Long Live the Dream

How skiing can persevere in the face of tragedy;

Staring down the short Alaska face, John and I made small talk about our lines, our season, and the lives we lead as competitors on the Freeskiing World Tour. They weren’t glamorous lives, mostly spent saving a buck or two by over-packing condos or clipping lift tickets, but our friendship had been nurtured through this life and brought us to where we were that day: standing atop a beautiful, semi-exposed venue with features that varied from rock and ice, to powder and wind lips. John was running a handful of competitors before me and since we had decided to ski similar lines I lingered on the ridge to watch his run and to pick up any hints I could about snow quality.

For reasons unknown, somewhere between when we wished each other well and when John left the gate, he changed his mind about his line. He pushed out of the gate and let out a small “whoop!” as he breezed by me and the entrance to our line. His new route—that several other competitors had skied as we had been watching, moments before—opened with a small air into a mandatory left turn.

There was no way John was lost, he skied so aggressively and confidently, he had just changed his mind. He sailed beautifully off the first air, his body silhouetted spectacularly against the waters of the Turnagain Arm in the bright spring sun, but then something happened. As he was initiating the must-make left hand turn, he either clipped a rock or high-sided due to the sheer nature of the turn he was making, and started tumbling. Once, twice, and then his body collided with a small rock buttress in the middle of the face with a sound I don’t care to put into words.
He’s dead, I thought, before immediately scolding myself for having such a brutally negative thought. But, as it turned out, he was. Right there, on the side of the mountain, the man I’d been bullshitting with only moments earlier, was gone.  READ ON....


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