Forget a luxury vacation in Aspen, I felt like I was fighting for my life.
The wind chill was down to four degrees and I could only see five feet in front of me. I sat in the icy snow and looked back at my friend, barely visible through the thick flurries of snow coming down. Forget a luxury vacation in Aspen, I felt like I was fighting for my life. Visibility was horrible, the slopes were icy, and I could feel my toes going numb in my boots. Conditions were too dangerous to ski in; we had to get off the mountain. We slowly inched down a gradual incline, unsure of where we were. I slid another few feet and then felt my lower ski drop down sharply. We were at the edge of a precipice. I looked back and stared at my friend. All I could see was a dark pair of goggles starring back at me. She nodded, gesturing her head forward. The only way was over the edge.
The grays and whites swirled and blended together, so I couldn’t where the sky ended and the mountain began. My heart pounded in my chest. I didn’t know how steep the slope was, where it led, or what obstacles were in the way. I swung my skis parallel to the mountain and pushed myself up, sliding to the edge of the drop off. A sea of gray-white extended down in front of me. My hot breath quickened inside my facemask, my heart beat in my ears, and, in a great heave, I dug my poles into the ice and thrust myself over the edge.
I was suspended in mid-air for a moment until I felt my skis hit the ice and slide forward out of control. My stomach dropped. I braced my legs against the sliding and made a quick turn, and then another. I continued making rapid turns, keeping my speed in check so I could react in time to avoid any unseen obstacles downhill. Snowflakes whipped across my goggles, and the world hued an eerie orange from the tint of the lenses. I kept my focus downhill, breathing in rhythm with my turns. My legs shook as I tried to brace them against the icy slope, sliding slightly out of control with each consecutive turn.
A wall of trees rose up in front of me, and my heart sunk as I realized I wasn’t on a marked trail. I turned parallel and stopped myself. Exchanging another understanding gaze with my masked partner, I turned downhill and continued. I passed the first tree and became immersed in the thick grove. I tried to avoid the treacherous tree wells, six feet deep around the bottom of each trunk. The un-groomed snow was icy, and I could hear my skis skid as I turned around each tree, weaving my way downhill. All I could see in front of me was a mass of dark green and white. I was going fast, a drop-off came in front of me, and there was nowhere else to turn. I bent my knees, tucked my chest in, and shot over the edge, turning sharply to a stop as my skis hit the ground. My friend came shooting over the edge after me and skidded to a halt by my side. We had emerged onto a marked run with a clear shot to the main lodge, and high-fived in pure amazement. We cruised down the rest of the mountain, ready to be warm and dry inside the lodge. At the bottom, we snapped our skis off and kicked them over to the edge of the raised patio, throwing our poles on top of them. I trudged as fast as I could to the lodge entrance and burst through the front door in a flurry of snow.
As we walked in, people quietly enjoying tea by the fire stared at us like we were lunatics. We were crazy enough to be out on the mountain in these conditions. My friend and I trudged to the fire, pulled off our icy gloves and facemasks, and sighed in deep relief. We laughed at the miraculous insanity of our last run. Sipping on sizzling hot cocoa, I looked around at the resort-goers peacefully enjoying their glamorous Aspen vacations and I felt a surge of pride. While they were enjoying looking at the mountain from their safe, warm, comfortable chairs, in their Gucci jackets and three hundred dollar shoes, I had conquered it. I felt the all-consuming satisfaction of accomplishment. I had set myself apart by doing something no one else had dared to do.
So, the next time you set out somewhere new, don’t settle for plopping yourself in a new location and seeing the sights; experience them. Do something that makes your heart pound, feel the adrenaline rush through your veins. Don’t just take a vacation from your surroundings; take a vacation from your normal, physical and mental state. Push your boundaries; see just how far you can go. And when you return home, you’ll not only have a better understanding of the world you live in, you’ll have a better understanding of yourself and what it feels like to truly be alive and in the moment. You’ll find out just how capable, courageous, and strong you truly are.