December 18, 1998
This story started out life as an email message to my friend Lilith. I hadn't intended to write quite so much. Originally I thought it'd be something like:
So, I went for my second snowboard trip of the season last weekend. It was pretty fun, although, arguably, Tim and I barely made it out alive. Happy holidays!
That's not, in fact, what I sent.
Also, note that in a previous letter to her, I had mentioned the emu-burgers at Ikeda's, a traditional on-the-way-back restaurant stop.
So, I went for my second snowboard trip of the season last weekend. It was my friend Tim and me, and our two boards all squeezed in to my (cute and fun but) little car. Tim's one of my regular snowboarding buddies. My other regular one is MJ, who we tried very hard to get to come with us but (get this!) he was too busy creating websites for his friends--his Christmas gifts to them this year. Anyway, I stayed at Tim's place on Saturday night; he lives in Oakland, so that meant I could get up slightly later than if I were starting from my place. Then bright and early Sunday morning, we hopped on the highway and headed to Sugar Bowl, which is the closest of the major slopes, and has a nice "terrain park"--little hills and stuff that are particularly fun on a snowboard.
We took it easy in the morning, but after lunch we got a little bolder... a bit too bold perhaps! We decided to go down the hard way from the very top. The way down looked hard but not overly so. So we were making our way down, slowly but surely. At one point, we lost visual contact with each other; I'd somehow found myself in a bit of a ravine, but it didn't look too bad, and with the help of some onlookers from the chair lift, we managed to get Tim to come down to my level. The ravine was fun for a while until, very suddenly it got much narrower and much steeper. So, we sat for a couple minutes pondering. Finally I inched down to see how bad the situation was. I peered down the narrow pass. Tim asked for my assessment, which was "certain death."
I had been in similar situations before, but not quite as (damn! can't think of a better word. this sounds so cliché) extreme. The basic idea is to just let yourself fall a little, but lean against the mountain and dig in with the snowboard at the same time. So, we started doing that. I was in front/underneath. Things were looking pretty good. Once again we were slowly and steadily making our way down, until the slope got even steeper. It kinda crept up on me. The main sign was that I slid down a lot more than I expected before stopping, and stopping was a lot harder. Fearing Death From Above, I warned Tim, and then braced myself for another longer-than-expected drop as I started to drop.
It was one of those moments when, while simultaneously trying to remember everything you're supposed to do--lean back, avoid the rocks, keep your arms at your side so you don't break them or your wrists, etc.--you also just let go and understand that whatever will happen will happen, that in some sense it's kinda out of your hands. In that instant, I was ready for the broken bones, I was ready for the airlift or whatever it'd take to get me off of the mountain, and I was even ready to find out the cosmic "What's Next?".
At its narrowest, the ravine was only a little bit wider than my board, and I was probably dropping the fastest as I passed that point. I think that last fall lasted for only about 15 seconds, but it felt like ages. I finally dropped out of it, chute-like, onto a nice, wide, and less-steep slope which was all covered with nice fresh, loose snow. Since Tim was still above me, I let myself slide a bit so I wouldn't get crushed or anything and then finally came to a stop. A few seconds later, Tim appeared out of the chute and came to a stop about 10 feet away.
Tim had lost his sunglasses during the fall, but amazingly enough, after the dust--er, snow--had settled, there they were, right at his side, not even an arm's length away. We both let out a HUGE sigh of relief and then noticed that there was still an audience on the chair lift. Although I don't remember noticing the lift for anything but the start when they helped me locate Tim, they must have been watching the whole drama unfold. Anyway, we got a few cheers and we gave a couple of victory yells in reply, and then we commenced checking first our bodies and then our boards for any signs of trauma.
Both humans and boards made it through without any noticeable damage. We took it extra-easy the rest of the way down. That was our last run of the day. Taking the little gondola back to the parking lot was nice and relaxing, and the drive home was extremely peaceful. We stopped at Ikeda's and I got a (non-emu) burger and a coffee shake. Then we dropped by the drama department at UC Davis to say hi to Tim's girlfriend, and then we headed back to the Bay Area.
In retrospect, of course, it was thrilling and I'm glad to have done it, but it's going to be a while before I go down a slope marked "experts only"!