The Last Day
We get to the turn around and shut off the snowmobile. The stillness that follows is like music to my ears and I feel a tickle of pride knowing that I haven’t turned into the “sled neck” my friends were
sure I would become when I bought the machine four years ago. It is still simply a necessary tool. A means to an end. Part of me loathes the need for it, and yet part of me appreciates that it is one of the reasons the south Purcells remain a quiet paradise for backcountry skiers. A far cry from the easy accessibility of places like Rogers pass and your typical ski hill slack country.
It’s rare for it to be just the two of us. With him working away most of the winter, my ski partners these days are usually women. Days filed with constant jibber jabber, silliness and laughter. It’s different with him. But not in a bad way. After a quick discussion of what zone we want to head to, we put our skins on, shoulder our packs and start to walk.
We walk mostly in silence. Speaking when necessary to observe something in the snowpack or note something of beauty in the world around us. It’s a comfortable silence. One that comes from over a decade of adventures and the twist and turns of life. Simply being together in the quiet is more than enough.
After a good discussion, we finally decide what to ski and he kindly gives me the honours. I look down at the untouched powder and feel the familiar combination of nerves and excitement. We feel good about our choice for the day, but as always in the backcountry, it is not without risk. The remnants from an older, natural size two on a slope near-by is not lost on either of us and we make a plan for where our next safe zone will be to reconvene.
I take a deep breath and push off. I know his eyes are glued to me, watching me like a hawk. The first couple turns of the day, as always, come with a slight hint of apprehension before I let myself settle into the bliss that is powder skiing. I used to laugh at the skiers that made numerous tight turns on an open slope, but now, as we truly earn each foot of vertical, I understand that each turn is precious. Each turn providing another opportunity to dive into the snow only to let it burst up around your body like the hug of a cloud. I feel weightless and free in more ways than one as I bounce down the pillowy slope, allowing bursts of glee to escape my lips.
When we meet up at the bottom of the slope, the beaming grin on his face and laughter dancing on his lips, betrays his usually calm, steady demeanour. We revel in each other’s happiness as we relive our turns. We head back up to the ridge to find the sun, genial and warm against our skin.
We take time for lunch. A rare occurrence, as we normally want to chew through as many turns as we can. Today is special. It’s the last day of the year. A year that has provided not only us, but the world in general, with incredible challenges and mind-blowing achievements. We take the time to reflect. A tradition we have kept for 12 years now. Reviewing the year and the highlights it has bestowed. We feel lucky that we can come up with so many.
After an hour or so, the sun tucks itself back behind its comforting cover of cloud and we deem it time for another lap. The second lap, even better than the first becomes one of the last highlights of the year as we make our way back to the sled and the adventure towards home. When we put 2020 to rest that night, we are comforted by the hope of a new year and the adventures that await.