The sky has the pregnant look of impending delivery of snowflakes, but I have learned to distrust such things here in the valley floor. I have also realized it is kind of nice to not have to shovel before leaving the house to ski. If it snows above 8,000 feet, I am usually content. Under this gloomy light I contemplate packing my bag for the first on snow day of the season with Telluride Adaptive Sports. In the morning there may be a couple of inches of fresh snow on the trails and there will be a veteran waiting for me to ski with her. It is exciting and surprising to be at this transition to more than just a casual skier.
I walked into a room of outdoor enthusiasts on a cold December morning just outside of Jackson, Wyoming in 2009. Many were there because their seasonal outdoor recreation employment gigs required wilderness first responder certification. I was there because we had firsthand experience that weekend warriors could have big accidents and need some medical training for the wild places. And, if I am being honest, I had come to the point in my life that I wished I had become a trauma nurse or paramedic. I self-identified as a climber and backpacker, most were river runners and skiers. Somewhere between scenarios involving faux blood, I must have admitted to dabbling with the notion of skiing but we wouldn’t click into skis for two more months. At the end of ten days they had given me a ski nickname and decided I was destined to be one of them. Melis’ was launched, unconvincingly on my part, into the world of sliding on snow.
Almost exactly nine years later I am studying teaching manuals and alpine technical manuals. I am reading the books on adaptive skiing and registering for clinics on being a ski instructor. I, admittedly, thrive on having something to study and exams on my calendar (shocking words from a PhD/JD). This is not that. I love skiing and I love sharing that experience with others, especially those that need a little extra help. The high fives and giggles I received last year at the end of volunteer days were as rewarding as the adrenaline rush of our best ski days. I am taking the huck line and giving myself this path toward certification. It feels a bit like a cliff, but I expect a soft landing and glorious ski lines below.
The intervening nine years were full of days in ski boots laced with frustration and doubt. I was sure it would never feel natural. Moving to Colorado made a difference, the right equipment helped, time skiing in all conditions and numerous places helped—it all made Melis’ better. Then it happened one day on a hill where mountain troops once trained for World War II, I got the jolt that truly breathed life into this new persona. I zipped past my favorite cardiologist on a run at Ski Copper. We’d been skiing together a few times over those formative years and he had always seen the timid skier. But at the end of that run I heard him exclaim to Stephen “holy cow she’s skiing like a professional.” It was an exaggeration, but that acknowledgment boosted my confidence and I am convinced I have skied differently and more joyfully since that moment. Thanks Emilio!
I am eager to ski tomorrow and see where the trail leads. It is time for Melis’ to pack her boots, paint her nails some bright color to enliven this dreary afternoon, study some ski lesson plans, and get ready for the adventure. Hey—it’s snowing.