Not really near death
It’s about 8:00 pm; we arrived in Bear Valley at 4 in a snowstorm. Since then I have snowmobiled my wife up to the cabin two miles up Bloods Ridge, (course we couldn’t find the cabin so I had to wade through waist high drifts knocking on stranger’s doors before finding the right one), stuck the snowmobile into a bank while carrying my brother-in-law’s 9 and 11 year-olds, flipped the snowmobile while turning too fast on one of the 6 runs carrying stuff and people to the cabin and now I can’t feel my fingers as I try to put tire chains on same brother-in-laws car so we can back it into it’s final resting spot for the evening.
“You gotta take over Chris, I got no feelie in my fingies.” I pronounce “feelie” and “fingies” not to try to lighten the mood but because my brain is slowly losing normal function.
Of course, it works out, both families make it back to the cabin where wife has prepared a beautiful ham dinner and a giant steaming pot of hot chocolate. I dethaw and realize I’m happier than I’ve been in years.
I have a theory. I believe people who have brushes with death are happier than people who don’t. Kinda the “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” philosophy. How can you appreciate life if you don’t see how precious it is? This is why cancer survivors carpe their diems, why thrill seekers are so damn positive and why people who sit around tend to wallow in the excrement pool.
We must seek adventure; it is a part of our humanness. Your life balance (homeostasis) depends on it. And, it’s easy to do, just get out, make a plan, call a friend and go. Course, when daily life gets in the way, we sometimes forget how important pushing on the front of the boots is (this is my favorite ski reference for “moving forward”).
Daughter just went back to Chico to start her second semester of college. During our many conversations over break we talked quite a bit about owning the place you are and how important it is to growth. College is funny, it is the time of first freedoms, first experiences on your own, first taste of adulthood, but it can also be the time of first fear of the unknown.
One of the best life choices I ever made was moving up to Bear Valley for the ski season. The plan was to get a mindless job (lift operator, waiter) and write the Great American Novel. Luckily one of the first people I met was Lee who was the head of the ski patrol. “No Walt, you want to be on patrol so you can ski all day.” I’m very pliable so that’s what I did.
It was an incredible season full of crazy people, crazy memories and crazy times. Watching the sunrise from the top of Yellow Submarine while carrying a backpack full of 10-pound explosive charges that were then thrown into the overhanging buildup of snow that spelled potential avalanche. Watching Bacca, our best skier on patrol, cut across the ridge crown as it gave way and pulled him under. Hearing what we thought was a loud snap of a branch and Bacca yell, ‘F——–k” as he went down with a broken femur. You can’t get those memories watching GoPro videos.
30 years later it’s still a part of me. I love returning often to Bear Valley, shooting funny videos, checking in with Scott and Chris and Ted and Kathy who all remained on the mountain. The experience didn’t kill me and it made me stronger.
Our family ski vacation is epic. Wife spends a blissful day tearing around the hills on the snowmobile, son rediscovers a love of snowboarding, brother-in-law’s 9 and 11 year-olds make an Olympic-level sled hill, and we all leave with memories which will stay with us forever.