Wintery playground

A slight burning tingle ripples across my red stained cheeks, partially from the cold wind whipping against my face, but more so from smiley so wildly. I can’t stop gleefully giggling like a child on Christmas morning as I fly through the fresh untouched snow, ripping into the delicate powder with the edges of my snowboard.
For most of the year, my free time is dedicated to training, but in the early season while snow still blankets the mountains, some days are reserved for play. Yesterday afternoon, the snow had been rapidly falling since mid morning and with each passing hour the powder was increasingly becoming deeper and deeper. The backside of the mountain was exceptionally quiet and I was more than happy to be alone to roam the hillside like I was the only person left on earth. Every now and I again I would stop just to listen to the eerie, yet calming sounds of nature around me before carving back into the powdery flakes.
Sitting back in the saddle I simply bent my knees and allowed them to act as shock absorbers as I braced for every bounce and bob, just like surfing tidal waves. I felt like a rag doll, yet somehow in control, as I allowed the ride to go on wherever the path seemed to go. On the verge of face planting on almost every turn, I kind of just bounced back around for the next line and kept going, trying desperately not to bail. Falling in this much snow is like digging yourself out of quick sand; you kind of just keep sinking in.  
It’s hard to explain to those who have not experienced it, just how electrifying and energizing the mountain can be. The snow-drenched trees loom as if in a winter slumber, the sparkle of a trillion snowflakes glimmer in the daylight, and the muffled sounds of nature echo against the backdrop creating a breathtaking sprawl of a winter. You really have to get out there to feel it. Whether it’s snowshoeing in the backcountry between the quiet of the trees as you roam for hours in lost solitude, or ripping fresh lines on your board, or tracks on your skis, it’s all just the same kind of play reserved for the mountain.
On the last run of the day, after milking every turn for what it was worth and carving as many fresh lines as I could, I crumbled next to a tree and looked out over the valley. My legs were exhausted, my skin was a mix of hot and cold, and my breath slowly calmed in steamy puffs beneath my nose. The light of day was slowing slipping away and the quietness of the afternoon seemed even more silent. I could have sat there for hours until the moon was the only light in the night sky, but the evening chill reminded me that my day had ended and it was time to return home. Another day with more snow and more adventure would await on the other side of the evening and once again I would play like a giddy, care-free child in my wintery playground.

An adventure on ice

I live for the simple adventures. The adventures that you can find in day-to-day life that are by no means grandeur, like climbing a mountain or traveling to a far away place, but just simply new and uncharted. On a Sunday morning after a friend presented me with a “no is not an option” offer, I found myself with a new adventure, that may seem simple but was actually quite grandeur. It was one that involved ice, a pair of 20-year-old-can’t-remember-when-they-were-last-sharpened skates, and head to toe armour that made me feel like a two ton linebacker; yes, I was going to play ice hockey. The last time I put on hockey gear, I was 7 and well, the adventure didn’t last long.
Upon walking into the dressing room I felt like a fish swimming into the shark tank; extremely out of place and expected to be eaten alive. Sitting down to gear up I sheepishly looked around before declaring that I had no idea where to start. With a laugh, my friend, immediately started pulling out the equipment and instructing what went where; well no, she pretty much dressed me. Like a 5-year-old I sat there holding out each arm as instructed, then each leg. At least I could tie my own skates.
By the time I was dressed and half the team was out the door I was already overwhelmed and thought I was ready for a break. But like a child being shuffled on stage for their first recital, I was shoved out the door and with a slight nervous stutter step I was on the ice. It was nothing short of a miracle that I stayed on my feet, and didn’t face plant. I already had visions of trying to pick myself back up, and laughed in spite of myself. Slowly I joined in with the others, skating some laps and getting used to the gear. This was easy. In fact, dressed like a linebacker made me feel much more safe and less prone to injury. If I fell my only suffering would be losing my pride. From the bench, my friends, helped guide me through the warm up and laughed at my Bambi-like skills and otherwise complete confusion. Every now and again I’d hear them acknowledge when I did something right and a smile would spread widely across my face. As I continued pretending to know my way around the ice I tried my best to not look out of place, or lost, or new, but at 5’9 with my robust frame I had nowhere to hide. I felt like a towering, uncoordinated giraffe; so much for blending in.
By the time the puck dropped I was ready for my debut. They had me playing defence, which I thought was hilarious because I could not skate backwards. So I proceeded to continue skating forwards while cranking my neck around like a deranged bird trying to find my opponent. This just resulted in confusion and dizziness, and they mostly just skated circles around me all the while probably wondering if I knew where I was going. Needless to say I managed to touch the puck a couple times and otherwise flailed around until they called me to the bench where I was greeted with praise. I couldn’t stop smiling. They said I looked like a natural but I still felt like that awkward, looming giant girafe trying to maneuver from one part of the ice to the other.
Each time they called me back on the ice, I took a dainty nervous stutter step then I was out the door. By my second shift I was sweaty and tired. I was expending all my energy into staying upright, remembering where to be, cranking my neck like a bird and otherwise trying to skate. I was slowly getting the hang of it and after falling down twice and successfully getting back up, I didn’t feel like a complete failure.
We ended up losing by a goal but my usually competitive attitude didn’t care about the score, or how I looked, or really even what I did. I just felt good. I felt like I had ignited a spark in me. On this Sunday, with the wind rushing through my helmet as I unsteadily zig-zagged up and down the ice, I was happy and care free.
I wish someone had encouraged me to play hockey when I was younger – who knows where it would have taken me. But I’m happy for the opportunity to get on the ice now and learn something new as an adult. This is one adventure, I plan to continue embarking on, while learning how to skate backwards and otherwise how to play this game.