Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Razor's Thin Edge

There is a razor’s thin edge of existence in life. I have seen it in the mountains. A place where you know if you jump into a couloir to ski it your first few turns are the most critical. If you miss any of them and lose your balance you will most definitely fall to your death. It seems that the younger you are in life, the farther beyond that edge you step.  There is nothing like the exhilaration, the adrenalin rush, the sheer thrill of pushing the envelope just beyond that edge.

When I was twenty five and skiing at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado the edge blurred into reality for me. Arapahoe Basin was then the highest lift serviced mountain in America at 12,500 feet in elevation. The main lift brought you to the top of the mountain, and you could traverse into Lenawee Mountain and climb higher to get great powder shots. You could also drop over the backside into Montezuma Bowl and ski incredible vertical terrain and deep out of bounds powder, but you would have to hike out. Looking across Route 6 at the awesome Professor with its seven cornices would orient you toward the Pallavicini, on your left and the infamous Wall, the Wall was at the same elevation as the summit except that  there was an incredible vertical drop down from the summit with a steep incline back up to the cornice. The prevailing winds would race across the giant top of the wall and create a massive wind blown hanging cornice. It was always unstable and could fracture and avalanche at any time. Often it grew to enormous proportions and would be a twenty to thirty foot drop to the steep vertical slope below. On cold winter days it was always more stable and provided and excellent platform for launching into thin air before landing on the steep lower terrain. The lower terrain vertical was such that if you were not acutely aware of bringing your arms forward and keeping your elbows tucked in you might drag your arms on the slope behind you throwing off your balance.

One particular winter day I took the leap of faith and hit the deep powder successfully. I was just starting my second critical turn when another skier, who had not seen me jump from the cornice traversed across in front of me. I narrowly missed a collision but the tips of my skis caught the tails of his. My skis stopped abruptly. I was launched into a tip roll, a somersault on skis. Skiing with my bindings cranked down tight did nothing for easy release. The motto of the day was “Deliver us from premature release.” Every time I came back up on my skis I would again roll over and bury my head and neck in the snow. I was sure that this time my neck would break and I would die, or worse be paralyzed for life. This went on for what I thought was an eternity. It was then that my right shoulder caught a boulder. My shoulder dislocated and my ligaments and tendons were torn. It however had arrested my forward tumbling. I was unable to move my neck and it took months for both my shoulder and neck to heal. I said in the brashness of my youth, someday I will get a plastic socket. Through the pain in my later years, the prospect of a major operation does not intrigue me.

It brings me back to the fine line of existence in life and the mountains. I had realized my mortality. I was no longer an immortal God as I had thought in my youth. I had experienced near death. I never again skied with such reckless abandon. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I pushed the limit, even in my later years. I however possessed fear, a good healthy dose of it. It is detrimental when you love and play in the mountains to be afraid. Fear is healthy but you lose some of your edge. If you hesitate before turning on a steep slope or performing a feat while climbing or mountaineering it can be disastrous. I lost some of the thrill, to some degree, I had been conquered by nature instead of conquering it. I am saddened today by it, but it is as the world is.

I feel today like I am again standing on that wind blown cornice. I am more than twice that age now. The sky is azure blue, the wind gently rushes through my thinning hair, the snow is deep and the sun is shinning brightly. It is up to me to take the leap. What in the world am I talking about?

I have always wanted to pursue my writing career, but I always chose the safer accepted route of a business career in the private sector. The thought of contacting agents and editors and publishers has come and gone often. I even tried self publishing with out any great success. Always like a giant Goliath, the fear was in front of me, taunting me, calling out my name. It is time to slay the giant.

Today, I welcome you to Sun Moon Books. Look us up at Our new blog. We will soon be publishing ebooks. My collection of ski short stories “White Dreams” will be available in mid to late February. I have another collection of horse short stories and two novels in the works for the next several years. Standing here on the cornice wondering if I should jump into that couloir full of snow snakes and conquer nature or be conquered by it, I am reminded of a quote that is attributed to the ages but no one sage in particular. “Leap and the net will appear.”