ALYESKA, Alaska Half a lifetime ago, I was a golden-haired backcountry guide. As long as the mountain didn't fall on me a la avalanche I happily fell down the mountain. Black Diamond? Cascade concrete? Complete lack of alpine chops? Not a prob! I knew no fear and bruises healed fast. I was impervious. Anointed even.
Fast-forward 12 years to Colorado: Faded to "dishwater blonde" at best I am back in the snowboard yoke, after a lot of euro-museums and overlong pasta-e-vino lunches in the piazza... Crashing end over end, I at last conclusively bruise my tailbone and have to hitch out with the ski patrol.
My then-boyfriend complicates things by accusing, "you thought that patrol guy was cute."
Yeah. I Wiley-Coyote-ed down the Rocky Mountain hard-pack just to meet the ranger. Because nothing screams "sexy" to die-hard skiers more than the inability to gimp off the hill. You got me there, tiger. Busted.
I bite into the pain, master it through the resort lobby, resulting in a super-stilted pimp-roll, if it's possible to stilt such a thing further. The guide a youngish bloke shouldn't suffer for my sins, even if he ditched me to play on the half-pipe. To his credit, the dude runs up with my host: "I'm so sorry I lost you!"
"Had a great time," I lie. "But I need to rest now, the altitude's harsh."
Three years later, I dare to strap on a board again in Alaska.
The bunny slope unmans me.
I may just be done.
Even if skiers can see orca pods from the lift's peak here, I may just be done. Snowboarding requires a fluidity, a Gumbiness gone by. No amount of yoga's bringing this back.
I'm limber and strong enough, but the simple fact is this: I don't want to fall down mountains anymore.
Will the whole world go this way, I worry? Just shrink in scope, until I sit in the garden and watch the hummingbirds?
Or do I just walk away from an unsuitable sport, an older, wiser woman? One who knows when to rest on an E3 (5.10-11) climbing route? One learning her poise underwater, that ballet of buoyancy? One taking up her parents' mantle of long-distance hiking, while dabbling in outdoor absurdities from extreme croquet to seaweed foraging?
I dunno. Truly. Du-nowt-no. But give my ego something to cling to ... Because my body ain't adhering to the mountain in any stylish fashion, eh?