On the Edge

Living on the edge is a cliché until it is not, and life hangs on a flexible razor cutting ice at fifty miles an hour. The razor springs from weight and swings your legs. Land the other razor and believe in it or you will lose it and yourself. But you cannot think about this, if you want to be fast. It must be ingrained by hours of sweating in cold.

You do not chase powder or resort experiences. You chase speed, a faster line: the elusive satisfaction of successful execution. Bend the razor, release, land.

It swirls around you in the start gate, in the hours before the race, in the car, on the plane. Slipping down the course during inspection you wonder. How can I be faster? How can I be smoother? Where is the perfect line and what does it feel like?

Warming up, you try to visualize: try to feel your body stretching and bumping and straining in those impossible angles. There are too many variables to know for certain what works or what does not. You can only trust yourself because only you know what the perfect turn really feels like. The sportscasters seem to think it is enough to be able to draw the line on a TV screen, but you know better. It is not enough. You must be able to trace that line in your mind, have an accurate picture not of yourself on a screen, but of being yourself in the future, careening down that pitch at speed, pressed by gravity into a world that cannot be simulated.

In the start line the racers ahead of you plunge into it. That fast but slow icy scraping adrenaline world, where the only sounds are you and the skis, and there is no thinking about your other cares because there is only the course.

You stomp each ski, lean forward and click your poles before settling, wrap your hands on the pole handles one last time. Racer ready...

Swing with gravity and make that razor heavy to cut. Let the weight push you into those impossible angles. Feel it on your back and channel it to the razor and the hill and roll like a bowling ball down the line. Head up, hands forward, struggling to hold that imaginary perfect form in this impossible course. Mistakes are inevitable. Late coming in but you make it up on the under bouncing through a rut almost losing the razor pulling it back just in time to fly over the knoll into the pitch with that hard right footer from inspection but its gone in a flash not as hard as you thought too fast for reflection because the finish is there tucking and willing yourself slipping through the wind over the snow stretching every ligament to break that invisible line and it is over.

The adrenaline fades with your speed and you phase back to reality sliding to a stop. But you never want it to stop. Then come many questions, asked both by you and others, about your time, your technique, how you felt, how they think you looked. But there is a question that runs under all of them and sits in your soul in the car, on the plane, under the hot summer sun of the off-season:

Can I do it again?

#fiction #poetry #skiing

Thank you for reading! My name is Hunter Dansin. I am a writer, musician, and coder living with and loving my growing family. My first book, Dawn Must Follow Night, is the first book in an original fantasy series that confronts darkness within and without.

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This piece grew from me trying to capture the feeling of downhill ski racing. I was not good enough to come anywhere close to the Olympics, but I was good enough to ski on the same snow as Mikaela Shiffrin at the Vermont State Junior Championships many years ago. And yes, I do still wear the sweatshirt.

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