FICTION: No friends on a powder day
This Red-based short story was submitted by Andrew Skillington, who visited the Mountain Kingdom for a ski vacation this winter.
It was a powder day at Red Mountain Ski Area. Thirty centimetres of the freshest, driest Kootenay powder snow had fallen overnight and the sky was just beginning to clear. Jim stood at the top of the double black Pale Face run, the soft silky powder snow under his feet. He had been dreaming of this moment for the entire season.
Jim had been watching the weather closely during the week and had seen the snow accumulating the night before. He set his powder plans into action and arrived at the base of the mountain at 8.00am. He had hiked the 30 minute slog though deep snow to the start of the top Motherload chairlift, bypassing the massive queue at the bottom Silverload chairlift.
Puffing and panting, he was ecstatic to find he was the first in line at the Motherload chairlift enabling him to catch the first chair up, be first to the top and hence get his choice of fresh powder run. With all the rushing and planning now behind him, it was just Jim and the mountain. He took a moment to compose himself and take in the beautiful Kootenay panorama. With the cold crisp air engulfing his lungs, he pushed off, floating through the dry, deep snow.
Suddenly, he heard someone shout behind him.
‘Hey, can you give me a hand?’ Jim looked back and saw a young skier fiddling around with his ski binding. ‘Do you know how to adjust this binding, I keep coming out, just hired them this morning’
Confusion hit Jim as his perfect run was abruptly interrupted. On the one hand he thought; ‘oh shit, what’s this idiot doing, he knows it’s a powder day, keep going, don’t turn back’, but on the other hand he empathised; ‘the poor bugger, he just wants a great run like I do, maybe I should stop and help’.
His hunger for the powder kicked in: surely no reasonable person would blame him for skiing off under the circumstances. It was a powder day for heaven’s sake! Who asks for help under such circumstances? Why was he even thinking about this? ‘Get going now’ he thought, ‘otherwise someone else will take my line’. He pushed off again, feeling the exhilaration of floating on the champagne powder, he nailed his first turn, but something made him swing to a stop. ‘What am I doing?’ he cursed.
He looked back, the other skier was about 50 meters above him, he side stepped up the hill, jumping through the deep snow and reached the skier within a couple of minutes, gasping for breath.
‘Thanks mate’, the young skier said, ‘do you know how to adjust these bindings? I keep coming out’. Jim looked at the bindings and could see straight away what needed to be done. He clicked out of his skis and knelt down to make the necessary adjustments.
‘There that should do it, get in and see if that works better’.
The young skier clicked his boot into the ski. Jim said; ‘Now kick the ski and try and push out’.
The other skier did as requested and the ski didn’t come off.
‘That should work for this run’ Jim added, ‘but you’d better go and get them checked out’.
‘Hey mate, thanks so much. Have a great day’. As the young skier pushed off, he called back,
‘don’t worry, I won’t take your line, I’ll head to the right.’
Jim jumped back into his skis. By a miracle, no other rider had gone past and taken his line. Jim felt even better now, he had been a good Samaritan and was still going to get his fresh powder run. Puffing hard and wet with sweat he pushed off for the third time, once again feeling the exhilaration as his skis sank into the soft snow. But as he surveyed the terrain ahead, he saw the other skier down the hill, he had fallen and his ski was a long way up above him. Jim skied over, picked up the ski and took it down
to the young skier lying in the deep snow.
‘Bloody thing came off again, shit of a thing, I’m gonna kill that rentals guy.’
Jim couldn’t believe what was happening. His magical line would soon be cut up by the hoards of riders behind him. At that moment a boarder shot by, cutting a beautiful track straight down his intended line and within twenty seconds another two whizzed by. ‘What a nightmare’ thought Jim.
‘You go’, said the young skier, ‘don’t miss the pow’.
‘I already have’ said Jim. ‘Let’s have another look at your binding–and by the way you owe me a beer!’
Jim clicked out of his ski and knelt down to take another look at the binding. He tried adjusting it again and noticed a crack across the heel piece. He alerted the other skier, ‘The binding’s stuffed. See that crack? That’s why you’ve been coming out’.
‘I’ll take the ski back to the rental if you like, but you’ll need to get your way down on one ski. Can you do that?’
The young skier hesitated. Jim continued, ‘The best way down would be to take a long traverse, heading right and you should eventually hit a cat track that will take you back to the bottom’.
‘Okay, I’ll have a go’ said the young skier. ‘Thanks for your help, I’m sorry you missed your line’.
‘By the way’ said the skier, ‘my name’s Calvin’.
‘I’m Jim, take it easy going down, there a few cliff bands that you might come across’.
Jim watched Calvin set off on his long traverse down the hill. Once he was satisfied that Calvin looked okay, Jim prepared for his own descent. Before starting down, Jim stopped and pondered why he had acted the way he had. Why had he not taken the opportunity that he had worked so hard for and surely
deserved? How had he been able to let go of his hunger for fresh powder and help some dude who he didn’t even know?
To his surprise, he had a really nice run down Pale Face, despite having to carry the extra ski. The previously laid tracks provided some contrast in the now flat light and Jim was able to get into a nice rhythm and still enjoy the fresh dry snow.
Later on when the lifts had all closed, Jim recalled the days events over an ale with his mates at the pub at the base of the mountain. He told them how he had assisted Calvin. Their response was loud and decisive: ‘you bloody idiot, haven’t you heard that you have no friends on a powder day, what were you thinking?’
They all roared with laughter.
Then a young stranger approached the table.
‘Are you Jim?’ he shouted above the noise.
Jim nodded. ‘I’m Calvin, the guy who you helped this morning.’
Jim shook his hand and shouted back, ‘Make it a Kootenay Pale Ale and come over and
join us, my mates might give you a bit of flack, though’.
‘I can do better than that. Come over out of the noise for a second.’
Jim followed curiously. When they were out of the pub, Calvin spoke. ‘I’m from out of town, came down to do a days cat skiing, all paid for, the big days tomorrow, but you would never believe what’s happened. My work called up a few hours ago to say they have big problems and that I have to be back by tomorrow midday. They said that they’d pay for another cat skiing day, so must be pretty important. Since you helped me today, I’d like you to fill in for me tomorrow.’
Jim couldn’t believe his ears. ‘What, are you sure? You don’t need to do this–a beer
will be fine.’
‘I want you to have it’ said Calvin, ‘one good deed deserves another.’
Jim looked at the ticket in amazement. Tomorrow he would ski fresh lines all day without having to do any hiking, rushing or planning. Cat skiing was something that he had only dreamed about. He thought about the saying; ‘no friends on a powder day.’
‘Hm’ he pondered, and went back into the pub to tell his mates about what had just happened.