Years and years ago I fell in love with a mountaineer. I am not sure if it was love or hero worship. His nickname (private, between my friends and me) was “Epic, Legendary Hero.” He was so beautiful, so smart and so National Geographic ready that he terrified me. Yep.
He has had a lasting influence on my life. One of the things I was inspired to do because of knowing him was learn to X-country ski. I signed up for classes at a place called “Denver Free University”. It was the kind of place where you could learn astrology, cooking and X-country skiing. I went to the first meeting of the class and learned about the history of the sport, how to dress in layers, and that we’d be heading to a place called Devil’s Thumb that next Saturday weather permitting. It was a fledgling X-country ski “resort” at the base of the Indian Peaks on the west side of the mountains, over Berthoud Pass, more or less across the street from Winter Park. It was the 70s, so nine-hundred-billion people had not moved to Denver. It was a very different world.
That Saturday morning at 6 am, we — and our skis — got in the Chevy Suburban and headed up a nearly empty and snow-packed I-70, took the turn to the pass, went over the snow-packed switchbacks, and dropped into the valley where we would ski. I had ordered my skis, boots and poles from a catalog, but they fit. I had them a long time, actually, and skied on them in California.
We piled out of the Suburban, put on our equipment, and followed our teacher, learning to skate, turn, all that stuff, much of it was similar to Alpine skiing, much of it was not. My big dream at the time was to become a back-country telemark skier of the highest caliber (didn’t happen) like the Epic Legendary Hero.
The most memorable and beautiful thing of that day long ago happened again this morning. When I first opened the back door and took out the dogs, there were ice crystals floating in the air, reflecting sunlight, a rain of light and rainbows.
Well, I’d better get out there with the shovel.