Column, Living the Dream

Superstar, a skier’s pilgrimage

By Merisa Sherman

In Japan, citizens of all kinds take pilgrimages to bless aspects of their lives. Business will travel to remote temples to have a monk bless their financial futures; old women will come, panting with each step, so they may have a blessing for their grandchildren; and the young come without knowledge, looking for guidance for their futures. It is a hodgepodge of individuals come for their yearly benediction or the trip of a lifetime.

But there are more dedicated souls, individuals who seem to have the way of the place. They move smoother, more gracefully through the busy crowd. They know which stalls in the market to bend around. You can feel the outdoor market moving, as if it jingles constantly, filled with yummy street treats and souvenirs talismans. Fabric flows in the breeze, like flags marking their street carts.

By Merisa Sherman
The Superstar trail at Killington is notorious for being the last place to ski in the east.

And yet these individuals are so smooth, so stunningly unique in their movements that you cannot wonder at the beauty of their difference. They seem to be pouring through the crowd like the silver goo of the Terminator. I have a poster of river rocks in a flowing river that has hung in my room since boarding school. They flow like that water. Constant, beautiful, and sometimes crashing hard with a big splash.

That’s the constant, in one large group of people all in town for their pilgrimage of celebration. Not a single one of them is truly paying attention to what is happening around them. Their thoughts are filled with the challenges of the future far beyond and caught in memories of time gone by. Your mind can only handle so much, and the crowd begins to fade away, their once clear figures become only shadows over your shoulder. And so you look at your feet and crash into the thing just out of vision.

And the cacophony of colors makes the watchers happy and now the market shakes with their laughter. The combination of all this joy atop the dreams changes a person on the inside. Why are you here if not to celebrate the happiness a single moment of time can give you? Maybe we have to laugh at ourselves, and maybe not take our pilgrimage so seriously? But how, with all these big dreams overwhelming our purpose, can we take a breath and simply enjoy the moment?

You can if you are sitting in the parking lot on Superstar, your legs simply exhausted from the three (maybe two, eh, it was really one) runs that you just took. Your legs were shaking halfway down that last run — it’s definitely been a day — and now it’s time to make that long walk across the parking lot and find that precious chair. You know, the one that has taken quite a few trials to find the one that fits perfectly in your car. With the perfect angle and … who are we kidding? After a couple runs on Superstar, we would sit on anything.

We do this thing, every spring. We come from all over the east coast to revel in the glory that is Superstar, each with our own bright colors and unique stories to tell. Together, we create this great story of the ski world all intertwined in a stunning quilt with ribbons and knots and bows.  Think of the amazing and completely wacky individuals that gather to celebrate this great thing we have. To breathe in this absolutely weird experience and, more importantly, to breathe life back into the thing itself.

Because the thing grows and shrinks as the people themselves. New skiers come and old skiers spend more time at the umbrella bar than they do on the hill. And that’s beautiful, how you can visibly see skiing breathing as each day brings fresh dreams and fresh legs. After a few runs and a few more beers, the slate is wiped completely clean, the days artwork erased by the hard working groomers. Each day, each spring, each year is so different, and yet the structure of the dream remains the same. A big S, winding it’s way down the mountain, whether piped with moguls and shaven smooth.

But we know it’s dying. We can see the damage each time we take the journey. There is less snow than there was the day before. And we know that this is the moment. This day, with the wonderful characters that make up our little community, today is the thing. I can close my eyes and a week from now, a month from now I can imagine flowing through those moguls like water, getting caught every now and then behind a rock or a mogul, but still flowing downhill. Still caught up in the movement that is Superstar. Each turn, each rotation of the femur, each end of turn compression seems to flow through my body and I am connected, truly, with the soft spring snow around me. I have been on my pilgrimage and I have been blessed.

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