I woke up this morning in much the same way that I have for many mornings since moving to Utah.  Dark outside, cold and crisp weather.  Everyday morning thus far has been filled with classroom fluorescent lights and furious note taking.  Endless hours of library silence and academic frustration have dominated my life throughout the fall.  That ended this morning.

I stood on top of the cirque at Snowbird, UT around 9:40am.  For weeks now I have been hearing how great the skiing has been and “when are you done with school?”.  I stood there while the snow whipped circles around me, alone and intimidated before the first real run of the year.  Not excited.  Intimidated.  Confused.  Scared.

img_1536I was suddenly very aware of my own body – the untested ACL in my left knee, and the itch on my right ribs where the word ‘Nicoletta’ had been tattooed last week.  I looked down at my ski boots – the same boots as last season.  But was I the same skier wearing them?  I knew they were the same boots from bottomless days at Alta.  The same boots from frozen toes and beards in Sun Valley.  The same boots from Granite Canyon in Jackson.  The same boots from a season full of memories.  The same boots that I put away in April not knowing whether they would ever be brought back out.  I took these boots off in Girdwood, AK as the sun set on a beautiful day.  I wore these boots as I watched my friend John Nicoletta die way before his time.  I wore these boots as I hiked with many others to say goodbye to him on a perfect blue morning.  I looked down at these boots, and knew they were the same.  I wasn’t.  I’m not the same.  I will never be the same.

I was paralyzed atop the cirque, my head suddenly  filling with doubt and grief.  For an instant I forgot how to ski.  I had no idea where to start or how to even move.  I could feel the deluge of negativity beginning to breach the walls of my head.  Just when I was about to give in,  I felt the wind pick up as it had that beautiful morning in Alaska.  I felt John stand there with me.  I felt his smile, I felt his heart.  I felt that which I havn’t in so long.  A quick kick and a gravity-fed lurch, and those doubts disappeared with every passing flake of champagne powder.  The push I got was from John.

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There is nothing quite like perfect powder.  The feeling that you are playing with the snow rather than fighting it is one of the most fulfilling and exhilarating feelings in sport.  While I know that the bouncing sensation is simply gravity and technology mixed with endorphins, this was different.  Today felt as if I were skiing for two.

I can’t ask for a better way to drop in to the 2008-2009 season.  I love you all and I can’t wait to see you, wherever you are….

ANDY

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