Winter Weekend

Tucking Debul in last night, i told him i wanted to write about our wild weekend. i said i didn’t like calling him Notch. he said he did’t like it either. i said “how ’bout back to Debul?” he said “that’s what we call me anyway.”

Debul is back. you wouldn’t recognize him though…except for that he just keeps growing right into himself. on Thursday, he had his final appointment at the Orthopedic place. he needed to hear it from an authority above my rank, and with the empirical evidence of an x-ray, that his arm was healed. he was given the green light to bike and to ski without his splint. the next day we were headed over the OTHER pass for our annual day of downhill at Targhee.

Crit and Debul were in the same group. New instructor – although Crit requested either of her previous instructors. both of them made a point to search her out and check in. she belongs there. she owns the runs under the Shoshone lift. Debul never bonded as tightly with his past instructors. yet, he liked it enough to ask to do another full day. They had a fabulous day – together. being with Crit softened Debul’s experience just enough that his confidence began to gain firm ground.

after lessons were over, there were 45 minutes left of lift time. we took three Team Neidens laps. Debul was the leader for the first run. he zoomed down the first hill and shouted for me to wait at the trees when i scooted by (i was on my snowboard). he waved us down Alley-Oop Alley and slowed us down when the trail merged. we crossed over and he dropped down into the Otter Slide. it was narrow and curvey through the trees, but it had been snowing for hours so it felt like cruising on a dream. we all went our various routes from there and met back up at the lift. smiles galore.

Crit’s route was equally fun. she liked to dip into the trees for a fresh line, and then back out to the groomer. i made paths, she followed. she made paths, i followed. who knows what the boys were up to? Once we were finally able to get our act together, and our calm collected, on top of the lift for our third and final run, we practiced our turns on the wide open groomer from the top to the bottom. in perfect conditions. pushing a couple of inches of snow to the side with each turn. it felt like the kind of sublime fun it always looked like other people were having when i was learning to snowboard but couldn’t shift from the falling leaf to connecting turns. it felt like a shining moment. all four of us were standing on pipe cleaner legs wearing cheshire grins.

we feasted on pizzas with our good buddies in Jackson that evening. and then we drove to our final resting place. on the 3-mile transport between, Debul proclaimed “when we get home i’m gonna do it. i’m gonna put on my gear and go on the hill and practice my curves.” they fell asleep hard on the bed that night. and when we moved them into the closets they were nestling in later, i noted how heavy sleep is after all the work of a powder day. i fell asleep that night wishing on the stars that they each take the chance to live in a ski town for a winter. better yet – that we all do together. one downhill day a year is all we can swing for now. and we do our best to let one be enough. for now.

the next morning, the fellas took all the wee peeps on an adventure to feed the ranch animals. they saw elk and moose and got stuck in the snow. Czas and i drank coffee and caught up and stretched a little. when we gathered back together, we met Little Red Sparkle. Crit tempered herself and altered her CNS response to riding-on-the-pony that she stayed on him for an entire mile. and Debul rode him back. and i did’t care that there were another 7 fresh inches at the Village that was less than a mile away. i was the bubbly kind of happy to be chilling on a snowy road with Joe and Buff and Mungbean and Parker, and Czas and my homies, and a bike, and a pony. right there at the base of the Tetons. with no one else we could see in any direction. just the posse of us, out together in the wintery sunny cold of Wyoming. Similar swell as the day before watching my tribe “working on their curves” on the last run of the day. felt like winning.

we were batting two for two. the third day crushed it all outta the park. we had a moose-willow-mosey kind of morning. reading, snuggling, being. we each declared our thing we wanted to do at breakfast and we all went right to work. we met up in early afternoon for our adventure activity. 40 degrees. bluebird sky. the homies chose to give their new Salsa Timberjacks a whirl, DW and i were on skis. Debul found his groove quickly and we could not keep up. He was OFF! Crit was close behind.

We made it out to Big Tree. like lickity-split, easy-peasy. when we got back to the driveway, DW asked if we wanted to go home or continue with them.

Crit asked how far they were going. Debul said “to town”. I said not possible at the moment. He said “then home. to town or home.”

I suggested the “fake fire pit”. we made it to the cattle guard. it was confirmed that i will never have the chance to take a picture of them from in front ever again. they just zoom away…

we had three straight days of multi-sensory saturation out-in-the-elements. each one completely different than the others. we shared our moments with each other and with our closest buddies. it was a scrap-bookable 3-day weekend…if only i scrap booked.

and i could end the story there. cause that’s the highlights for sure. or i could take it one peel closer to the rawness of authenticity. and i could also share the experience of the chair lift on the last Team Neidens run of the day. you can’t make this stuff up, they say…

the instructor told us that they were both getting on and off the lifts by themselves. the first run we took, DW rode up with Debul and i hopped on with Crit. smooth sailing it seemed. so the next lap, i suggested we all go together. Crit was next to me, and Debul next to DW. again, seemed to be silky smooth. then, the third and final lap came.

we lined up together, four-across. this time Debul was my side kick and Crit moved over to DW’s side of the quad lift. i held out my hand to Debul, but he refused it. when the chair came around, he wasn’t with us. it got ugly. i’m talking the stuff i used to have nightmares about.

i turned back to grab him, but i am on a snowboard, and can’t quite maneuver the operation i’m trying to perform. i see the chair swipe him, and knock off his ski. i slid off as i turned to try and stay with him. the flipping lift nailed me in the back of the head and i went over the lip into the deep snow. i get Debul although i can’t quite recall the ins and outs of how, andattempt to lift him up onto the chair. except i totally failed. i was all sorts of clumsy with my feet in the powder and attached to my snowboard. then i took a superhero breath, and hoisted him up in one fell swoop. the friendliest liftie in the world came over and reattached Debul’s ski to his boot. the fella skiing with his gal behind us came up to offer me a hand onto the lift. he said “can i help you? that’s a really high jump up.” i couldn’t look at him. i just turned my back and mumbled “thanks. yeah, it seems like it is a big jump.”

i pressed my hands into the edge of the chair and hoisted myself up like effing Mary Lou Retton. i turned back to nod and say thanks. what a train wreck. back in those early days of learning to snowboard i had awful lift and t-bar nightmares play out in real life weekend after weekend. i tell you, the learning curve for me was off the charts. and then, finally, it wasn’t. it got better. i got better. everything related to the experience grew and grew and grew. and there i was, 19 years later, laughing my head off that we just made the lift line stop for like three minutes!

before i met up with the posse for our final three laps of the day, i took a solo lap on my snowboard. i rode up the Dreamcatcher lift, a high-speed quad, all by myself. i had both arms wrapped around the bars behind me so my chest lifted broadly to the cloudy snowy sky. i noticed the weight of my snowboard on my ankle, my knee, my hip. i was feeling all sorts of loose-goosey and swell. the visibility was poor when i got off at the top, and i do not know the mountain all that well. so i followed a few signs at first. and then i got lured in to the steep and the deep. it had been snowing for a few hours, and the day before reported 18 inches. there was snow galore. and it was all soft and bottomless and other-wordly.

i dropped into an untouched area and i connected turn after turn after turn until i couldn’t breath. i was completely overwhelmed with all the feels. bliss. as close to i know as what bliss feels like. i pulled myself over into to the trees and took a moment to catch my breath. my heart was bursting in every direction with gratitude for my path, my journey, my moment.

i kept that in mind as Team Neidens gathered their cool enough to take the only photo of the day on that last lift ride up – after the debacle getting on the lift. we were already over it, moved on. ready to wind our way together down the slope for our last run of the day. when we got to the top of the lift, everyone motioned for the fella to slow down the chair. and he did. it was moving like molasses. once i pushed myself away from it, i looked back and Debul was still riding happily. i reached for him again (not having learned a single thing from the episode that played out 11 minutes earlier at the bottom of the lift). this time i got all sorts of discombobulated and he was suddenly dangling over me with his skis. The lift stopped (again) and DW scooped him off. I curled into a ball as i tried to slither away. the details were uglier and more dramatic in my recollection.

we junk-showed our way clear of the lift and stopped for a breath. the couple in the chair behind us, the fella who so graciously offered his assistance, were turning blue with laughter. they shouted “We know we shouldn’t be laughing at you. But this is hilarious!” who could argue?

so there’s that. it’s not even a blemish on the weekend though. it certainly could have been chalked up and processed as a wee little trauma for Debul (or for me! i was the one with my face in the snow both times!), but it was not. all four of us were squinty-eye laughing about it as we were untangling from it. although it was an epic fail on both ends, it was actually a highlight.