Mount Hood rose up before us in the distance and early morning light. Blue sky with great white sheets of cloud moving lazily along. The car hummed along, Squirrel sitting in the passenger seat playing disc jockey with my phone while I gripped the wheel loosely and steered us onward. Two days before it was decided that we would make the great pilgrimage to Timberline lodge, snow gear and boards in hand, to potentially hurt ourselves. Both of us not quite beginner, not quite intermediate riders, Squirrel riding the lines, carving more often, but me more willing to take risks and push my limits, even if my carving skills are still fairly undeveloped. By nine in the morning we were sliding sideways into a parking spot parallel to a large snow bank that had yet been prepared for parking. Apparently the lodge staff had not expected such a large turnout – it was only the first Saturday after the first good snow of the year, packing three feet of fresh powder on what had been an almost bare mountain when I was there last on New Years Eve.
After ensuring I hadn’t hit the truck ahead of me and biting my lip as another Subaru came sliding, brakes locked as mine had been, into the space behind me, but suddenly gaining traction on a bare spot and safely jumping to a stop several feet behind me, Squirrel and I put on our boots, readied helmets and goggles and face covers, snatched our boards from the back of the car and hiked up to the lodge.
It felt good to slide my feet into the bindings and feel the familiar glide of snow beneath the board I was now attached and one with. I steadied myself and looked back at Squirrel who nodded and gave a gloved thumbs up. I hopped and twisted to position my left foot forward and pushed my weight down, my board slid down the mountain and I went with it.
Toe to heel, toe to heel, slide, slow, fast, go this way, now that, wind and fall. Get up, brush off the snow, again, and again, and again. We rode to the lowest lifts, then half way up the mountain, just to glide a few hundred feet and catch a lift even higher yet. Back down, back up, through The Bonezone again and again, a thin, long, winding canyon down the mountain that is, even with snow, sided by rocks and trees jutting out, waiting for you to make a mistake. It’s my favorite run.
And then, the children. We decide, after I realize that my left knee is throbbing and sore and Squirrel decides that his ass has been a cushion for his falls long enough, that we will take the Bonezone one final time, and then a nother final time. On that last of final times we started strong, catching air, carving just within the inner section of the pipe, and then, from atop the ridge on the right, a child on skiis came sliding down, slowly, right into my path. My options, tank the little bastard and teach him an extremely painful lesson in watching out for traffic, or pull my board in front of me, digging my heals into the snow, and falling down, stopping abruptly with the possibility of being plowed over by a boarder or skiier from behind. I choose to fall, not wanting to deal with parents, who are, generally speaking, worse than the little shits they raise.
Sometimes it feels good to fall.
Sometimes it doesn’t. This was not a good fall.
The speed I was traveling caught up to me, instead of falling backward, I pivoted, shot forward, leaned to the side and caught my right elbow in the snow. I rolled farther still and caught a glimpse of the idiot child, completely oblivious, slowly making his way farther down the canyon. My board catches at one end, I can’t tell at this point if it’s forward or backward, up is glimpses of white dust and blue sky, down is snow, cold and everywhere. Tumble, flip, roll, eat snow and repeat, I lose count after three or maybe four – a sign I wasn’t doing a good job at keeping count in the first place.
Finally, stopped, I sit up and push myself up right, balance, and find Squirrel coming to a stop next to me, taking his time down the slope to pick jumps and ride the edges of the pipe. He gives a thumbs up, I nod and give one back. Down the mountain we go.