Short winter days can be a burden on those of us that crave time outdoors. School and work often take up the crucial daylight hours; the only avenues of escape become headlight missions or, God forbid, the gym. Fortunately, one monthly exception remains to the gloomy, tedium of dark winter nights — the full moon.
Every month, provided there are clear skies, the two or three days surrounding the full moon have enough light for a plethora of nighttime activities. In the past I have taken advantage of the moon’s light for ice climbing, hockey and hiking. This full moon I was invited to join a group going on a short backcountry ski excursion. Joining me were my buddies Iltis and Taylor.
The full moon appeared on a perfectly clear night. The three of us, overzealous and twitching with excitement were in the first car to reach the trailhead. We sipped PBR as we waited for others to show up. Before long, pairs of headlights began to snake their way towards us. Cars parking alongside us spilled forth stoked college kids like the Bridger parking lot on a powder day. We had anticipated a small crew and were nearly overwhelmed at the number of participants. Even more surprising, half of the group were girls, as opposed to most backcountry ski trips I’ve done.
Heading uphill, in a cluster resembling a confused school of fish, the atmosphere was festive. During the frequent wine breaks, laughter resonated and strangers became friends. At the top of the hill, everyone gathered in a small clearing. Kids seemingly materialized out of the trees and our group kept growing.
Nearly 30 of us gathered there in the moonlight. Above the general hubbub a voice rang out, “It’s time; let’s drop em!” Iltis, Taylor and I exchanged looks of confusion. Around us, without any hesitation, kids began to disrobe. Girls we had met only minutes previously were stripping like clothes were going out of style. There was a brief struggle to keep my jaw hinged. The three of us exchanged another look: eyes that said “screw it” and huge grins.
Those with experience were quickly in the buff, watching and laughing while the rest of us struggled with our ski boots and multiple layers. After a brief fight with my briefs I straightened, victorious, to survey the scene. The combination of beer and lack of full daylight lent supreme confidence to the situation. As a group we giggled, shivered and taunted those who still struggled with layers.
As soon as the last person fixed their excess clothes to their pack, someone else yelled, “Let’s do this!” Screams of joy, hollers of stoke and a few cries of fear filled the air as we all took off down the slope. Icy snow, low lighting and the rush of cold air over my entire body made for an intensely exhilarating run. Falling with clothes would have been painful; falling nude was not an option. I charged down, weaving between naked, yoloing souls.
At the bottom I turned and watched the rest of the skiers on the lower slope. One kid hit a small jump, threw an impressive spread eagle, and then lost it on the icy landing. There were cries of anguish from other skiers that witnessed this. Before the kid had stopped sliding, he regained his feet and ran to collect his skis. As he descended the last few hundred feet, his shaggy red hair became instantly recognizable. It was Iltis! He wore a huge smile as he rejoined the group at the bottom, and he seemed uninjured, though slightly shaken.
The group was ecstatic. As we redressed, high fives, fist bumps and hugs were exchanged. Promises were made for a reunion at the next full moon; then we piled in our cars and sped away. A mile down the road Iltis, who was driving, pulled over abruptly. “I’m bleeding through my pants!” He sputtered. Taylor and I jumped to action, ordering Iltis to strip once again. His left thigh, apparently having taken the brunt of his crash and slide, had a patch of skin the size of a hallmark card hanging loosely attached. Though the wound was not deep, the area of missing skin produced an impressive amount of blood.
“Taylor, you got your EMT cert last week,” I said, “This is all you!” Taylor carefully cleaned the wound, and then replaced the skin to where it had been sheared loose. We bandaged it with gauze and an ace wrap. Iltis seemed satisfied and we sent him home with words of encouragement, “Toughen up, it’s merely a flesh wound!”
The next day I saw Iltis on campus. I was grinning; he was not. “Dude!” Iltis said, “I bled through to my sheets last night. I went to the doc today; they gave me 40 stitches. Then they asked why I didn’t come in sooner!”
“Dude!” I replied, “Why did you fall?”