Sacred Snow
This I Believe
Ryan Witsell

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I feel that a sobering sight of a vast snow covered landscape can cure all problems and worries. Atop the colossal peak I stand, gazing down at a sea of blinding white. The snow glistens and the soft breeze hums through my helmet, clearing my head of worry. I believe in the sacred essence of snow.

Gazing up at the snowcapped peaks in the moments before skiing clears my mind of any negativity or worry. Those peaks offer me a glimpse of another world. I can tap into this world through a number of different mediums, a ski resort being the most accessible. A mid-week ski trip is a religious experience. As I ascend up the lift I transcend reality, the sound of the wind or the music in my ear serve as hymns for my spiritual experience. No one in line for the chairlift, only the occasional fellow parishioner encountered on the slopes, this voyage to the astral plane fills me with elation. The anticipation during the seconds before diving off the chair into immaculate champagne powder is staggering. I know that my immersion into the powder is also an immersion into divine bliss. The golden sun beating down on the slopes fills my soul with joy. The feeling of a perfectly carved turn, like a knife through clouds, floods my body with ecstasy.

Backcountry skiing is a taste of heaven itself, where one synchronizes with nature. Standing atop the peak looking down at what is to come exhilarates the mind. The potential danger is ignored, in lieu a mix of determination and serenity reside. The danger of being buried alive, injuring my leg or any other possible misfortune, is cast aside. It is all worth it once the descent down one of nature’s hulking monoliths initiates. The mind is empty the fraction of a second when the plunge commences. Those first turns send the energy jolting through the limbs. My skis and poles become an organic part of my body as they seem to work themselves. The fire in my muscles fills me with a natural high as my dive down the great mountain comes to a close. The cloud of snow that engulfs me as I stop seems to shower me with enlightenment. As I gaze up at my freshly cut tracks on an otherwise unscarred mountain, I am filled with pride and great relief. I am filled with awe, amazed that the gods would bless me with such an experience. Warmth engulfs my body, ignoring all signs of the cold. It is not possible to muster words after this experience; their meaningless façade would only tarnish the holy moment.

The mountains serve as the shrine at which I send my offerings to the divine. My offerings are not one of substance, but of passion, love, and an endless respect for these immovable giants. As one who believes that a taste of the heavens can come from the vast expanses of nature, the snowcapped mountains serve as my spiritual guide.