By Mike Mannelin Explorebigsky.com contributor

The snow cloud settles on our gear pile as the helicopter disappears out of sight. The rotor chop fades over the next ridge, leaving us in silence on top of the mountain. Snow-covered peaks surround us. Every breath up here is sacred.

I click into my skis, tighten my pack straps, and slide sideways for a second before pointing my skis toward the entrance. Then the earth falls away into an unknown specter of white. The face of the mountain is in full view below me. It’s hard to tell the difference between humility and masked fear. Perhaps they exist together.

The first turn sends dry, grainy, surface hoar powder into my face. With all my being, I release myself to gravity. This is where I find myself. The consequences of letting go of my edges are nonexistent. The run-out negates any sense of a need for grasp or tight grip on life. There is no hint of confinement. My skis are enablers.

I think about oxygen. I think about freedom. I think about why I’m here. Why me? How? It doesn’t make sense at this moment. The human brain is too complex – or maybe it’s just too simple.

Gathering all the energy of my freefall, I turn my skis sideways and push against a cloud. The feeling under my feet couldn’t possibly be replicated by anything else in life. There is a perfect balance that comes from pure energy transfer, from deep within the soul, back to the universe. It leaves me charged and full of wonder.

Finally, I come to rest in the valley. The faces of my friends around me share a knowing smile. They, too, have undergone transformations. We burst out laughing.

This is life. We belong to something so precious, and at the same time, so heavy. It’s a great responsibility, and we must take this feeling into the rest of our lives. We can try to share it, but only indirectly, through positive vibrations and genuine smiles.

We are skiers.

__________

Describe your perfect ski

This essay was
adapted from an email
Mike Mannelin wrote
to custom ski builder
Pete Wagner.

“I was imagining what
the perfect ski would
be like on my feet; and then I dropped in,”
Mannelin says.

Based in Telluride, Colorado, Wagner
Custom Skis are made to order, one pair at a
time, using ultra high-quality materials in a
shop powered entirely by wind and solar.

Wagner’s process starts with mapping your
personal skier DNA. Sound scientific? It is.
Precisely matching your body metrics with
your ski style, desired use and performance
needs, allows him to truly customize a ski
that fits your personality on the slopes.

For Mannelin, the follow up phone call with
Wagner was a thrill in itself.

“I [spent] an hour and a half on the phone
with another skier, talking about skiing
powder. We came up with a perfect design
for my skis, adding a little width here, a little
rocker there, and bomb proofing the construction.
He sent me an email with a drawing
of the shape and a description, saying
the boys in the shop were ‘stoked to build
this ski’.” Get custom – wagnerskis.com

– Megan Paulson