"Ski bums... wasting their lives." A slightly plump, middle age man of obvious means muttered as he glanced back at a man occupying the bench seat just a few rows behind him on the city-bus. He was in his late-20's with a deep goggle-tan, wearing a worn beanie over his tousled hair, and deep into a novel. However within 30 seconds the large businessman droned on to his fellow, business-workers of his obligations back at his hometown. "Back to the office..." he sighed, hopeless and exhausted. His whole life he had strived, worked hard just to attain this hustled lifestyle of appointments, offices, paperwork, and deadlines. As the businessman departed the bus he glanced back once more, as if he was looking back at the lifestyle he had never even perceived. He rolled his eyes, and gave a deep sigh.
The businessman's remarks didn't even phase Sage, he just settled back into his novel all the same. He had heard it many times before, he didn't care what other people thought. Soon he was at his stop and he made his way to his small apartment and his roommate, an old friend.
"How is he?" Asked his friend.
"Dave pulled out of the coma today, but he's paralyzed from the waist down." Sage said with a wavering voice and lowering his eyes toward the ground. They were hiking with a group attempting to ski the twin chutes in the backcountry when Dave fell. A week later they still did not know the outcome of his fall. Dave's accident had hit it hard, the two were close friends and the thought that he would never ski again was too much to bear. It caused Sage to seriously evaluate his life as a liftie and a so-called "ski bum." He regularly took the same risks Dave did, and as a normal routine he and his buddies would throw themselves into circumstances chock-full of high-risk situations. Running through the gamut of emotions, he questioned his passion as well as his life. He wondered if it was all worth it, if he was only helping forward something crazy and without purpose.
He couldn't sleep that night, so he retreated to his small balcony overlooking the valley. He settled in an old hammock and became lost in the night sky. He recalled his childhood, the different eras of his existence. As far back as he could remember he had been skiing. He had always felt at home, and happy in the mountains. Yes, he had his falls, the obvious downs of his career. But whether it be fractured vertebrates from an unclear landing, or blackouts and concussions from simple misjudgment, he had learned valuable lessons from each one. He thought about school, all the night classes he took in order to "keep his priorities straight." He was different, and there was no denying it.
He had always had the passion to ski. In some peoples eyes he had sacrificed so much to keep that passion burning bright, such as excusing himself from a seemingly "normal" lifestyle- partying, schooling, other sports, and even relationships- just so he could follow his dreams and ski. But in his eyes they weren't sacrifices at all, they were merely things that were somehow so important to other people but when compared to his utopiatic bliss became minute specks in the universe. At times it seemed that nobody understood. Unexplainable through words, was Sage's outlook, and a rare one at that.
As he was pondering his current role in life, he recalled his past: he was always a skier, but back then he had forced intentions of becoming a successful businessman. After a semester in college, he realized that is wasn't for him. This wasn't his call in life, plus the mysterious pull of new snow lured him away from his classes, away from studying and thus caused his grades to rapidly fall. He fell into quick realization that this wasn't for him. Sage rejected a lifestyle that requires 50 weeks of drudgery for two weeks of bliss. He imagined himself with lots of money, an important CEO in an uprising company. He imagined himself as the most successful man in the world. And he couldn't stand the thought.
The stirring of his golden lab, Greelie, who was curled up on an old beanbag chair interrupted his thought. The moon was high and the night was brisk. He had no idea how long he had been out there, and he hadn't realized how cold it had gotten. The snow was lightly beginning to fall so he retreated to his warm bed. He had to get some sleep, because tomorrow he was going to ski.
The next day Sage found himself driving up the canyon, still lost in thought, but somehow had made his way back to where he felt most alive, where he felt he was really happy. He arrived early and before he knew it, he was boot-packing up an insuperable rock face, not unlike the one where Dave fell. The thin air burned in his lungs, his skis cut into his shoulder yet he pressed forward. Step after step he worked his way up, he knew where he was going. Somehow, maybe subconsciously, he knew where he belonged. Amidst all his doubt he always found himself back to where he felt most at home. Whatever mountain it may be, whatever country it may be in, he was at home.
As he crawled over the last ridge, the sight took his breath away. Although he had seen it many times before, it still had the same overcoming power as it did the first time he had risen over that last ridge, out of breath, just to suddenly realize you have the whole world beneath you. In his eyes, it was truly the most beautiful sight possible.
"Everyone needs a place like this, a place of serenity, a place that is singular to them where everything is better. The world can't get to me here, and all my troubles disappear." He spoke out as we was addressing a lifelong friend. It was there on that peak where it hit him. He recalled an old quote from a book he had read recently. It stated that everyone has a purpose, everyone has a passion within them that they have yet to uncover, and most never do. Sage realized that he had found his, a love for something he couldn't explain. And there was no avoiding it. He realized he was not insane; he was doing what he truly loved, just like Dave was doing what he truly loved. Even more, he was fighting for a greater cause, defending the skiers right to push the boundaries and to make decisions that are solely guided by the individual. The true irony and misfortune is that it cost Dave his ability to walk and ski again, and nearly cost him his life. Sage recalled the man on the bus, he had commented on how he was a ski-bum and was "wasting his life." God, family, friends, and yes, skiing were the major priorities in his life, not immediate financial success. "People may think I'm wasting my life, but I believe I have found it. When businessmen are ripping their hair out at the office, I'll be ripping down the mountain- happy, healthy, and very, very much alive. He no longer felt guilty about blowing off what society deems important. He's not just skiing, he's defending the right to live as he chooses- living with no regrets, no unfinished business.
Sage clicked into his skis and began the long awaited descent down the mountain through the light, dry, untouched powder, floating effortlessly through the trees, in a state of complete bliss. It was nothing less than perfect. Although he had skied that line before, in even better conditions, on a cleared day with lighter powder, but that particular run, that particular day, was the best run of his life.