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Up for Renewal

When I was a subscriber, years before I worked here, the first Powder of the season made me do really weird things. It would show up in my Washington, D.C., mailbox in mid-August, on a day when the heat and humidity were perniciously bad. I’d crank up the air conditioning, throw myself on the couch, and let my spirit be transported by winter. About halfway through the magazine, I’d dig my ski boots out of the closet—just as a reminder, you know?—and by the time I’d reach the Extra page, the boots would be on and my feet would be making air turns at the far end of the sofa.

Some years, when the distance between my last turn and my next turn seemed unbearable, I would get my skis out and, when no one was looking, step into the bindings. I’d practice my tuck, or roll the ski over on edge in the carpet, or even lean ever so coolly on my poles.

I’m not the only one who’s done things in August most people consider aberrant. Brent Diamond, the publisher of Powder, recently had an overwhelming bout of enthusiasm in which he “skied” around his living room—not just with boots and poles, but with all his ski clothes on, too. Dave Moe, a.k.a. Captain Powder, regularly can be heard bouncing down the office steps on telemark skis. And when I was in college, I had a friend who was practicing his gelände technique in his bedroom. Both heels released, and he broke his nose and blackened both eyes when his face slammed into the floor.

Stupid? By degrees. Silly? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. August is a critical time for skiers, and whatever means are required for renewal are justified.

I used to hate August, but over the years my feelings have mellowed. I realize now that August is as necessary to skiing as January. This is so because August is as far from January as you can get, in emotion and attitude, anyway, if not in calendar months. The days of August are long and sunny. The nights are hot and calm. There is none of the September chill that brings the hint of skiing, none of the autumn storms that bring the scent of snow. There is nothing but August.

With distance comes desire. The further you get from something, the more you want it and the more you dream about it. You look for signs that make your longing sweeter. That first issue of Powder, coming out of the blue, was always my catalyst. It was a landmark, the first signal that winter would come again. In the days that followed its arrival, I would find myself slipping into daydreams at the oddest times, dreams that had me billowing through powder in Taos or Telluride, or adventuring in Alaska or Antarctica. After a week or so I’d be compelled to visit Ski Chalet, the nearest “real” ski shop, where I’d spent an hour or two looking at the new gear and swapping lies with fellow skiers. I’d drive home flush with excitement, aching to ski.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about skiing. It’s my job. Because of this, summer doesn’t seem quite so grim anymore: Winter’s always here, in the form of ski photos or a new manuscript or a postcard from the Southern Hemisphere. The distance isn’t quite so acute.

But August is still August, and each year at this time I find myself shedding some of the attitudes and perspectives that I’ve gotten from being the editor of a ski magazine. I’m not sure whether it’s because August is so damn hot or because I’ve become conditioned to think this way in the weeks before Labor Day. Whatever the reason these days I look at the photos on the light table not as cover possibilities, but simply as really cool powder explosions. I read the stories not for grammar and structure, but for words that inspire me to ski. I become a fan of skiing—just a fan of skiing.

I don’t know what I’m going to do this August. I might burn some skis and make a sacrifice to the snow gods, or I might scrape all the travel wax off my skis and put on a new coat. Or maybe I’ll do the same as you: grab the first new copy of Powder I can get my hands on and curl up on the sofa and start flipping through the pages. And then, maybe, I’ll pull my ski boots out of the closet.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.1, September 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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