Biff America: On being thankful
Vail, CO, Colorado
“Damn it!” I yelled, “What did I do to deserve all this?”
That certainly was a rhetorical question; I knew exactly what I did.
It was Thanksgiving morning, just before sunrise, I was hiking up the local ski resort to take one run on man-made snow before the lifts were fired up and the hordes arrived.
For those of us who begin thinking about skiing in late August, this lack of early season snow has been a bitter pill to swallow. I’ve been relegated to get up at five in the morning to hike up the mountain to slide down on a groomed, intermediate run.
Of course I could also stick around and ride the lifts and ski the few runs that are open and covered with manufactured snow, but it seems the older I get, the faster other skiers and snowboarders are and the less I enjoy sharing the limited terrain with them.
The truth is I’ve been spoiled.
The last few years we’ve had incredible early season moisture ” so much so the resorts have been able to get much of the mountain open by late November. The early snow has also made it possible to backcountry ski on terrain that often isn’t covered until Christmas.
Alas, that is not the case this year.
On Thanksgiving morning I left the house at 5:30 a.m. with the thermometer reading 10 below zero. I was hoping to burn some calories before the gluttony soon to follow. I was skiing uphill next to Craig; both of us were too cold to talk. My feet hurt and, after having done the same thing for five mornings in a row, I was a little bored.
“Damn it!” I yelled. “What did I do to deserve all this?”
My words were muffled by my neck gator.
Craig asked, “Did you just say something?”
I didn’t have the wind to explain, so I said, “No.”
We continued in silence. But for the rest of the climb I pondered that question. By the time we reached the top. I had an answer. Actually, I knew the answer before I even asked, since, as I said, it was a rhetorical question.
Obviously, I did nothing to deserve this.
I did nothing to deserve being born healthy, middle class, in this country. I did nothing to deserve to live in a place I love, with someone I love, with an income I can live on, and a dog that, in some countries, would be considered a meal.
Yes, I suppose I can take some credit for using my God-given assets to eek out a living in a field that is easy on my back. And I also can take some credit that I recognized a wonderful woman and married her before she could change her mind. And yes, I displayed some ingenuity and industriousness in my younger years that has now provided some disposable time and income.
But all that said, things might have been different had I been born in another place, another time, with other genetics. Even with the same geographic and genetic circumstances, things might have been much different had luck not been on my side.
What if I had married young and for the wrong reasons? What if some of the countless stupid things I did in my younger years turned out differently? I might not be here, happy and healthy.
Craig and I got to the top of the ski run the same time the sun did. The temperature had doubled to 10 degrees. We were taking off our climbing skins when John, Tim and several other friends crested the mountain and joined us. We got ready to head down the hill to coffee, family, celebrations and Thanksgiving obligations.
Before I pushed off and let gravity do its work I asked myself, “What did I do to deserve all this?”
As I said, I had done nothing. But I guess being undeserving is OK as long as you’re thankful …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.
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