Raffaele Cusini in Costaccia Livigno. PHOTO: Oskar Enander
Raffaele Cusini in Costaccia Livigno. PHOTO: Oskar Enander

And Now There Is No Turning Back

Essays that capture why we ski, part four

These six essays originally appeared as the intros to the six issues of our 45th volume. Our first issue of volume 46 prints soon. To receive future intros in their original print, sign up here.

PHOTO: Oskar Enander

IV: In Deep

I was a mess on the flight home—always have been. My hair was unbelievably greasy. A patchwork of pubescent facial hair had spread across my face. I was not wearing underwear. My shirt smelled like stale beer. Like me, my shoes were frayed. You can tell a lot about someone by their shoes. An Italian man sat next to me. His boots cost more than I make in a month. I am not proud of this.

The airplane landed in a whiteout. I turned on my phone. In came a barrage of texts. The skiing was, as they say, ON.

It had been a blur since. I don't know how many days and it doesn't really matter; it's difficult to discern one from another when they are, for all intents and purposes, completely identical. There was the day we got up super early to get first chair. The day we went for a long tour. The day patrol finally opened all the gates. The day we skied in jeans. Every day started by putting ski boots on and ended by realizing I was kind of drunk again.

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The routine took over: ski all day, après, post-après, eat something greasy, wake up feeling exhausted, tell myself it will be a rest day, that I'll eat a salad. Coffee. Boots. Get sucked right back into it.

I recognized that various things in my life—both tangible and not—were broken. I dismissed the pile of dishes, laundry, bills, emails. They weren't going anywhere. I knew reality would catch up with me at some point, that it would hurt, but the mountains had snow and I decided to let go and let winter take over. I could figure out the rest when the snow melted.

It was pure indulgence. After another day on the hill, I found myself in my brother's kitchen with friends, drinking a cocktail while making a dinner that included five varieties of cheese. It had been a good day, just like all the rest. I thought about our older sister. She's a high school principal, living in the city with two small children. We existed in different worlds. She takes care of people; I can barely take care of myself. Goddamn right my life was selfish. And damn fun.

Earlier, I skied a tight, half-mile-long couloir. I eased into it, careful of the fresh snow in the narrow entrance. My confidence grew, as did the size of my turns, the deeper into it I went. I emerged flying beyond the rock walls, ululating like some kind of hedonistic warrior. It felt primal. When I came to a stop, my body shook with the adrenaline and ecstasy of skiing a near-vertical mountainside coated with powder. It was life on the fringe, and I wanted more.

Back in the kitchen, I noticed it was snowing again. I started to wonder if I should just give in and let skiing completely take over my life. Could I even go back to a normal life? Did I want to? I questioned whether actual jobs, things like career advancement, marriage, kids, were even a viable possibility. Maybe it was too late. I couldn't remember the last day I didn't ski, the last day I didn't go to bed spinning.

I woke up late the next morning. I was exhausted. My body ached. I could see my breath in the cold, empty house. I thought about taking the day off, catching up on things. I drank some lukewarm coffee. God I love coffee. I got a text from a friend, "Where are you?!" I stared at my phone for a minute, looked outside. Then I grabbed my skis, walked to the highway, put my thumb out, and did it all over again.

Read Part I: Welcome Back
Read Part II: Here We Go
Read Part III: Just Go
Read Part IV: In Deep
Read Part V: Our Own Sense of Time
Read Part VI: The Good Life

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