After all these years of skiing the trees, I just figured out why I love them so much. Yeah, duh, deep snow. No, that’s not it at all. It’s something else, something more philosophical: It’s that nobody shreds the trees. Nobody has their way with them. Nobody imposes their will upon them or exits the woods feeling like they just stomped it. No, if you thread some perfectly aesthetic stitch-curve of a line with speed and power and grace, you pop out of the forest with a sense not of having taken something, but of having been given.
Trees teach humility. They make us smaller, and that’s a good thing.
You don’t want to hit one, of course. Even being raked by a branch has its penalties. And tree wells, we all know about tree wells. One minute you’re glory deep, the next you’ve just…suffocated. Jeez.
But those are all top-of-consciousness considerations — hazards that demand respect. With trees, there’s something else that softens our egos, something the plucks at us deeper than in our evaluative, calculating minds.
It’s reverence. Reverence for being amongst these incredible living things, reverence for their cathedral-like atmosphere, for the way light dims and casts a gentler mood. And reverence, maybe most of all, for the quiet.
Trees are hushed. Snow is already a great insulator of sound, but the trees are like an aural windbreak, further catching the whispers and rustles of a breeze or a passing skier or snow falling off a bough. It’s the silence of the limbs — every few feet, another acoustic fence slat.
In this soft stillness, we can’t help but become still, too. Inner turmoils quell, outer fidgeting ceases. We look around. We look up. We look ahead. And when we ski, all this quiescence fills our skiing, too, settling us down, centering us, and enabled the kind of intuitive awareness and oneness that we need to slip through, unhindered, whole, and joyful.
Photo: Dave Treadway at Monashee Powder Snowcats, British Columbia, by Jordan Manley.