A Scorned Foodie Picks The NCAA Tournament

Gonzaga

Every year I catch the fever that is called March Madness. I watch the selection show, scour the Internet and eaves drop on conversations around the water cooler, all to inform my NCAA tourney brackets.

Every year I sit back and watch as somebody else surpasses me in braketology and ask myself where it all went wrong.  Maybe I’m just not suited for predicting college basketball games in March.

Every year I hear that the person who won the pool picked their brackets based on team mascot or team colors or some other extraneous criteria. Then I feel even worse. How could somebody who knows nothing about the sport beat me?

A picture of a lightbulb is often used to repr...

I have an Idea!

This year will be different. I’ve decided to use a unique selection process to choose my brackets. I thought long and hard about it and came to the conclusion –

Why not choose the teams based on their food pedigree. That sounds so ridiculous it just may work.

So here’s the criteria I used:

Teams that are in regions that have a strong food culture supersede a team from an area that is a culinary wasteland.

  • Is there a strong farming community that thrives on sustainable, artisan foods?
  • Do they make all natural, handmade foods in the region?
  • Is there a strong restaurant scene near the school?
  • Is the area known for a specific food that is unique and delicious?

My Picks

By using these new criteria, I worked through my bracket and came to the following final four teams:

BBQ ribsMidwest – From a food standpoint, probably the weakest collection of schools. However, there are a few standouts, including St. Louis, Oregon, Memphis and Duke.  Based on their BBQ and whiskey, I’m giving this region to Memphis (6), though Oregon is a close second.

Category:Stub-Class Cheeses articlesWest – This is a tough region. You have Southern University, Wisconsin and Gonzaga from parts of the country that feature great food. These three are all legitimate choices, but because cheese is one of my favorite foods, I’m going to have to choose Wisconsin (5).

A female Atlantic Blue Crab (Callinectes sapid...

South – I wouldn’t say this region features the obvious areas one would associate with a thriving food scene, but there are a few to note. North Carolina, UCLASan Diego State and Georgetown are the best. I’ll have to pick Georgetown (2) because DC has such a great restaurant scene, it’s close to Maryland which has some of the best seafood on the east coast and not far from the pig farms in Virginia. Hard to argue with that one.

Deutsch: Bratwürste.

East – There are a number of contenders in this region. You have Cal in northern California, Marquette in Milwaukee, University of Miami, and Pacific (offering northern Oregon produce, hops for beer and wine grapes). So my heart says Pacific, but Cal is also a major consideration being close to farms, cheese makers and of course, Napa. This is too close to call and any of these teams could be a legitimate choice, but I have to go with Marquette (3) since it is in Milwaukee, which stands for brats, beer and cheese – some of my favorite food vices.

Georgetown Hoyas athletic logo

Of those 4 teams, I’ll have to award the NCAA Championship to…Georgetown (2). It offers great restaurants, fresh seafood and reasonable proximity to a great agriculture scene.

So there you have it. A few expected picks and a few surprises. Maybe I wouldn’t be that far off from these selections by choosing based on basketball ability, but I certainly had more fun in the process.

Have any opinions about my selections, please kindly respond below and let me know what you think.

Park City to the middle of Costa Rica in 20 hours

Can’t say I enjoyed that. Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since travelling solo to a foreign place with little sleep, little food, lots of rain and even more darkness. Maybe it’s because it’s everything I sought out for? Maybe it’s because i just left 3 feet of the Greatest Snow on Earth?  As usual, it was an epic.

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Jumping in a little orange Hyundai taxi I asked the driver to gun it. I want to make the 2:30 bus for San Isidro General

and leave San Jose behind as its not a favorite place to spend time. Like an F-1 race car, we zip in and out of traffic, sometimes missing sea blue and yellow buses by the skin of our teeth. Motorcyclists line the gaps between cars at every stop light and sometimes line the sidewalks.

Ten minutes into my harrowing escape from San Jose, were stuck in traffic. Five minutes later, we move a car length. I see 2:14 on the dashboard, a bus to our left, a train to our right, miles of cars in front of us and a motorcycle jump the curb and around all of this.

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Thinking the same thing I ask Roy the driver,

“Donde estacion por el bus?”

“3 o 4 kilometers, mas o menos”

“Ok. Yo carrer.” I’ll run. Seems like the normal thing to do upon arriving in Costa Rica. The last time I ran in 85 degrees and 85% humidity to catch a ferry. This time, it’s 78 degrees, 100% humidity and 100% pouring rain. After all, it is the ‘wet season’ here.

Looking over his right shoulder, Ray breaks out his perfect English,

“In the rain? You are going to run in this?”

I hand him 14,000 colones, grab my bag, jump out of the car with nothing more than jeans, a sweatshirt and my lucky 1995 blue gray and maroon quiksilver ski hat, into the driving rain and listen to Ray as I poke my head thru the passenger side window,For reasons unknown, running is a normal response. Some things never die.

“6 blocks direcca. 5 blocks isquierda. Cross the train tracks. 1km a terminale, direcca. Primera stop light, isquierda. 200 metres el bus ea en su direcca.” Sounds like me trying to speak Spanish.

“Gracias Ray.”

I fold up my jeans and take off across broken concrete sidewalks and splash almost every puddle. Six blocks and there’s been an accident, the cause of the jam. Policia and ambulancias have everything blocked off around an SUV that t-boned a little red taxi. I run around the accident, across some train tracks make a left, a right, another left and slide into the bus station sopping wet and buy myself a ticket for the 3:30 bus. Four minutes late.

Five hours later, the Musoc bus rolls into San Isidro de General, a sketchy place according to my brother who spent some time here 6 years earlier. Confirmed by 3 people at the Agua Termales today. It’s like dealing with the paparazzi when you walk off a bus in Central America.

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“Taxi? Taxi? Mi amigo, taxi?”

No, I really need to go to the bathroom.I blindly scurry into a mercado filled with candy, coca cola, chips and Costa Rican trinkets. “Taxi?”

Growing some balls, I walk out under the street lights of San Isidro and jump in a 4×4 taxi and say “San Gerardo de Rivas, por favor.”

An hour later and numerous openings of the sky above, the truck rattles up a steep,

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rocky and dirt road to Hotel Roca Dura where I’m greeted by a friendly Luis Hernandez, the sounds of Vanilla Ices “ice ice baby” the smooth taste of an Imperial lager and a much needed plate of salty homemade fries and a burger.

Word to your motha. I’m out.

A Costa Rican Dance

***The next few posts are about a recent trip to Costa Rica, made easy 

IMG_2470by having an international airport just 35 minutes away.***

“Before my toes land completely on the tile floor, they’re jutting my knees into my chest. My arms flail wildly in all directions while my hands swat every body part known to man.

As I rip my shirt off, untie my shorts and untangle them from my ankles, I crash through my bedroom door and into the main room of hotel Roca dura, still swatting and spinning round and round.

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I stand half naked and fully freaked out under a dim blue light, Deb from Montreal puts down her book and laughingly says,

“Ballar de la cucharacha!”

The dance of the cock roach.

 

Manage the Sundance Film Festival Like a Local

Park City Sundance Film Festival

Sundance is almost here and if you want to manage Sundance like a local, read my friend, Hilary Reiter’s blog, re-posted with permission, from the Historic Park City website.

Having “temporarily” relocated to Park City in 2001 to work in the Press Office of the Sundance Film Festival (and, of course, to ski as much as possible), more than 11 years later I’ve yet to break away from this mountain town paradise. As I approach my 12th Sundance, I figure I’m as qualified as most anyone to offer some insight as to how to get the most from the 10-day Festival extravaganza for those who are not members of the Hollywood jet set. Every year, my friends and I declare, “If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em!” This mantra, of course, refers to the crowds of entertainment industry workers, filmmakers, celebrities, media, sponsors (official and guerilla)…and, oh yes, the throngs of gawkers.

So how does one join them, en lieu of fighting them? First, leave the car at home or park at Deer Valley Resort. If the Jennifer Annistons of the world manage to ride the free busses, which run extra frequently during the Festival, so can the little people. In addition to hassle-free transportation, the buses make for great people watching and eavesdropping. And you never know who you’ll meet that will be gracious enough to invite you to that impossible-to-get-into party.

If you want to be immersed in the Main Street bustle, you can’t make your dinner reservations too far in advance. Most restaurants are open to the public, although they may close during certain hours for private functions. Several bars remain open nightly, and celebrity sightings are not uncommon at both watering holes and restaurants if your mission is to stargaze. There are also ticketed shows for national music acts at venues like Park City Live, Downstairs and The Star Bar. Many of the official Sundance sponsors rent storefronts on Main Street and are open to the public, so be sure to explore those as well. If nothing else, you can warm up with a free cup of coffee.

While some residents complain about the Hollywood and New York types who descend on Park City, I have actually found them to be largely considerate of – and even fascinated by – locals. Some festivalgoers are so envious of the well-balanced lifestyle and spectacular natural surroundings we enjoy that they invite us to their shindigs to add some local color. Perhaps it’s because I’m a New Yorker who launched my career in the music industry that I embrace the fast pace and the occasional attitudes of Festival attendees. But, If you live in Park City, work that angle to your advantage – more often than not, you’ll find you are appreciated. Sundance is part of what makes Park City special, so embrace it.

Ultimately, Sundance is and should be about the films and the opportunity to see some rare gems in Park City’s extraordinary, intimate setting. The cast and crew Q&As that follow the screenings are often more satisfying and magical than the films themselves. I must confess that I have never purchased locals tickets to screenings as I never know what my busy schedule will accommodate. I’ve discovered over the years that I manage to see quite a few films, regardless (my record year was 22 screenings, and I never saw the light of day). The crowds dwindle during the second half of the Festival, and it’s easier to get into films after they have screened a couple of times. Waitlist at the larger venues toward the end of the festival, and you’re almost guaranteed a seat if you show up 45 minutes to an hour ahead of the screening time. Oftentimes, people have extra tickets to sell outside the venues. This strategy is advantageous as it allows you to hear word-of-mouth buzz that has generated about the films, so you can make educated choices about what you get tickets for. Extra tickets are also released daily at the Sundance Box Office in the Gateway building at the corner of Swede Alley and Heber Avenue. Don’t waste your time clamoring to get tickets for star-studded films that already have distribution. You can see them shortly after the Festival in theaters. Instead, go for the documentaries or foreign films that you may only have the chance to see during Sundance.

My final tip is perhaps the most prudent – get your flu shot and start your bacteria-fighting regimen now. The influx of big city germs coupled with long days and late nights can be a sickly combination. Pace yourself during the ten days, and you’ll be poised for a Sundance to remember.

HANKSVILLE

A friend once asked me if I had ever been to the desert and I responded, “Why would I ever want to go the desert?”

“One day, you will understand,” she quietly said as she turned and walked away.

I find myself sitting underneath the last mountain range to be mapped, explored and named in a tiny town known as Hanksville. A red t-shirt on the wall with large, white lettering says, “Where the Hell is Hanksville?” I laugh because I know and have known for a little over a decade about Hanksville, the gateway to FUN!

Henry Mountains covered in the Greatest Snow on Earth

The Henry Mountains rise majestically over the Colorado Plateau to the west of Hanksville. The Henry’s, ancient volcanoes rising over 6000’ above the valley floor, are coated in a fresh blanket of Utah powder and I, without my ski gear and partners can only stare for the 10th year in a row of the possibility of skiing from the summit of Mt. Ellen. A bitter cup of coffee will have to suffice.

Ten years ago I fell in love with the Henry’s when I first viewed them from the land of Goblins and the uplift of the San Rafael Swell, an artist palette of ambers, creams,

Ding Dang Dome

maroons and rurples, a mix of reds and purples, in case you didn’t know. This is a land of desolation and seclusion, a land of tumbleweed and cacti, a land of waste. Up close, this land offers a life without borders, a life without questions, a life full of thrills and excitement. Pronghorn Antelope and the great wild American Cow roam these arid lands in search of feed. The only life worth eating out here is Indian Rice Grass, a few milk vetches, penstemons and jimsonweed, but only if you feel like exploring the third world like Ken Kesey on his magic bus.

This is the Colorado Plateau, a magic bus in and of itself. Wanderers from around the globe come here to raft the great waters of the Colorado, Green, Dirty Devil and the San Juan. Mountain bikers race on slick rock and single track, dropping sandstone steps with their 6” of suspension. Canyoneers come to slither along coarse yet smooth sandstone,

The author and friend stemming in Trail Canyon

rappel into the bowels of the Earth and swim through murky, muddy waters filled with feces, decaying desert animals and stagnant water, some holes never seeing the sun’s rays. Occasionally, you take a drink when you gasp upon entering the Icelandic cold waters. I lost the ability to have children because of these waters, Nature’s birth control.

Ah yes, the birth canal of Trail Canyon. A place so deep and tight you don’t have to be much larger than Marilyn Monroe to get stuck. As a matter of fact, my left quad becomes lodged between both canyon walls, my toes unable to reach the sandy floor. My body leans like the Tower of Pisa, facing down canyon. I’m pinched. I’m stuck. Assistance comes from the help of a friend’s hand but no luck, I’m not budging. Another friend grabs onto the first friend creating a chain of strength and support, friends are good like that. But again, no luck. I breathe. With one final gasp of energy, I push with one hand, two friends pull on my ‘fat pants’ and I’m dislodged, a 30” waist never felt so large, I’ve never felt so constricted. We continue swimming through murky waters, ‘high-balling’ 30’ off the canyon floor to move over the narrowest sections of Trail Canyon. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and we all chose our method of escape. This is called canyoneering. We call this fun, only different.

Happy to see the light.

Slithering, sliding, scampering, rappelling, jumping and swimming down narrow hallways known as slot canyons. Elevator shafts body wide fall deep into the Earth and we use our hips and shoulders to brace and move us. Laughter abounds as we scurry around every corner, wondering what is next. Slot canyons are dynamic creatures. There was once a pothole of water that required a full-on swim, also known as thrashing. Now, it is a tub of sand 8’ tall and we walk in ankle deep water to move across. Mae West slots have 6 more inches of sand filling the bottoms making for a flat, even surfaced walking path through the sands of time. It’s hard not to walk inside the epidermis of the Earth without the thought of getting stuck, the thought of the Earth shifting and the thought that this is the most fun ever! It really is.

One can canyoneer the same canyon year after year and return to a different beast. That’s what makes canyoneering so mysterious, almost melodic. You never know what you are getting into on each visit, water one year, dry the next. A flash flood washes canyons clean and sometimes, floods deposit chockstones, logs, and occasionally, dead animals. We climb up and over a dead goat thinking this could be lunch or dinner if we cannot exit. Dig in.

Rappelling into the bowels of the Earth

Slots are dangerous places. Not only are there tight places to squeeze through, there are down climbs where one slip could mean injury or death. There are rappel anchors coming mysteriously out of dirt or from a pile of rocks. Tug, tug, tug…yep, that’s stable. Rappel quickly but smoothly. A few weeks ago, a canyoneer spent 6 days on a ledge 100’ above the base of a canyon after his partner perished, pulling the rappel ropes along with him. Thankfully, he was wise and let someone know where he was and gave them a worry time. He was rescued safely. Years ago, Aron Ralston lodged his hand between a rock and a canyon wall. In order to escape, he had to muster up the courage to twist and break his forearm twice before cutting through it with a dull knife and then rappel out of the canyon and go for safety. He wasn’t so wise.

As I look out the window of the restaurant Blondie’s, I see truck’s pulling boats heading to Powell, SUV’s with bikes on the back and bags on top. A couple in the booth next to me talks of which canyon they are to descend next. I ponder the idea that began ten years ago, skiing the elusive and wild Henry Mountains. A mountain range playing host to the last free ranging buffalo herd in all of North America. A range home to the likes of Edward Abbey, General Wesley Powell, the desert rat turned legend, Everett Ruess and the likes of Billy the Kid and the Hole in the Rock Gang. A mountain range built from magma of ancient volcanoes, an island in the sky.

We wander these parts in search of answers, to figure ‘it’ out and return home feeling better. Most times we come away not finding any answers, only finding ourselves pondering what those questions were, for we have forgotten.

Mancos Shale in the evening sun

I have forgotten.

I revisit the question of 12 years ago when I first moved to Utah,

“…One day, you’ll understand.”

Through all the madness of the world, the life and death of loved ones, the memories created and the memories lost, I believe I’m beginning to understand the desert more and more with each passing moment, with each and every passing experience. But just like the sands of time, we all change and look at life with different perspectives, through different lenses. Today I have my sunglasses on, after all, this is Utah and it’s bluebird out. I step into my car named Phoenix, turn the key and step on the gas.

Leaving town I know I’ll be back in a few weeks, it’s that desert time of year. A smile grows on my face and happiness consumes me. I look in the rear view mirror to read the sign leading into town, “Welcome to Hanksville!”

The Henry Mountains amongst the sands of time.

In understanding the desert, you have to find and understand yourself. Well, as I lay in my sleeping bag last night I asked myself who I was, where I am and where am I going?

To Hanksville! A place I can’t tell you the whereabouts for it’s a place I can only show!

The Pony Express Ultra-run

April 3, 1860, the Pony Express was off and running from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco, delivering mail in about ten days. Riders would exchange horses every 10 to 15 miles with routes lasting up to 100 miles. Speeds ridden ranged from 10 – 15 mph with

Stay hydrated or end up like this guy.

maximum speeds reaching 25 mph. Riders tried to best their personal times and set ‘course records’ on their journeys all while enduring heat exceeding 100 degrees, blistering winds, blinding snowstorms, torrential rains, occasional attacks from native people and hunger and thirst. Most times, mail was delivered without skipping a trot or gallop. A year and a half later, in October of 1861, the Pony Express would be replaced with new and improving technology, the telegraph.

The Pony Express 50-miler, never mind the 100-miler, is a racecourse not to take lightly. This is by far not an express route, an easy, flat and fast course. Rather, it’s painful. It’s a mental mind warp. It’s a long and straight journey through hell and back. Whether you are walking or running, the pain is exactly the same, excruciating.

Straight as laser stretch, Damian Stoy catching up to first place.

One wonders why we do this to ourselves, why we continue on and why we run long distances. I really have no clue during the run but the feeling of accomplishment, the burning sensation in the legs, the fatigue in the shoulders and arms tells us we did something that day. The ‘runners high’ during the event isn’t what we are after, it’s the feeling 2, 3 or 10 days later that brings us running to the next race, the next run, the next adventure. The mental and physical lows bring out the warrior in us. Seriously, how hard is it to put one foot in front of the other? As my brother once said prior to a 24-hour event, “Ask me that at 2 in the morning.”

That question comes up often in the middle of the Great Basin Desert. As crew vehicles pass offering food, water, shade and quitting time, we have to convince ourselves to not jump in, take refuge and call it quits, which honestly, was something I pondered numerous times on the 17-mile straight as a laser stretch we endured. With each passing footstep, the Dugway Mountains to the west never grow closer but stood there in the sands of time, tantalizing us, torturing us.

Currently in 1st place but soon to be over taken, the author runs on.

The sun, blazing from the south burns the left side of our bodies. The blinding dust from passing vehicles chokes our lungs and fills our already dried out eyes to the point of blindness. The Mike Tyson-like pounding from the washboard roads wreaks havoc on our hips and quads. The desolation, emptiness and surreal silence of the sage and tumbleweed desert landscape plays hallucinogenic twists with our minds. What seems only a few miles was a mirage of coyote tricks. Will this section ever end and when it does, what will greet us next? Oh sweet, a 6-mile stretch that’s even straighter! This has to be one of the loneliest and most desolate places in the West, which is the reason nuclear war testing occurs 40 miles to the north.

Planes soaring with the eagles break the sound barrier high overhead. A ‘sonic-boom’ rumbles the air and our eardrums and rattles the ground, wakening all forms of life. Antelopes gallop and bound to the south, wild horses trot to the north and a venomous rattlesnake alarms us with his rattling tail and slithering tongue. I have a ‘sonic-boom’ of my

Careful of the locals.

own and cry for the closest toilet, a sagebrush.

Word is out my brother is close to finishing in record time. With only a few miles to go, I pick up the pace to see him finish as the course has a section of out and back. No luck. He is too fast and I am too far. What I was told was 4 miles to go was only desert poison, I have 7.5. This was a mind crusher, a depleter and a sonic boom of epic proportions.

At this point, the desert scenery of the ancient Lake Bonneville becomes more interesting and appealing. Stories of Pony Express riders curling up and sheltering themselves underneath Juniper trees plays out in my mind as I thought about re-enacting them. Geode beds and historical markers entices me to take a detour and hide from the world, take refuge from the most heinous, most arduous and most painful adventure I have EVER been on. But quitting is not an option; the mail has to be delivered.

First and 2nd place brothers in the 50 miler, Damian and Alex Stoy

Technology has come along way since the early days of horseback riding and mail delivery service. We communicate within a matter of seconds via texts, emails, phone calls around the world without any effort except the push of a button. We often forget about our history and the hardships our ancestors faced, which we usually take for granted. Mail and newspapers arrive to our doorsteps without us knowing or questioning how. We receive ‘You’ve got mail!’ notifications on our iPhones, Droids and computers, not realizing what’s involved with making that happen. Technology has created a life so easy to attain news and information, to keep in touch with loved ones, to remind ourselves of important dates and meetings and to update our status on Twitter and Facebook to let the world know where we are and what we are up to. If you don’t believe me, check out thirtycubed on Twitter and 30 Cubed, running with purpose on Facebook.

Running, on the other hand, hasn’t changed much since Phedippides, a Greek messenger, who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens delivering the news of the Persians defeat. Its one foot in front of the other. It’s breathe in and breathe out. Its simplicity. It’s meditative. It’s difficult.

Unlike the Pony Express, the telegraph and the telephone, some things in life are ever-lasting such as the bicycle and running. They have stood the test of time because they aren’t over-complicated, but rather simple. A wheel is round and running is walking, one foot in front of the other.

The sun sets over the desolate Great Basin Desert

Desolation Lake, Wasatch Mountains

Skinning across Desolation Lake, I see a figure in black pants, red and purple jacket, pink backpack and a beard collecting more ice than snow.  He moves slowly, punching a skin track about knee deep through a translucent shrapnel-like zipper crust that just formed within the past 2 laps, 45 minutes.  I pick up my pace, pushing my orange skis through the crunchy rime crust into the classic Utah powder below, another good snow pack ruined.

Earn you turns

I meet up with his track, which is about as wide as one of my skis.  I chase, wanting some company as I’ve been skiing solo for the past 4 hours and want to share the stoke on this magnificent powder day.  As I crest the peninsula of the shoulder I’ve been skiing, I see my fellow skier about a hundred yards ahead of me, making his way into a grove of aspens frosted in Old Man Winter’s paint.  I stop to pull out my camera and snap a photo.

Peering through the ice-covered lenses of my sunglasses I see the skier shake, slip backwards and fall limp to his left side.  His left leg kicks back, pushing his ski tail into the deep powder.  His left arm drives straight down, punching a hole about 2’ deep.  His head lay rest, left side down in the rime covered snow.  There is no movement.

I stop, pulling my growing eyes from the snowflakes and rime and lift them towards my fellow skier.  I swallow the phlegm that’s built up in my mouth and forget about breathing.  I look around the flats of the snow and ice covered Desolation Lake to see if there is anyone

Greatest Snow on Earth

around, but there’s not.  I look back over my right shoulder to see if there is anyone on the ridge, but its empty.  I look left and all I see is a forest of evergreens.  I look up and see I’m 800 vertical feet from the ridgeline and that’s empty too.  I look back towards my fallen friend and he hasn’t moved.  He lies motionless, buried in the “Greatest Snow on Earth.”

I shout, “Are you OK?” as loud as I can but the ripping winds and blinding snow muffle my words. I shout once more but the words never left my mouth.  I’m in shock and think I’m staring at a dead man.

My heart is redlining and pounding with every beat inside my head.  My legs kick my skis up and out of the snow, moving with a shovels load of snow with every step.  I slide my skis forward and can hear the rime, the ice move across the top sheets of my skis and the mohair of my skins.  The winds pick up, blasting the plastered snow from the branches of Aspen and Douglas fir.  I shout once more,

“Hey!  You Ok!”

But its pointless, the wind is too much and my distance too great.  I pick up the pace and push the needle past 7000 RPM’s.  It sucks being out of shape and I feel like I can’t get into 5th gear and move.

The only thing moving are my thoughts.  I think back to CPR, First aid and ski patrol training.  15 compressions, 2 breathes.  Wait, its 30 and 2.  Do I pull my Emergency Locator Device and hit SOS?   Just go is all my little Kazoo shouts, so I pick up my pace, blasting ice and snow into my face.  I dig deep, breathing in as much oxygen as I can, exhaling with force.  I put my head right into the Wasatch Winds, eyes down to the snow and run, it’s all I know how to do.  I get within 150’ and shout once more, but there is no response.  I run faster.  This is no Mardi Gras and I hope this isn’t the day of the dead.

Short of breathe, I dig even deeper and push as hard as I can up the last 100’ of the 20 degree slope, shouting as loud as I can, hoping somehow the winds will die for one moment and maybe he will hear me and respond.  But I hear nothing.

Fifty feet to go and I see movement.  His right hand reaches slowly back towards his right heel and stops.  His head lifts slightly and falls back to the snow.  Then, there is no more.  I jump up on him, grab his outreached right leg and shake him shouting,

The storm moves out, letting the sun shine one last time.

“Can you hear me?  Are you OK?”

Golf ball sized snowballs encrust a lumber jack-like beard.  Red, white and blue I SKI sunglasses are filled with snow, blocking view of his eyes.  The stained and well-used 1983 wool hat is half cocked over the right side of his face.  He slowly turns his eyes towards me, slower than the Earth on its axis,

“Just taking a break.  My stupid skin slid off my ski.”

Placing my hands on my knees, my chin slaps my sternum, my eyes close and all I can mutter with the oxygen left in my already depleted lungs is

“JERK.” 

The author loving another solitude and tranquil backcountry ski day