Posted by: smithdavid | December 1, 2013

Other World

Everything is completely white and the only sounds are the whoosh of ski’s on snow and the occasional scrape of graphite on ice. The orange tint to my ski goggles adds to the sense of otherworldliness. Though I can’t see him, I know EV is somewhere on my right.

It’s snowing quite heavily and most of the others in our group are warm in our lodge down in Les Deux Alpes village. Perhaps we should be too but it’s EV’s fortieth and there’s no way we could come all this way and not ski on his birthday. The others were cursing the lack of visibility but I relish these conditions, they force me to navigate down the mountain by feeling and intuition alone. It’s like riding a wave.

deux alpes, the village...

deux alpes, the village…

EV glides past me, bending his knees to bring his snow board onto its edge and pick up speed. Once he gets a few meters away I can no longer see him, the snow is too dense. I’m skiing gingerly, yesterday was a tough a day on La Grave, the powder covered off-piste region beyond the glacier. Powder is outside of my skiing comfort zone, the sensation is more ethereal than the hard, true certainty of the piste. Yesterday I fell many times, sometimes at high speed, but never got hurt.

I stop at the bottom of the path, start looking for EV. Something dark thrashes in the powder on my right. I notice the blue of EV’s jacket. Now he’s standing, a blur of blue ski gear and white snow.

‘Didn’t see that snow bank…’ he says. Though I can’t see his face I can tell from his tone that his wearing the trademark EV grin.

We discuss our options for a while, then aim down Thuit 4. EV bombs away, I’m still nervy in the powder, yesterday has shaken my confidence. I take a turn and my ski’s seem to drag in the snow, it feels like I could fall at any second. There’s only one way, I think, and that’s to keep going, stay on the horse.

deux alpes from above. on a clear day...

deux alpes from above. on a clear day…

I make a few more turns, I’m halfway down now and beginning to believe again.

I press on, let gravity take me. The first turn, a right, is a little unsteady. But I keep going, I’ll be flying in no time. Now my right ski seems stuck, my balance is thrown. I try to right myself but instead I lurch forward and then thump into the snow, it’s far harder than I expected.

I lie for a while, I’m gasping and know that I’m winded. I don’t try and move, just lie there, focusing on my breath, knowing that this needs to steady before I’m fit for anything.

Jy alright, Dawie?’ EV calls out from a little farther down the slope. His voice has an unusual note of urgency to it, perhaps my fall was heavier than I thought. I draw a few breaths before I answer, this is the only way.

‘Ja, just winded…’

‘Take your time…’ he says.

Eventually I stand up, a little shaken but otherwise okay, I think. My shoulder is stiff but it’s probably just a dead arm. I clip my boots back into the skis and am soon going again. I could go down to the warmth of the village but I couldn’t possibly let EV ski by himself on his birthday.

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Responses

  1. wonderful to experience
    joy and pain
    offering support
    living to tell the tale
    breathing mindfully 🙂

    • thanks for the cool comment. agreed, always one breath at a time. thanks too for being such a consistent reader. dave


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