By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
The aging athlete inside of me is locked in an ongoing internal debate that consists of my old-self slowing down and doing battle with my young-self who constantly says, “You got this!”
If you have ever asked a friend, “How old are you in your mind?” you know what I’m talking about. Which leads me to one of my favorite Warren Miller quotes, “If you are over 40 and think you are skiing better than you were at 20, you weren’t very good at twenty.”
The other day this debate played out in real-time as I skied through an open gate and stood on top of a chute, full of powder, there was a choke point in the middle that would require a few quick turns and then it opened to a powder field with some trees and eventually down to the cat track waiting below.
It was midday, and I was feeling good, still brushing off the rust from the off season, but overall confident and full of anticipation of a new year. Looking right down the gut of the gully, I pointed it down the fall line, gathering speed I made my first left turn in the deep new snow and my young-self smiled.
As I entered the transition for the next turn, I felt free in time and space. Arcing the right turn, the internal debate started instantly, “careful, the snow is a bit punchy,” my old-self mumbled. And as I exited that turn and once again floated through the transition and landed in a sweet lefty my younger self said, “punch it man, you’re alone on this mountainside, let it rip.” Full of energy I darted back across the fall line and entered the right hand turn only to meet face to face with a bit of doubt in my mind, “just a few more turns above the choke point, its narrow, play it safe,” said my old-self. Shaking any doubt I doubled down on the acceleration of my next left turn, it felt so sweet, my younger-self was celebrating, “still got it dude,” echoed in my mind.
Wanting the internal chatter to chill a bit, I lingered in the transition soaking up the freedom found and entered the right turn out of balance with my inside hand back a bit. My old-self picked up on this, “might want to downshift a bro” it screamed, “you are above the narrow section.” Recommitting to the fall line I hit the decelerator a bit on the left turn and timed the next three turns through the crux of the chute. A quick righty into a skidding left turn through the sluff back to a long arcing righty and out into the open powder in the field dotted with trees.
My next left turn made me feel like I was 25 years old again with snow flying, my hands punched forward I exploded into the transition laughing, with a bit more speed than normal, my old self was tense as I landed half way through the turn and I broke at the waist feeling that nagging lower back ping, searching for some relief I carried the turn across the hill and then dove back downhill for a left turn clipping some branches like a race gate. My younger-self applauding, “you are crushing it man,” echoed in my mind.
The trees were coming faster now, the slope was still steep and the snow down low was actually a bit hollow, with my head on a swivel I was looking to bail out as I jumped into an open space for a right turn, feeling my back twinge and hamstrings tighten I started to pull up to slow down, then my younger self piped up, “you are not at the bottom yet, freshies ahead,” heeding the call I pointed my tips back in the fall line and felt like a million bucks carving a long left turn around a clump of trees.
I was breathing a bit heavy as I exited the turn and saw what looked to be a large lump under the snow, “take it easy here, my old-self cautioned, it a long season what are you nuts?” and I pre jumped the lump landed unsteady and bobbled the right turn. Looking to regain balance I threw my arms, shoulders and upper body down the fall line and landed in a left turn that just felt so right my young-self let out an “oh ya.”
Finding the groomed cat track below my old self felt relieved when my younger self said, “don’t look back,” and I dropped into a tuck and raced to the chair for another lap. Out loud I was laughing and saying, “old and new in ‘22 is the best you can do for the year ahead!”
Extreme Skiing Pioneer, Dan Egan coaches and teaches at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His 2022 steeps camps at Big Sky Resort run Feb. 24-26, March 10-12 and March 17-19. His newest book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze” was released in March 2021 and is available at www.White-Haze.com.