I know it well. While I would not ski it with my eyes closed, in my mind's eye, I do. I love this trail as do many others. On a typical day, it is teaming with brightly colored enthusiasts of all skill levels. From a distance, looking up Chicken Pitch, the steepest on trail, it often looks like a graveyard of disheveled gumdrops.
Yesterday was my second day of the season. The coverage was remarkable for mid-December thanks to a few generous storms without the typical rain chaser. And the hill really hits this legacy trail with all that modern snow making technology can muster.
Call it superstition, habit or lunacy, but I tend to warm up on Tote and end my day on it. After a half day on Saturday and a full on Sunday I made my way up the Quad for the weekend's swan song. I was not expecting anything special as I peered into two shades of grey - dark and darker, punctuated by colorful ghosts that dissolved in the near distance.
I pushed off. Timing is the key to skiing Tote. I wait until the gaggle of gumdrops passes and then head out just before the next wave arrives. Later in the afternoon the crowds are thin and sparse.
The Kastle MX78's proved the perfect tool for the perfect run. Strong, solid and unflappable.
Speed increased as the fog began to lift and lost elevation transformed into velocity. My timing proved perfect. Not a gumdrop in sight. Speed increased. Long swooping carved turns. The Kastles gobbled up the cheeze grater surface. My legs, in shape from months of daily gym classes, spared me the usual mid-run tantrums. Skiing the slow line fast brought me to successive pitch crests. Lifting fog revealed what every skier wants to see in the distance. Nothing. No gumdrops. No snow-covered sprinkles. Just a white carpet, wide and broad. And all for me. Speed increased still. Legs stiffened. A body living in the moment, responding intuitively to a mystical balance of gravitational forces, like an elegant, hurdling mathematical formula.
Rise after rise came and went. Time under tension brought me to the top of Chicken Pitch where I expected to see hoards of late afternoon skiers deep in survival mode, silently cursing their tired legs and the distance that separated them from apres ski. But there were none. And that is when this good run was elevated to one of those runs by the "thank you Jesus" which escaped my lips. An invocation lost to the fog behind me.
Legs stiffened more as they transected myriad, anonymous signatures carved by a thousand edges on this storied pitch. And just when the legs could resist no longer, the pitch ended in that luxurious run off. And my legs took a grateful, deep breath as we sped on to the narrower end of the funnel. Pitch after pitch. Long railed turns punctuated by short bursts of exuberant dissection. Gravity and the mind willed me forward even as I ran out of runway and came breathlessly and exuberantly to a stop.
But no matter. I owned this run. This trail. This gift.
I just freakin' love skiing.
Edited by deliberate1 - 12/16/14 at 6:05am