Photos and story by Mary-Colleen Jenkins
Mt. Bachelor, Ore.
Photo at right: Sun streams over Mt. Bachelor, a huge contrast from the previous day’s storms.
“You are skiing downhill,” I told myself as the wind pounded and I strained to see any definition in the snow I was skiing. “It feels like you’re going uphill, but you’re not.”
The storm blanketing Mt. Bachelor had cut visibility down to my own skis and the fuzzy blobs that were the skiers within a few yards of me. The slope and the sky were the same white; gravity didn’t seem to work the way it was supposed to; the driving snow made me slightly seasick.
I paused to see if I could find my group.
Clumped in various positions along the slope — or, for all I could tell, floating in midair — I could make out the forms of my family and our friends. All morning we had rolled apart and back together again, like marbles in a box lid being tilted from side to side.
No one talked much when we did gather — only a few comments about where we were headed, what lift to aim for, then off again, marbles tilted downhill.
On the lifts we buried our faces in our gloves to cut the icy wind and settled in for a ride into the higher reaches of the storm.
We kept at it all day and, strangely, had fun doing it. We’d traveled over seven hours to be at Mt. Bachelor; we’d invested in lift tickets; we knew that the storm was supposed to be on its last legs and that the weather would clear the next day. This storm was a challenge and we were going to see it through.
Everyone had tales to tell that night. One friend told of standing still on his skis and getting so discombobulated that he just fell over. He had suddenly been unable to tell which way was up. Another said that at one point he looked back and realized that a line of skiers was using him as a landmark and following him down a run.
It was a day to trust the feet and not the eyes.
My heart sank when we arrived at the vast parking lot the next day and the wind was just as strong as it had been the day before. It drove snow into our boots as we tried to put them on, froze our fingers as we zipped our jackets, blurred our eyes with tears before we could adjust our goggles.
“I thought it was supposed to be sunny!” said one of the kids.
“It’s still early,” I said, hoping.
Carrying our skis, we clumped our way past the ticket booth and rental shop and up the ramp to the lift. It was only while standing in the lift line that we could see that things were going to be different if we were patient for just a little while longer. The light was different. The center of the first run was gilded in blue light angling through the clouds. The sun shone, perfectly round, behind the gauzy clouds, like a bare light bulb dangling behind a white sheet.
Unlike the previous day, we could see the lift shack at the top of the mountain, skiers coming down the slope towards the lift line, a series of huge jumps directly in front of us that we hadn’t seen when we were standing in that very place the day before.
Mt. Bachelor completely transformed itself in the space of a few hours. We had skied a mountain in disguise the day before — the mask was off and it was glorious.
The runs felt the same underfoot, but were visually unrecognizable at first. I’d had no idea that we were surrounded by incredible trees sculpted into fantastic shapes by wind and inches of rime ice and impacted snow. I was awestruck by how far we could see from the top; on the southern side of the mountain we could see California. On the northern side we could see the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and Mt. Hood. From every angle, we could see cinder cones once scattered across the landscape by the ancient volcano we stood on.
I often write about blue bird days — how there is nothing like being in the mountains surrounded by pristine snow and crystalline skies — but I have never seen light and reflection and sky like I did at Bachelor.
I’m not sure what it was. Air currents? The conical shape of the volcanic mountain causing the sun to reflect off the snow in a different way? The rime ice that coated the trees at the top, turning them into Seuss-like shapes?
Whatever magic the sun and the mountain and the freshly scoured air brought together, it was breathtaking.
And I can’t wait to go back.
Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach, and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads
Catch up with all the previous posts of “Tales from the Lift Line” below.
>> I. Waiting for Winter
>> II. Dorothy and Oz
>> IV. Vittels
>> VI. Olympians
>> VII. Emergence
>> VIII. Nickels and Dimes
>> IX. Nickels and Dimes Part II
>> X. Letting Them Run
>> I. The Beginning
>> II. When Seeing is Believing
>> III. Expeditionary Forces
>> IV. Velocity
>> V. Pack Rat
>> VI. Dude
>> VII. Expectations
>> VIII. Don’t Cry in the Trees
>> IX. The Sounds of Silence
>> X. Known/Unknown