“Yup, this was the first place you were ever on skis…6 months old and nestled into my pack as I skinned under Shoshone; at least until the state of Wyoming told us it was illegal to ski with a child in your backpack,” my dad told me as we drank a beer and looked up at the mountain.
Walking down the concrete steps to the parking lot for the last time this weekend, I pulled my goggles down over my eyes and yanked my buff up to meet them. The tears had finally won and I was walking away not only from Targhee and all that mountain has to offer, but all the wonderful people that make up our telemark family. This year instead of feeling like the new kid to the big mountain world, I rolled into the parking lot and immediately found Loren and Bevan, both stoked to ski and be back in the Ghee.
Grand Targhee is where it all started for me. I learned to ski at age two on the magic carpet down by Shoshone. My first solo lift ride was up Shoshone. The first center pole I ever had to deal with was on Blackfoot. The first place I ever thought I was going to die from too much snow was over on Sacagawea as I watched other people fall over and fail to stand back up without the help of ski patrol or a passerby. I still have a fear of ladybugs because of the biting ones found at the top of Dreamcatcher in the summers. When I walk up the steps to the Trap Bar, I can point to the different posters from the years of Targhee Bluegrass we attended. And inside, stickers of “We heart Slim” and “Locals luv Slim” stuck high on the wood beams remind me of the days I would bring him a cookie every morning as we loaded our first chair.
Many things have changed in my life but many are exactly the same. Thursday after skiing we were sitting on the deck of the Trap, and as we talked about Japan, skiing, and the fact that US Telemark Nationals were being held at the same time as the Freeheel Life Cup, I looked at new and familiar faces from Sweden, Australia, Utah, California, Idaho and Wyoming and realized something. “You know what?” I declared to the group, “Without telemark racing, I wouldn’t be sitting right here right now drinking a beer with all of you.” That moment made me appreciate all the years I spent racing, and I never take them for granted, yet leading up to this weekend I had this mentality of “us and them,” as in the racers and the big mountain competitors. Thursday the racers had two classic races in one day, so I was able to watch a few runs and even got to ski a couple laps with National team members Henry Barth of Glenwood Springs and Sam Garber of Boston.
Thursday night I went over to the Freeheel Life house for one of the more hilarious yoga sessions I have ever led. Troy, Ty, Alex, Sam, Taylor, Sven and Bevan squished onto the floor of the third level of the condo and we did a lot of gentle seated poses. Between poses they would reach for their beers and take a swig. Judging by the cracking and popping and releases of breath, I’m pretty sure everyone ended up feeling better after the long ski day.
Friday morning I opened my eyes to the first bits of sunlight peaking over the mountains of Targhee and Dad had already prepped the coffee. By 7:10 I was on the road, Grandpa Ken’s house is about a 35 minute drive from the mountain, and before I knew it we were loading up the cat and hiking up to inspection. For our qualifying runs we didn’t get a cat ride but the hikes up to the venue were hilarious and run 2 felt like spring break. We’re smelly tele skiers anyways so really what’s more sweat going to do? My second run I dropped into the upper venue because I was looking to ski something new. The only problem was I had no idea what I was skiing towards, so I soon found myself back in the gully that I had skied in the morning and for both of my runs last year. I told myself that if I made it to finals I wouldn’t ski the same line as last year (the finals venue is just above qualifiers). After taking a few runs with Cedar, also of the US Team, and his mom Stephanie Mattole, 5 o’clock finally rolled around and I had qualified in third! I congratulated the rest of the ladies and headed outside where I saw Maura in the most fabulous onesie. I made Cory take our photo and then she had an idea. “Want to compete in this tomorrow?” she asked me, and of course I said yes. She stripped down to her long underwear right there and handed it over, and then I promptly stripped down to mine and tried it on for size. After I had thrown it in the car I headed up to the Trap to listen to my favorite Kalispell band, Moonshine Mountain, play the last few songs of their set. Cedar’s dad Rio is in the band so Stephanie, Maria and I boogied around the tables and giggled a lot.
Saturday morning (aka World Telemark Day) I found myself jamming to Shania Twain, pumping myself up for the day. After a long wait to get on the cat for inspection, I was finally dropping into the venue and realized I had no idea what the bottom looked like. There’s a big drop off and where you’re at the top it’s kind of like sooo…are those all cliffs and how do I get down? So I went way to the left and realized that’s not at all where I wanted to ski, there were no places for little airs, just trees and relatively easy skiing. I stood just below the cliff band for a while deciding where to actually ski and decided the middle was my best option. But after a 3ish hour wait to actually ski my run, I got into the venue and ended up just left of where I wanted to be, missing my air but managing a slightly more technical line. I pulled off the smallest of spread eagles off the jump at the bottom of the venue and laughed to myself because I kept remembering how ridiculous I looked in that onesie. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the men’s runs, which were impressive to say the least, and then skiing around with a big tele posse. Awards were combined with Nationals’ awards, so the base area was filled with cheers for both competitions. They began to announce the adult women podium, and they called my name in second place. To which I was surprised but very stoked and cheeks, really, they still hurt from all the smiling I did this weekend. I generally think podium pictures of myself are awkward but these ones–my smile is so big it just makes me happy.
Awards were followed by more time spent listening to music at the Trap, dancing in gortex, getting far too sweaty and then I ended up in a rocking chair with the softest blanket draped across my lap by 8pm, back at the Freeheel Life house and making fun of half the guys’ tinder profiles. Disclaimer: I’ve used Tinder too, not tryna be a shithead. Ok, maybe a lil’ bit.
Sunday Dreamcatcher was on wind hold all day but Cory, my dad and I ripped a few Sac laps and were joined by Durango native Elliot Mink, the men’s third place finisher of the weekend. Then we met up with Peter of the National Team, Taylor, birthday boy Sven, Erik, former birthday boy Andreas, and even former birthday boy Bevan for a few runs on Blackfoot. Yes, this weekend was filled with birthdays. Around noon the remaining tele skiers from the weekend met at the bottom of Blackfoot and then we skied the entire Hollywood run in one huge mob, hooting and hollering and generally loving the fact we were all together at last. After mobbing over to the park on the next run, my dad decided it was time for him to head back to Colorado and I fought back tears as we said goodbye for who knows how long. My sadness was quickly transformed as Taylor and Erik declared we should take another lap on Sac. The first run we took over there I quickly made a fool of myself by launching off a little drop and hip-checking on the landing. I wanted to be done skiing after that, but Bevan said I had to take another lap to redeem myself. So we did. And then I ate the best quesadillas while Taylor munched poutine; again at the Trap. The time for the mass migration was upon us. I said goodbye to everyone in the bar and headed out to the 22 Designs tent to say goodbye to Troy and Chris. I hugged Troy, this time not knowing when I’d be seeing him again, and the tears were too close to spilling out. Next it was Taylor, and I couldn’t hold them back anymore; my eyes quickly turned into a watery mess so I bolted for my skis and the parking lot. The cool thing about this weekend though is that while I am so sad to say goodbye, these humans are so wonderful that it makes saying goodbye that much harder. And that shows me how much I really have found my people. Even though we all live so far away and see each other a handful of times throughout the season, we are always with each other in spirit and every time we go skiing. We are all connected by this sport that we love so much.
And finally, a self reflection. This weekend I lived fully in the present moment. Generally I have problems with this. This weekend, I not once thought about anything else besides what I was doing in that moment. I didn’t think about Bozeman. About Japan (besides telling stories to others). About Steamboat. About what was happening at World Junior Championships in Rjukan, Norway. Sure, all these things came up in conversation, but I didn’t experience any fomo (fear of missing out). I didn’t feel like I needed to be anywhere else. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I loved where I was and I loved the people I was with. So THANK YOU telemark family. Thank you for being the best people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Of skiing with. Of living life with. Of falling on my face with. You all are amazing humans who have touched my heart and made me a better person. I LOVE YOU.
**Special thanks to Josh Madsen, Nate Greenburg, J.T. Robinson, Grand Targhee Ski Patrol, 22 Designs, Coalition Snow, HiLine Designs, USTSA, and everyone else who made this weekend possible!