Backstory: The Last Generation of Skiers

One by one, beads of rain race down the window; tear drops reflecting the mood of this gloomy, midwinter day. The final scraps of snow from the last storm cling to the edges of my roof before gravity pulls them to the earth. Individual crystals of snow are swept away by the maddening flow of liquid, while others disintegrate into the soil, lost to the depths of the world. I hunker in my Bend, Oregon home, watching the streets fill with the morning showers. What was once a wintery world washes away like a withering thought. And in all this rain, I dream of powder.

Illustration by Evan Chismark

Illustration by Evan Chismark

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I would dance with the mountain; a rhythmic waltz in which mind, body and snow become one; an experience known only by subject and mountain: the art of skiing. As I stand at my window, rain pattering down outside, I close my eyes, feeling myself slide down the white slope, bouncing in and out of turns, legs springing and compressing into perfect tele position, each pole plant marking the birth of the next turn. The snow is thigh deep, yet I feel no resistance as I swiftly glide through it. Looking downhill, I spot my ski partners reapplying skins to their skis at the bottom of the glade. The warm sunlight transitions to the cool shadows of the looming lodge pole pines. I sense that I am invincible, completely seized by the wonders of gravity. With my companions expanding into my vision, I attempt one last turn, punching downhill with my uphill arm and, the next thing I know, I am flying.

I smash face first into the deep, soft powder. In a jumbled mess of skis, legs and poles, I surface with snow caked onto my face and crammed inside my ears. Smiling and laughing, I fall back and lounge in the powder pool I just created.

I startle out of my daydream as the rain intensifies. Powder skiing as I remember it is restricted to this lone image. The winter world that I became accustomed to every year after the last of the November leaves would descend from the trees is absent.

Staring out into the rain, I remember my days as a child, pressing my face against the window, rosy-cheeked and wide-eyed, to watch snow fall from the heavens. Seeing this magical crystallization of water came with a cluster of possibilities: snow days, the nearing of Christmas, the beginning of ski season. Now, I look back on these memories and remember all the enchanting goods that snow brought, and I think to myself, what will my future children see? Will they know the joys of snow as I did, as so many that came before me did? Will they know what it feels like to ski powder, the type that owns no bottom?

I often wonder what will become of skiing. The days when a foot of fresh justified skipping school, the early morning tours where the skintrack was the only sign of civilization and the endless journey of strengthening mind and body that came from climbing mountains and skiing back down.

Is all this only a fleeting memory that will be washed away with the snow, an idea lost to the past and a dream that will be never be realized? What does the future of skiing hold in this time of melt? For thousands of years, it has provided humans with more than just sport: a livelihood, a mode of transportation, a way to gather food when deep snow made it impossible to walk and a relationship with the mountains that will vanish into deep crevasses.

As rain patters our January roof, I wonder, am I part of the last generation of skiers?

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  1. […] we the last generation of skiers, as suggested by this Backcountry Magazine piece by the exquisitely named SJ […]

  2. […] Ski season is just around the corner! Since I am traveling and headed to warm and tropical Thailand next, my season will be a bit delayed this year until I arrive in Hokkaido, Japan in mid-January. Still, November days bring me thoughts of winter and dreams of snow. This post is from an article I wrote for Backcountry Magazine back in 2016. Read the original post here.  […]

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