Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter Demands Acceptance

Seeing Supreme with Snow from "Kitty".
Makes everything seem all right.
Winter buries ambition. It forces hibernation. Winter leads to introspection. Victims of the seasonal shift complain about light's brevity while shivering and relenting to the grips of winter's harsh and icy fingers. It's not hard to view ourselves as victims to this tilt of the axis. Without the comforts of warmth and light, many fail to overcome the cold and bleakness of these long months. People begin to fool themselves about the spring when the blanket is ripped from their curled and fetus like bodies and they can feel the warmth dance across their naked skin and open their bodies to the sky.

Spring never comes like that. The snatching of the covers from your body doesn't feel pleasant. It's severe and stark. Which is why I don't cling to any misconceptions on the joy of spring. To me, spring is just the decent neighborhood in a strange city that in a few blocks transforms into the "put your wallet in your front pocket" skid row of triple digit summer. Winter is my time.

My goals come into sharp focus. Against the greyscale existence, my desires stand out. Instead of misplacing hope on an oncoming summer where ample margins around the workday allow for pleasant evening and morning recreation, I have to commit to making the most of the day.

No season demands acceptance of things outside of your control more than winter. And more so than cycling, skiing requires acceptance of things outside your control: conditions, time of day, shortness of the day, cost of a pass, weather and the limits of the body. To perform on skis, you should be on a level that matches the terrain and the equipment. At least that is how I feel skiing. I can't tolerate backing off and stemming a turn when I know that a lifetime on skis has given me the tools to do it. My standards are higher. Cycling forgives and meets me halfway. It works with me; allowing the alteration of my performance to meet the challenges in front of me. On my bike, I can find a gear, alter the pace, or take a rest. However, the mountain doesn't change for a skier. I always try to meet on its terms.
Jared Hargrave of utahoutside.com gets his
first Wildcat laps of the season.

Last weekend as I started my winter, I could feel the threshold to injury diminishing as the clock approached 3pm. Day two on the boards and I had been searching for places to cram turns all day. Alta's snow, some of the best we've seen in an opening weekend, was slashed powder and starchy grooves. Good snow, but not something I was ready for; most opening weekends are a few hours on corduroy just to get my ski legs back. But the 2016-17 season rewarded me with a better than normal preamble. Thanks to skiing two straight days right off the bat, I was crossing tips and throwing my weight back and forth like a roller coaster starting its departure. The turns strayed further across the slope as I looked for any mogul to leverage. With each pole plant, I'd shift and feel my uphill ski struggle to fall in line. Knowing how this scenario ended on Christmas Eve a few years ago—ACL torn and a season lost, I surrendered to winter. All this in spite of the physical progress I have made in the last few months: more cycling miles than I have had in a few years, riding a 24-hour mountain bike race, building more muscle. Those things didn't matter to the mountain.

Jared felt it as well and on his penultimate run, he got sucked into the very trees he was trying to avoid lower down on Collins face. He bit it and called it a day after a run through Race Course.

While Jared made his final run, I went to the season pass office to see about my bus privileges and then finish the last half of my turkey sandwich. A self-supported Sunday in which I rode the bus up in my ski boots and essentially skied non-stop. The rewards of a winter day like that are hard to verbalize and innumerable.

We are all entering a winter. A season where the things we feel comfortable with will be torn from us. Left shivering and shriveled, naked and unprotected, we will see exactly what is of value. We'll face the reality that those values could be taken from us. Winter holds no contempt for us. This isn't personal. Winter has been doing this all along. Winter's forces of nature will demand more of us than summer's glow ever will. But winter will also reward us with riches far greater than anything summer has ever offered.

Afterward

When life is full of shit, put on a
corduroy hat and grill some brats. 
I've been pretty silent since 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. "Ride, rest, repeat," was my mantra and riding without the luxury of light illuminated some philosophical thoughts in a sort of nocturnal satori. I planned to draw on that experience with some blog posts but, the withdrawal from that crank-arm induced high and the national events that shortly followed left me overwhelmed. I didn't know what I should write about, nor was I certain if my writing would reflect a rational and objective response to the reality I was facing. Never in my life have I seen a better example of how emotions can retard critical thought. I didn't feel safe writing under the duress of those emotions. Now, with some distance from those fateful fall days, I draw the line of seasonal demarcation with my first days of skiing last weekend. Winter begins.

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