What it’s like to run with the wind on skis

Freshman year, I was skiing with my RA at Bridger Bowl on an especially windy day. Every once in a while, the wind would come sweeping down the slope, making the snow froth and billow like boiling surf. It’d whip against my face on the chairlift and I couldn’t do much but bundle further into my jacket. From the lift, I thought of sailing as I watched the snow below transform into the sea.

I get to sail with my brother occasionally when we visit our grandpa in Arkansas. It’s an amazing sport where the wind is your engine and each rock of the boat is as thrilling as the first one you ever felt.If you want to go the same direction as the wind, you can turn the boat so that the breeze is coming from the back. Then, swing the sail out on one side and the jib — a smaller sail near the front of the boat — out on the other, like wings, so they catch as much current as possible. You’ll find yourself moving at the same speed as the air around you; “running with the wind,” as sailors would say.

Our dad had taught us how to do it, but the first time we ran with the wind on our own was something from another world. We turned our nose downwind and everything went quiet, except for the slapping of the waves against the hull. In any other situation, the air whistled in our ears and tossed our hair, but it was still and peaceful. My brother and I looked at eachother and laughed in disbelief as we glided hand-in-hand with the breeze.

Looking down from the chairlift, I wondered if I could experience the same stillness on skis. So, as I skied, I scanned the mountain for an opportunity to run with the wind.

It wasn’t long before I saw the snow cascading down the slope ahead of me. Keen to challenge the gust, I drew my knee to my chest, likening myself to a bullet on telemark skis, and let gravity do its work.

As our paths met, the wind whipped across my back, stung my cheeks and roared in my ears. I stayed low, unwilling to relent.

Suddenly, there it was. Stillness. The roar was gone — all I could hear were my skis chattering beneath me. Yet the snow around me was alive, as if I were skiing on a cataract. I couldn’t help but smile, exultant, abiding in the midst of the squall.

But such extraordinary moments are often short-lived. An impending stand of trees forced me to turn out of the graces of the rushing torrent.

Though it might sound romantic, it felt like we parted as something closer to friends, like a deeper understanding of one another had been reached. The wind marked my soul in a moment that can’t quite be held.

It was deep — and cool. But the moment only happened because of the suddenly blurred lines between sailing and skiing.

Though we, as humans, tend to draw lines between things, it’s worthwhile to seek out discoveries at points of overlap. Instead of compartmentalizing our lives into spaces where certain entities belong and others don’t, it’s a lot more interesting to think about how experiences connect and inform one another.

This transfer of knowledge could make any moment a sort of “cross-training,” where any experience teaches about many other things, blurring the lines and making us a more unified being.