By Merisa Sherman
I get off the lift and look to the left. It’s there.
A bright beacon for all to see marking the new summit of Skye Peak: the Superstar Glacier. You can’t see around the mound anymore, almost getting a crick in your neck as you look upward. There are people on the side of the mound, slowly skating around to the backside so they can access the trail itself. The usual cut across on the left has been roped off, which means there will be no slices cut across the trail side of the mound this year. I smile to myself and skate hard to the mound, hoping to get some momentum for the climb.
As I start to herringbone, I feel my upper body getting pulled backward — the mound is so steep this year that I quickly switch to a side step.
No one wants to slide backwards off the mound in front of the quads of people riding the Superstar lift. I chuckle at the thought and lead with my weak right leg up the mound, convincing myself that these 40 steps will be the difference in strength over the long run. For some reason, I keep my head down as I ascend, perhaps waiting for that moment when I reach the new Skye Summit and finally look out over the lift terminal and out across the mountain range.
My breathing slows as I just stand at the top and look outward in all directions. A 360-degree view of the Green Mountains surrounds me. The wind circles me, blocking out the sounds of skiers and riders below and for a few moments I am simply alone except for my memories and dreams. I remember standing here with my now-passed-on golden retriever, as she would roll in the snow, grateful for an end to our buggy hikes up in the spring. I see my dad, lying on his hospital bed, explaining why Superstar was always his favorite trail. In front of me is the cluster of people climbing down through the mud to access the skiing on June 1st and then the fireworks of the last chair celebration. The noise from the World Cup crowd slowly climbs the mound and then all I can feel is the snow beneath my feet and I know I am ready.
It’s warm today and from up here, I can see the groomer lines in the middle section are perfectly aligned and I have faith that the roped off headwall is as well because I can’t see over the lip.
My right hip locks in as I take my first skate toward the roll over and my breathe catches in my chest. My skis come together and I roll onto my left edges to bring me into that all important first turn, lifting the balls of my feet and compressing into my spring soft boots.
The snow feels soft and thick and wonderful as my skis easily sink into it and I slice across the headwall. Leading with my ankles, my hip follows their descent down the headwall and I juice my tails just enough to finish the transition in the air before landing again to suck my legs underneath me and finish the next turn. I lick my lips and the fire comes into my eyes.
It’s hero snow. And the retired ski racer buried deep inside of me won’t take no for an answer. My breathing grows heavier, timed to my turns as I charge playfully down the mountain, skis swinging out, launching into the next turn.
I surrender my mind to the trail and the mountain and the turn, praying that I’m strong enough for quite a few top-to-bottom laps of the sexiest skiing I know. I see myself from the chairlift and I know now that I have surrendered to gravity and the moment, almost closing my eyes to it all because nothing matters but my skis and the way they move through the snow. The mechanism is clear and I am stripped of everything I am but the turn.
All because there is hero snow on Superstar. Ski you next time, my old friend.