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Last Runs

It is a cornerstone of this magazine’s philosophy that skiing can teach you something about the deeper rhythms of life. It is also a cornerstone of this magazine’s philosophy that you can waste a lot of time looking for meaning in a little round track on the snow. Therefore, much of our season is spent seesawing between these conflicting pulls: brain on, brain off…brain on, brain off…

It’s generally true that the harder you look for something, the less likely you are to find it. Thus, knowing that answers often come later and soul is often revealed in hindsight, most of us don’t go looking for meaning or whatnot when we’re actually skiing. We just enjoy the skiing for its own sake, and hope that some pithy understanding comes to us before the story deadline passes months later.

The exception for me comes at the end of the year, when the last run rolls around. Then, as if making up for lost time, I endow each turn with significance, each carve with permanence, each edge release with posterity, as if the motions and sensations of this singular run will be the only things sustaining me until I ski again, some three or four or five months hence. The Zen of skiing—skiing for its own sake—gets tossed right out the window in the face of Turns That Have to Matter.

I know it’s silly, that no turn is more or less weighty than another, but it’s impossible to avoid. I want these turns to be juicy, to be so pure and core and on it that they embed themselves in my memory with a power that lingers across the dry season.

So, come April or May, on the last run of the last day of the last trip I have planned, I’ll crank up an internal soundtrack with something grand and sweeping and powerful, like the crescendo of Beethoven’s Seventh or the 1812 Overture. And then I’ll ski, and sometimes the turns will be strong and lucid enough to bring a smile to my face months later, and sometimes the turns will be disappointing and what lingers is the understanding that it’s dangerous to invest too much expectation in a single run.

This year, however, will be different for me. It will be different because it’s been such a heavy snow year that western resorts will be open at least until June. It will be different because the backcountry will be skiable long into summer. And, finally, it will be different because if you never stop skiing you never have the opportunity for a last run.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.7, March 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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