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WRITING

Words I put in order. Check out this page for links to more of my writing

Small People on Bikes

Cy Whitling

 Show me your mountain biker faces!

Show me your mountain biker faces!

She’d had never gone mountain biking on a real mountain before. Both she and her older sister were very adamant about it. The tires of her tiny-yet-somehow-still-too-big bike had never touched real mountain dirt before. But she’d helped split wood the day before, so her arms were feeling super strong. A nearly month-long drought had finally broken the night before and the trails were in perfect condition, you could smell the moist earth from the parking lot. And now, eight weeks into Sprockids, she was about to go real mountain biking. On a real mountain, with cool views of other real mountains to look at. She was a little excited, I was a lot more excited.

Eight weeks ago we’d had our first meeting. Fortyish kids, and not enough adults running wild at the Victor Bike Park. We’d started off with maybe too much energy. Nobody wanted to listen to anyone, the older boys just wanted to go hit dirt jumps, and the younger kids just wanted to avoid making eye contact or having to talk to anyone. That first week is a blur, I remember making a lot of animal noises, making some kids do a lot of pushups, trying to figure out who the troublemakers were, who I could trust, who actually had to go to the bathroom and who just wanted to slow the group down.

I left that first practice excited, exhausted, and hoarse. I wasn’t sure I was actually a mountain bike coach, or a program leader, or whatever I was pretending to be. I was just a hairy guy with no kids, and little experience with kids, yelling at a pack of yahoos in the park. The summer before I’d helped coach two weeks of mountain bike camp, and I’d fallen in love with it. It was the highlight of my summer, and I’d resolved to coach more the next year, even though I wasn’t quite sure how to do it yet. Then, in one of the most serendipitous weeks of my life, I walked home from my last day at my real, fancy, adult job, and the next day, walked into the MBT office to ask if they wanted any help from a lanky guy who liked riding bikes with kids.

From there, everything moved quickly. We met with parents, came up with a rough gameplan, and then I flew to California to learn how to coach kids with a bunch of other people. I came home excited and frustrated. I felt like a lot of people I took the training with were in it for weird reasons, trying to foster future olympians with regimented ride schedules and fixed diets from a young age, or trying to further their streetcred as a real housewife / philanthropist. I wondered how you’re supposed to deal with kids when you can’t deal with the fact that the only non-dairy milk substitute at the gas station is almond-based?

But back home in Teton Valley things started snapping into place. We had enthusiastic parents who wanted to make this happen. We had a board who wanted to push a youth program, and we had a community that was just excited to get more kids on bikes. We hashed out the details, the age groups, the schedule, the practice facilities, and then we finally opened registration. I’d designed fancy posters to hang all around town, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough kids interested to be worth running the program, so I was ready to drum up support. We sold out the 30 person program in four hours. Then we sold out the 10 person waiting list. I never even got to hang my posters.

That first practice was a little rough. We were loud, too excited, so many of us, and I hadn’t worked into my schedule how long it takes for forty kids to all get ready to do anything. But the next week ran smoother, and soon we hit our rhythm.

 Get loooooowwwwww

Get loooooowwwwww

More parents volunteered to coach, and we assembled an all-star cast of parents, local riders, and even a few high-school kids with siblings in the program. Our coaches found their stride, figured out which kids needed to do pushups, and which kids needed a little extra push on their seat to get up the hills. We had a remarkably strong girl squad, a bunch of young ladies who weren’t as loud as the boys, didn’t greet me every week with tall tales about how big of jumps they could hit. Instead they just rode their bikes really fast, encouraged each other, helped each other, and left slow boys in the dust. Loo kout gentlemen, the future of women’s mountain biking is faster than you.

Again and again, the community here proved to be the lifeblood of the program. We had parents barbequing together as we practiced, and kids would show up talking about the rides they’d done with their friends, or how they’d been using their hand signals over the last week. We got faster, we got stronger, and we even got a little bit better at not having to go to the bathroom 15 times an evening. I coached two and a half of the weeklong day camps again, and got to ride with some of Sprockids for eight hours a day, diving deeper into skills we’d barely touched on in the evening practices.

On my 25th birthday I was a broken man before I got to practice. I’d been stung by several bees right before I left home, and as I drove on the highway I started to break out in hives, my face and neck started to swell, and I started to have trouble breathing. I got to the bike park and called Poison Control. They told me to go to hospital and I told them not to be silly. One of our Sprockids moms was dropping her kids off at practice, realized I was feeling like I was about to die, and brought me drugs and water. I made it through the evening, and she emailed me later that night, just making sure I was still alive. The next week she brought cookies, and I realized how blessed by these kids’ parents I was.

That feeling of community only grew throughout the summer. I got to know some of the parents as I got to know their kids. The little girls group liked to play “Who’s dad is the oldest” every time we stopped for water, and then I got to ride with those dads at Family Friday at Targhee. Midway through the season we had a cleanup day at the bike park. We had a huge turnout, with several families showing up with all the siblings and adults, ready to rake trails, cut weeds, and fill trash bags. I couldn’t believe how invested these families were, and how they were so ready to step up and help, carting cooler after cooler of food to the tables, making sure we all had enough to eat and drink, helping me get the grill home afterward. They added so much to the program just through their willingness to show up and be engaged.

 Raking berms!

Raking berms!

On AJ Day I drank my pre-race beer to earn my time deduction from my race lap as some of my Sprockids dads encouraged their kids to cheer me on, chanting “chug, chug, chug!” like some sort of root beer-fueled frat party entirely populated by people under four feet tall.

For the last official week of the program we headed up to Grand Targhee to take the kids “real mountain biking.” We’d been riding at the bike parks in town all summer, and while some of the kids came up and rode lifts at Targhee a few times a week, many had never really put tire to dirt before. Which is why Presley and her sister were telling me about how they’d been chopping wood to get ready for this.

Before we dropped into Greenhorn I promised my group that I’d warn them about anything on the trail. “Rock! Root! Downhill! Sidehill! More Rocks! Mountain Sharks!” I hollered. I could hear my directions being passed back for a while, before gravity got the best of my group, and they broke out into high-pitched squealing. The dirt was perfect. The trail was perfect, and they’d grown so much as mountain bikers that they were ready to handle anything Targhee had to throw at them. They pushed me to go faster, they wanted to ride further, they didn’t want to be done ever. We rode The Core, hollering its name in our deepest voices, making mountain biker faces, and yelling at each other to make sure our butts weren’t on our seats on the downhills. At the bottom I was worried that we’d lost someone, but as I got ready to ride back up and find her, I heard a high-pitched “weeeeeeeeeee!” as she surfed out of the last corner.

 The Coooooooooooore!

The Coooooooooooore!

After that Targhee day the kids weren’t over it, and I wasn’t either, so we had a bonus week. We rode again, much further this time, and faster. We had a few more crashes, but the stoke remained just as high. As I gave out my last high-fives and admonitions of the summer, I realized I didn’t really have anything to say to the kids. I was used to ending with an update on what we were doing next week, where we were going to be, what we were going to do, and what kind of attitude we were going to have about doing it. But that last week all I had to say was Thank You. Thank you Sprockchildren. You guys are awesome, you made me fall for mountain biking all over again, you make it clear that the future of riding here is strong. Thank you parents, for making sure that the future of riding here isn’t highly skilled kids who also happen to be jerks. Thanks for having the coaches’ backs, along with your kids. And thank you coaches, for showing up, for dealing with pouty kids and disorganized moments, hot days and skinned knees and full bladders. Thank you for investing in other people’s kids, thank you for making this valley even cooler than it already is. Look out 6-12 year olds of the valley, we’ll be back!

Reviewed: Freja

Cy Whitling

Freja

Year: 2006 (but the title says 2007?)

Make: Scion (But the engine says Toyota?)

Model: XA (not the stupid boxy one)

Capacity:

  • 5 adults who really like each other

  • 4 normal adults

  • 3 adults and five pairs of skis

  • 2 adults and 23 pairs of skis

  • 1 adult who can’t find the condo in Whistler and thus has to sleep in his Scion

Price (with salvage title) $2800

I’ve owned five cars in my short life: three trucks, one Subaru, and now, one Scion (pronounced Ski-On), and while each vehicle has had its pros and cons, none of them has proved to be as versatile, as surprising, and as stereotype defying as my current go-to ride, Freja, the Scion. She’s treated me better than any other car I’ve ever entangled myself with, and proven to be a reliable and consistent ride.

While my Instagram fills with friends buying vans, building out tiny homes, and decorating their truck campers, I’m happy with my tiny, efeminate little bug of a car. Here’s why:

Her Story

Before Freja I owned Roxanne, the Subaru Outback. She was beautiful, everything I thought I wanted out of a relationship. I can still remember her smooth curves, her powerful pistons, and her spacious trunk. She only dealt me dirty once, with a red check engine light (her namesake), and an exploded engine in the middle of Montana.

I forgave her, towed her home, and together Jake and I put a new engine in her, making an honest ride of her for the next two years. Then, as I drove to Moscow to see my family for Thanksgiving, speeding through Montana at 80 mph (the legal limit, don’t worry mom), a cow elk shattered our relationship. Literally. I was picking bits of windshield and elk hair out of my beard for a week after. She was totalled, smashed on the side of the road, leaking fluids, and with her last gasps she set me free to find another. I traded her to the tow truck guy for a ride most of the way home and then dove back into the dingy dating scene that is “Cars/Trucks for sale by Owner” on Craigslist.

It wasn’t till after Christmas that I found anything worth pursuing, a Scion XA for sale in Spokane. There were a lot of red flags initially. My texts were responded to with emojis and incomplete sentences. It turned out the car had a salvage title, not mentioned in the ad. First she came with summer tires, then she didn’t. I believed in her though.

My grandfather drove my father, three of my brothers and I up to Spokane to look at her. Her owner was a college aged girl with a thick European accent. She said the car had been totalled twice. Once when her dad hit her mom’s car with it, and again when the oil filter had fallen out on the highway. Everything had been fixed “very nice” she said. I took it for a test drive. Everything felt smooth, the windows all rolled up and down, and the stereo had this cool little plug for an iPod. I talked her down a little, and told her I’d buy it.

It turned out she’d never sold a car before and didn’t know that she needed to bring a title with her. She didn’t have it, so we drove to her house to get it. At her house my grandfather and I were met by the owner’s mother, who spoke no English. At all. She yelled aggressively at us in some language we couldn’t identify until her daughter pushed her into a room, slammed the door, and apologized. Then she disappeared to find the title. She was gone for 20 minutes while we stood awkwardly in her living room, fake tree still up in the corner. My father, waiting in the car assumed we had been kidnapped and tried to figure out what he could use as a weapon if he heard shots.

Eventually it turned out the girl had no title. At all. I was in love though, I wanted that car so badly, it had the little Ipod plug! So she loaded all the parts that had fallen off the car (grill, light, extra window tint) into the back. Then we took off for the DMV. An hour of negotiations later and we were all pretty sure that I owned the car now. I slipped her an envelope of cash, drove her home, and headed to a gas station to buy a cord to plug into that iPod jack. It worked, and better yet, she’d left Taylor Swift’s 1989 in the CD player.

The Name

Freja is the Norse god of fertility, generally portrayed as a very pregnant woman. The Scion has a similar shape, but instead of carrying an immortal wolf that will devour the universe, she’s just got a smelly skier or two and too much gear.

Image

Purists may argue that image shouldn’t matter when purchasing a car, but if that were true, Hummers wouldn’t exist, and TV wouldn’t be full of ads featuring fake families cleaning up their immaculate yards with American-made trucks. My last car, the Subaru, checked the image box perfectly: outdoorsy, practical, utilitarian, capable.

The Scion is a lot more...Sorority Girl. It’s just so cute, so compact, so perfectly proportioned to be filled with homogenous ladies on their way out for a night of clubbing, applying lipstick in the mirror I use to put my contacts in after car camping, blasting Taylor Swift on the stereo I blast Taylor Swift on. It’s the sort of car that would look perfect with those little sea turtle stickers on the back windows. You know the ones, the kind people from Kansas buy on their one trip to Hawaii and then stick on their window. Vans are cool. Trucks are cool. Subarus are cool. Scions are not cool. Yet.

I’m actually a huge fan of the image Freja conveys. Trying to camp incognito in your van, truck, or Subaru? Good luck, your vehicle will out you as a ski bum from a mile away. Not so in the Scion. The same goes for cops. Who would pull over a Scion? And if they do pull me over I can just cry my way out of the ticket, right?

Engine

Freja has a 1.5 Liter engine that has a Toyota logo on it. I like it when engines have a Toyota logo on them, it makes me trust them more.

I don’t like it when the number of liters they have is that small. There are plenty of motorcycles with bigger engines than that. Her 1.5 L engine produces 103 Horsepower. An athletic person can produce 2.5 horsepower. That means 43 people can produce as much power as my car. I’m pretty happy with that number until I try to merge onto the highway. Then it sounds like not enough people. Freja has trouble getting up to speed, she has trouble with a headwind, she has trouble when I carry passengers, she has trouble when I carry my bike. I’ve gotten used to it, she might be slow, she might be sluggish, but at least she’s efficient.

Without a bike rack she gets around 36 miles to the gallon, that’s offset by her 10 gallon tank which limits her range. That’s still a pretty good ratio of burnt dinosaur bones to gas station bathrooms though.

And when it comes to range with the gas light on Freja is unmatched. I’ve pushed her a couple times, drive 23 miles or so praying that a gas station appears, but on our last big trip, the gas light came on 44 miles away from the next town. 44 miles. 44 miles of sweating and praying and turning off the AC and gripping the wheel and drafting behind semis. 44 perfect miles where she never stuttered, never complained, just chugged on like she knew as well as her passengers did that nothing she could say or do would change the predicament we were in, other than just keeping on keeping on. Thank you Freja, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Reliability

Look at this map, it represents just a fraction of the places I’ve driven Freja in the last year and a half. Through it all I’ve had to do exactly one piece of maintenance, I had to replace her brake pads ($30 and half an hour). I change her oil every three thousand miles, I feed her cheap gas, ride her hard, and park her dirty, and in exchange she starts everytime, and goes where I need to be. When she finally fails me I won’t grudge her, she’s been more reliable than I could expect from any car.

 An incomplete and inaccurate map of our travels so far.

An incomplete and inaccurate map of our travels so far.

Off Road Capability

You wouldn’t expect Freja to score well here. She’s low to the ground, front wheel drive, with tiny tires. And you’d be both so right, and so wrong. Freja has a hard time in sand. I got her incredibly stuck trying to find a camping spot on Pismo Beach, buried so deep that the bumper came off and I thought I was going to lose her to the tide. And she has a tendency to get high-centered on those banks of snow the snowplow leaves, sometimes forcing me to rock back and forth in my seat to get her unstuck. But in fresh snow she does very well, maintaining momentum uphill and exhibiting an annoying stability that makes drifting and donuts very hard to do.

On rough primitive roads she really comes alive. Her wheelbase is so small and she’s so narrow that it’s easy to dodge gaps and take lines that would devour bigger cars. There’s one road in particular, a terribly rutted, potholed, eroding, tree-rooted, moonscape-esque excuse for a road to a mountain lake that Freja just came into her own on. We were following a Jeep, the kind of Jeep with extra bags and tools and jacks strapped all over the outside, and we stayed right behind it, pushing it, chomping at the bit to pass as the bike rack scraped in and out of pothole after pothole. The Jeep’s driver was not happy that his testosterone fueled, necessarily over-equipped vehicle was being tailgated by a tiny Scion.

Capacity

The distance from the back of the trunk to the position of the shift knob when in “Drive” measures exactly 192 cm. That also happens to be the length of my longest pair of skis. They fit perfectly, and it’s easy to fit three people and their skis inside the car. It’s also possible to fit two people and 23 pairs of skis if, for instance, they were on a ski review trip and needed to get all those skis from Portland to Bend and they didn’t really care about being able to see out the back window. Not that I’ve ever done that, that would be irresponsible.

It’s also possible for a 6’ tall man to sleep in the back of Freja if he folds the seats all the way down and fills the gaps with bike gear. However, I’d only advise this if the man in question is wandering around Whistler, BC with no cell service, and no idea where the condo he’s supposed to be staying in is, and if he’s already knocked on all the doors of all the condos he could find at 2 am.

That Indefinable Quality that Makes a Winner

MJ had it. Greg Minnaar has it. Candide Thovex has it, Alex Honnold has it. Lebron might have it. Freja has it. And not just the lower case ‘it’ either. We’re talking uppercase, super serious, “Is It in you?” “It”. Game winning jumper at the buzzer, “give me the ball because I know I can score”, “I guess I’ll win at Fort William again, give me a GoPro so I can do a double backflip over a helicopter”, “I’ve always wanted to free-solo El Cap.” “It.”

Freja is overflowing with “It.” It’s not the sort of things that can be summed up in stats or miles traveled or cargo capacity. No, it’s every time she starts up after I forgot to turn the lights off. It’s every time she powers through instead of getting stuck. Every time the fuel light comes on and she keeps chugging. Every time the AC blasts cold in the desert. Every time I load her down with gear and toys and take off for a far-off and hard-to-access destination. Every weekend on the road, every run to the grocery store, every song on the radio, every twitch of the wheel. Freja has it, sorority girl exterior and all.

Conclusion

So, would I do it, would I buy her again? Would I brave the language barrier, the lack of title, the never ending effeminate car jokes of my friends and relations, the lack of cargo space, the lack of cool image? Was it worth it for four wheels, a tiny engine and a Ipod jack? Yes. Unequivocally, without the shadow of a doubt, without a glimpse of hesitation, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And even though my heart is straying, even though I own a truck too now, Freja will always have a special place in my soul.

 

Touchy Feely Teton Touring

Cy Whitling

I started getting all touchy-feely about touring in the Tetons last week about half way up the Glory bootpack. I’d woken up less than an hour before, skis already in a the car from a failed mission the day before, driven through Driggs, Victor, up the pass. I was on my own, I wanted to sweat out my problems on the bootpack more than I cared about the usual shared experience of backcountry skiing.

 A photo from this one time that I actually skied Glory with other people.

A photo from this one time that I actually skied Glory with other people.

I stopped at the billboard to rest for a second, leaning into my poles and staring to my right at the mist shrouding the valley, sparkling all the way to the Gros Ventures. On my left I imagined I could almost pick out the bend in the road where my house sat. No smoke over there yet, that’s a good sign, I was worried I’d overstoked the fire on my way out.

Two springs ago I climbed this bootpack for the first time in camo duck hunting pants, Full Tilt boots, and a rented beacon. We stopped at the same billboard, sweating and huffing, before dropping down the gut of Glory on my first real backcountry run. It’s funny, but I still overheat and under-breathe on that bootpack two years later. That’s sort of the magic of bootpacking, if it starts feeling easy you can just go faster.

 First time touring steeze.

First time touring steeze.

In those two years a lot of my life changed. I left my hometown, moved three times, eventually found myself in Teton Valley with a new job, a new group of friends, a new set of goals. I remember how exotic that first Glory bootpack was, how nervous I felt. Trying to figure out how to A-Frame my skis, unbuckling my boots, terrified to turn when we did drop in. Now I live here, I can wake up on any given morning, drive 20 minutes, run up this thing, ski a few thousand feet and get back well in time for work.

It’s a backup lap now, something to ski when I don’t have much time and I just want to drown my problems in the catharsis of simple exertion. Even though that bootpack is lined with dog poop and gets tracked out incredibly fast there’s a lot to be thankful for.

I topped out, clicked on my skis and dropped in. Icy hop turns on too-light carbon skis with too-light bindings. Chundery double eject to a long slide with both skis whipping on their leashes. When I finally stopped I sat in the tracked out ice and laughed at the sunrise.

Two days later I was in the same parking lot but headed south this time, up to Edelweiss. Sliding up the access road I remembered my first day on skins on this same road. Dodging wind drifts, trying to figure out my risers, warily watching the rest of the group as I tried to figure out kick turns. Now it’s a breeze, chatting and laughing through the waves of snow. The main bowl was tracked out, moguled like something at a resort, but the secondary bowl skier’s right of the skin track was still pretty fresh. Soft turns, popping off rollers, mellow terrain that would have blown my mind two years ago and still draws a grin on my face.

 My backyard is sparkly.

My backyard is sparkly.

Two years ago I learned that skis are a most pleasurable means of mountain transportation, now though I use them like an exercise bike too, making myself wake up early and tour just to stay in shape, stay sharp, stay happy.

But all that pumping metaphorical iron isn’t just so that I can shave a couple seconds off the Glory bootpack. Instead it pays off when the skin track gets long and bushy.

That’s exactly what happened yesterday.

I tagged along with Dan and Mark (all appropriately clad in collared shirts) on Saturday to ski a couloir off Housetop. We skinned fast from the parking lot, made the yurt in just under two hours and then ran the ridgeline out to where the couloir should have been. We found a giant curling wave of a cornice, majestic in its instability, so we pushed on through the low visibility, maybe the line we were looking for dropped in one shot further along.

 Rip Curl Hang Ten Shaka Brah

Rip Curl Hang Ten Shaka Brah

We poked a little further along and found something promising. The entrance was steep and mostly corniced so Mark probed for dirt and we tried to figure out how to get into this thing. The cornice was too solid and too big to cut, but Dan figured out a down-climb and got in beside it, trying to cut a chunk off with his board. He shaved and whacked the cornice but that thing wasn’t going anywhere, which made us feel much better about dropping in. Downclimb to the safe zone, glad I brought a whippet, and click in.

 "Can we get in here?"

"Can we get in here?"

 "How about here?"

"How about here?"

 "Maybe next time we'll bring a rope."

"Maybe next time we'll bring a rope."

 Always thought the board was supposed to go on your feet?

Always thought the board was supposed to go on your feet?

The visibility had gone downhill all day, and Dan dropped into the grey first. He popped down to the next safe zone and hollered back up. The choke didn’t go, there was some sort of mandatory cliff to drop, but low vis meant it was impossible to tell how big it was.

 Hawt splitboard action.

Hawt splitboard action.

We dropped down to him, chucking snowballs trying to figure out if this thing was 30 feet tall or 3. Time for a council of war. A look back at the picture from last spring of this zone revealed that after the first pinch everything should be easy going. More scoping, more trying to figure out how big this cliff was. If we dropped it there would be no climbing back up out of the line.

 "Anybody see where that snowball went?"

"Anybody see where that snowball went?"

More discussion before we agreed, might as well drop this thing. Mark sent it first, hoping it was small but prepared to suck up a big drop. He stomped it, turned out to safety. It was small, only around 10 feet. Dan cleared it nicely, slapped and got out of the way. I sideslipped in too far, trying to scope the rocky lip. The gut was scraped out now and there were sharks everywhere. Finally I slid into a turn and committed, too close to the edge to get settled in my stance. I caught a rock on the lip and flailed out. Lost a ski and a pole on impact and tumbled twice before I oriented myself and dug in my whippet, self arrested, and braced for sluff.

 Mark making blind hucks look easy.

Mark making blind hucks look easy.

 Dan taking flight.

Dan taking flight.

 Me doing typical me things.

Me doing typical me things.

Everything settled and I started laughing. I was fine, nothing had slid, and the couloir opened onto the apron below me. Mark brought down my ski and pole and one by one we dropped down to the apron, huge turns in soft snow, punctuated by the occasional chunk of old avy debris.

 Dan GTS-ing.

Dan GTS-ing.

Whiskey, Oreos, and Peachy O’s while we waited for the fog to clear so we could see our line. No dice, but we were confident we’d dropped one shot left of where we’d planned to.

 What we would have seen if the cloud lifted, according to Mark's recon from last spring.

What we would have seen if the cloud lifted, according to Mark's recon from last spring.

A little sidehilling took us to another decision point, either wallow back uphill the way we’d come, or drop one more tantalizing shot down to the valley floor and suffer out the creekbed. The promise of untouched snow below us won out so we ripped skins and blasted huge arcs through the trees, party skiing, slashing lips, trying to pop pillows all the way down to the creekbed.

From there it was simple, just a few miles of meandering, following deer tracks across natural bridges over the creek, cutting back and forth to avoid thick brush. I opted to stick low to the creek, twice I had to bail on too-steep banks and toss my skis over the creek before clacking across rounded rocks in my boots. The second time the pillow I was skinning on collapsed into the creek and I stood in the rapidly melting pile of snow, trying to keep all my gear from freezing. Finally we hit the road, downhill skinning to the truck, and beer.

On the way home I was laughing again. Two springs ago I first felt this gurgle of fear fighting confidence in my gut on top of Glory. Yesterday I felt that uneasiness again, that feeling of extra weight. But back then all it took to get that was an hour long hike and some nice sun-warmed snow.

Now the process is so much more enjoyable. Now I get to wander 5 or 6 miles in, dodging bad puns the entire way, before we get to even make our decision on what to ski. Now I get to jump off cliffs in couloirs that I never even could have imagined existed two springs ago. Now I get to skin out long creek beds, bending under the portals of trees bowed by snow. Now I can go home and talk to people who understand why I love getting to do all this stuff, and when I wake up the next morning the Tetons fill my window. A lot to be grateful for indeed.