It’s 2 a.m. My eyes are as wide awake as the full moon’s light that outlines the pinon and juniper forest spotting the hilly landscape before me.
It’s bright enough to see a critter of the night meander through the forest. It’s bright enough to see the distant eastern silhouette, where white ribbons of snow are draped over the crest of a 10,350 foot mountain for skiing in the Sangre de Cristo range.
Like a star twinkling in the bright night, a snowcat’s flood lights crawl along those ribbons of snow. It awakens a memory of groomed ski trails that brought me closer to nature and a mountain’s gentle caress.
My blue and white snow cruisers, slightly fat 160 centimeter Rossignols, firmly attached to boots; body warm in a puffy pink jumpsuit, gloves, goggles, and knitted wool cap (before helmets were recommended), I let the lift chair swoop me up and send me to the top of the mountain.
The gentle slope from the lift allows me to find a place without skier traffic. I take in the magnificent view below — a village nestled in the pines, to an expanse of a muted brown, deep green and mauve rural valley. A chilled wind adds pink to my face. Another swipe of chapstick protects my lips, a swig of water trickles down my throat like fuel for the ride downhill.
I push off the landing. Adrenaline pumps through me as I find my way through skiers, in search of that special place each mountain offers those who seek it. It’s not about the skiing. It’s about finding the space where the mountain allows one to connect to its majestic power.
But this is my first run of the day. I still must find my balance and control. This run is about the skiing. Back at the lift and another ride up the mountain. I take several more downhill runs on different trails. The mountain has yet to embrace me. So I stop for some hot coffee, a snack, and let my legs rest a few.
Back at the mountaintop landing, winter sun lower in the sky, I take ten deep breaths and exhale. The thin air recharges me, a body buzz spreads from my head to my booted feet. Then the charge reverses. The Earth’s breath rises to my feet and encompasses my entire pink-clad body. When I push off, it’s a gentle glide that I no longer control. I traverse. I sail through a bump or two while the mountain guides me through its breathing, its fluctuations. We have become one with each other.
It’s 6 a.m. Like a giant beach ball, the full moon floats in the west, over Los Alamos National Labs and the Jemez Mountains. Our Siamese cat insists that it’s time to rise and shine—like the moon, perhaps. (Siamese cats do have a penchant for allegory.) I stumble from the bed to the living room. From a window, those white ribbons of snow draped over the crest of the Sangre de Cristo ski area remain, but dressed in morning light.