Column, Living the Dream

Awaiting the first frost, the first ski

By Merisa Sherman

As silly as it sounds, in my household the changing of the leaves brings thoughts of the first snow and conversations on when exactly that might potentially happen. Maybe it’s more thoughts of the first frost but it does still involve internal discussions of whether that frost could be potentially skiable in any way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still out there with my camera, hiking and running and enjoying every leaf that changes color and swirls around as it falls to the ground. I love the tricolor forest and the contrast of leaves lining the trails and dirt roads. It’s glorious watching Mother Nature put on this amazing display of color.

But … if I am to be perfectly honest, I kind of have this thing for winter that penetrates my very soul. And when a friend in Colorado sent me a photo of their backyard covered in white … it’s like a trigger switch went off in my mind. I don’t ever want to miss playing in that first snowfall … or sliding on that first frost. If I can logically deduce that there is a 5-10% chance of snow at high elevations, the symptoms start rolling in and the anxiousness takes over my body.

Most simply, my brain kicks in and I cannot sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night, glancing around the window curtains in hopes of catching a glimpse of some snowflakes falling, even though it’s only the middle of September. I will fluff my pillow over and over again, in a vain attempt to stop the ski dreams from entering my head just long enough so that I can get some sleep.

Undoubtably, the sleep will not come and the questions will arrive instead:

How much snow will it be?

Will there be enough snow on which to ski?

Where should I go to have the best chances of the most snow?

Which skis will be the most appropriate?

Do I even know where my goggles are?

What about my ski socks?

Will I be able to get any sleep?

Will there be anyone else?

Will there be enough to make a snow angel?

Will it melt before I get up there?

Maybe I should get up earlier?

Which ascent will be the best?

Will I sleep through my alarm clock?

What if I miss the first snow?

The last questions always make me stop and laugh, because I have never slept through my alarm clock on a day with fresh snow. Instead, I’m always awake at least an hour before, checking to see if the dog is awake yet so that we can start our ascent up the mountain. But, of course, her little black nose nose would already be on the bed, her puppy dog eyes begging for me to finally make the move. She knew.

Vespi could always tell by the changing of the air. That clean, crisp air that takes over after the humidity of summer and swirls the leaves around like little tornadoes. It’s not heavy and sweaty anymore — the hiking feels like you’ve lost ten pounds even though you ate a bunch of fresh baked cookies last night because it’s finally getting cold and you felt like baking.

There’s a freedom when you don’t feel pulled to go to the water just to cool off, but instead feel free to wander for hours in the woods following game trails and looking for new chutes to ski.

You can see the canopy getting thinner, as the leaves fall from the tops of the trees and the light shines. The bed of leaves on the ground grows thicker and plumper, even as you maneuver through the acres of bright green ferns. Soon the ferns will recede and all we will hear is the crunchy bed of leaves beneath our feet — a perfect layer to protect the earth for the snow that will fall in a few weeks or months.

I had a dream a few nights ago where it all seemed so real. I had opened the curtain in the gear room to let in the early morning sunlight that was glistening off the white covered ground. I had dreamed up glitter snow. It was so real, so gorgeous. I was embraced by the peace that comes when the world is covered in that luxurious blanket of white.

But not this morning. Or any morning in September.

Just beautiful foliage and its myriad colorful leaves glistening in the sunlight.

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