The art of skiing in the rain

I spent most of the week refreshing and’s forecasts for Mercersburg, Penn., the closest town to Whitetail, hoping for cold temps and clear skies for my ski-patrol ski-and-toboggan (S&T) training on Thursday night. Instead, it was as if my clicking on “refresh” actually caused the forecasts to worsen, from 80 percent chance of rain to 90 percent to 100 percent, and from .5 inch of accumulation to 1.5 inches.

On the ride up, as rain pounded on the windshield, I pouted and cringed and sighed, and generally approached the evening ahead with the excitement of someone in the middle of the Bataan Death March. I pouted more as I suited up, and kept pouting until I stepped out the door of the patrol’s boot room into the eerily warm, misty, foggy night.

What happened next: I remembered that the things we dread most are often the most fulfilling, and the most fun; that those dreaded things are rarely as bad as we imagine they’ll be; that it’s unfair to judge a training session of any sort before it’s even started. The snow was soft without being mushy, the kind of “hero snow” that makes good skiers look like great ones, and makes even the trickiest drills seem somewhat do-able. The mountain was all but empty, leaving myself, two other candidates and two S&T instructors wide-open slopes to work on. And the mist lent the whole mountain an air of fantasy and possibility, like we could accomplish things in the foggy darkness that we couldn’t in the daylight.

For the first time last night, I felt the beautiful sensation of being able to meld all the tweaks and changes and lessons of the past few weeks into one fluid run. I’m not sure what the conditions will be like during my next training session tomorrow, or whether I’ll feel quite as composed and relaxed when I hit the slopes with the whole class. I do know that a soaking-wet parka is a small price to pay for a ski night like that.


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