Artist, Heather Williams Hufton, “Winter Trees”
I have not been in a winter environment in over 25 years. Vail, Colorado ski trip at Christmas with my family. Tom 14, Heather 13. It was crowded on the lifts, long lines; the latest equipment complex, the clothing expensive and elegant, the crowd rich. Slope fees were about $50 per day per person. I wonder what they are today.
The mountains were overtaken with human activity by then.
Twenty-five years prior I whizzed down the nearly vacant slopes of White Face Mountain, Adirondack chain near the Canadian border. A 13-year old girl myself, dressed in jeans, heavy sweater, and corduroy coat that flapped in the wind…on Monarch skis—polished oak with spring bindings similar to what we use for cross-country skiing today…
At the lift only a handful of skiers stood in line. Riding the gondola the white mountains soared in panoramic splendor, the air freshened by millions of conifers resplendent in winter garb. Up there, suspended, no planes cutting the sky and few buildings in site below (the Olympics had yet to be held there and change the village into a metropolis) I shared the mountain’s life. And, standing at the crest of a slope, listening to the wind playing on the needles of each tree, I breathed with that mountain and felt one with it. Silent except an occasional swish of a lone skier plunging by or a joyful shout of one exalting in the force of the mountain on his body…hugged, enveloped by the mountain spirit.
The days when a storm brought steady snowfall that muffled even those few sounds, I felt alone in a universe of wonder and power of such indescribable grandeur I thought I would burst wide open. And at the storm’s end the sun sparkled on icicles and frosted panes and everyone’s cheeks grew rosy and eyes clear as gemstones, and every warm-blooded mammal blew clouds of smoke from its nostrils like a herd of wild horses in winter…
High on the Canadian ridge that sweeps along the Champlain Valley, I stand alone at the top of a long, snow-covered slope. The tall blue pines lining this skier’s trail are whispering long tales. Into my nostrils floats a heavy wet scent – harbinger of a storm. The trees are still. I hear the drawing in and letting out of paper breath, the squeak of wax on snow as I shift my weight, peering over the forest fringe to cloud encircled peaks. If I were not thirteen I would linger here. But alas, I jump into the whipping wind as it reaches my temple of silence, plunge headlong into the mountain’s challenge – a marauding horde of snowflakes in pursuit. – from Canned Peaches and White Flour©, A Memoir by Susan Lee Feathers