The king of the mountain — I slide off the chairlift, carving to a stop at the top. It was dusk and the wind at 8,000 ft had awakened, angry and groggy from its daytime slumber. I regretted the decision to do one more run.
All day conditions were calm and sunny. But on this chairlift up, with my snowboard dangling from my foot a gust of wind slammed into my board and twisted my foot. One hundred and twenty five feet above ground, my body slid an inch across the cushion and I gripped the metal bar tightly. I was sure I was about to die. Continually the wind twisted and cranked on my ankle.
At the top I latched my snowboard binding on, stood, and jumped onto the downslope. The wind gushed holding me in place, neutralizing gravity. Ahead of me down the wide, groomed trail visibility was low. Without making progress downhill, I ducked into the trees, off the main path.
I made my own path down the mountain, weaving between tall evergreens. A minute later, I rode into my first powder snow of the day. No one else had been here. The front of my board, without much speed, hit the powder and plunged, flinging me head over heels. Two feet deep of snow.
After digging out, I kept descending until the trees opened up and I glided back onto the groomed path, the runway to basecamp.
At the bottom, I looked back and smiled. The mountain encouraged me to create my own path without worrying about how to get home.
I had become a friend of the mountain.