You had been hitting the slopes with your parents since you were eight years old. Before that you were out in the backyard sledding down what seemed like the world’s largest hill any time the landscape was more white than brown. Fresh powder was like a gift from Mother Nature and you always made sure to thrash around in every bit of it, so she’d know you were appreciative. Your parents enrolled you in ski school after that incident with the waxed down garbage can lid and the broken arm, hoping that some professional instruction and discipline would tame your wilder efforts while not completely crushing your spirit. God bless reformed hippies. They try so hard to be serious grown-ups.
Ski school was fun enough until you caught your first glimpse of someone flying by on a Burton Custom. He moved effortlessly on the snow, and when he wanted to slow down he just kicked the tail a bit, sprayed some powder, then attacked the fall line to build enough speed to ollie off of an embankment and gracefully perform a 360-degree spin before landing and continuing straight down the middle of the run. You were awestruck. You had never seen anything like that. The coolest trick you’d seen anyone do on skis was going off a ramp and making an “X” with their skis before landing. Most of the skiers were lazily traversing the trail in a giant sine curve of mediocrity. Skiing seemed to be about begrudgingly working with gravity to defeat the mountain in a war of attrition. That snowboarder was one with the mountain, making the mountain a fully vested partner in a magnificent performance art piece. While your instructor was busy pointing out the appropriate times to “pizza” and “french fry” you snuck away from the back of the class and headed toward a group of boarders to try and learn more.
In the ensuing months you became somewhat of a mascot for the local snowboarders. They took you under your wing and taught you how to ride. The first time you linked a turn on your own you were hooked, and from that moment your life was about the board. As you got older you became a much stronger rider. You were one of the best around both on the runs and in the terrain park. You were just as comfortable in the super pipe as you were in the bowls, and that made you somewhat of a local star.
You took a part time job in a ski shop and learned how to tune up boards and skis. Knowing how to tweak your own setup paid dividends on the slopes; you always had your board and bindings perfectly tuned for the conditions. Your job kept you in lift tickets and weed but not much else, so you began to enter competitions with dreams of becoming the next Shaun White. The years of pushing yourself paid off and you won nearly every event you entered. The extra money was nice but you weren’t a “professional” yet. You saved up to pay your own way to competitions in other parts of the country hoping that a new challenge would push you to new heights and maybe put you in front of some sponsors.
After a solid season of events across the country you were picked up to ride for a major snowboarding apparel company. You weren’t going to have your own XBox game anytime soon, but you were moving in the right direction. With sponsor money coming in you were able to quit your job at the shop and snowboard full time, perfecting your craft. As the Winter X-Games approached you were confident and riding stronger than you ever had. You dropped in for a practice run to tune up your routine before the big show. Your first trick was an easy method with a little grab; just enough air to get the blood flowing. You nailed the landing and lined up for the other side. You had the speed and were looking to go big. The vert was good but you over rotated and came down hard with your front edge on the lip of the pipe. You could feel the ligaments in your ankles shredding as Newton’s laws waged battle over your body and wrenched you from your bindings. The YouTube videos confirmed reports that your face plant was epic, but it was also the abrupt end of your professional snowboarding career.
Your sponsor was nice enough to cover about half of your medical bills until doctors determined that even after extensive surgery you wouldn’t come close to your former skill level. Your legs could no longer support or generate the forces required to compete in snowboarding at a high level. Depressed, you stopped in the first resort town that had jobs available and signed on at a ski shop.
Fitting tourists for rental gear wasn’t exactly your idea of a fun time, nor were you convinced of its sustainability as a career choice. However, since you barely graduated high school and had no training or skills that didn’t involve snowboards it was the only option. Day after day you saw the tourists come in and get gear that was way too good for them. They would buy boards and boots that you could tell they were never going to use again. You grew resentful watching fat middle-aged guys who couldn’t even bend enough to strap into their bindings without being out of breath trudge their way toward the lifts, fail horribly at their first attempt, and spend the rest of the day in the lodge drinking overpriced Irish coffee drinks and bragging about the epic wipeout they had when they tried to dismount the lift.
Your resentment turned to malice as you started purposely setting up rental gear to ensure failure and, on a good day, injury for the rider. A loose binding here, an over-waxed board there and before long there were record numbers of injuries on the mountain. It wasn’t difficult for people to put two and two together and figure out who was responsible for the faulty equipment. You escaped criminal charges because nobody could prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt, but you were blackballed at every resort you managed to hitchhike to looking for a second chance. After being rejected from what had to be the fiftieth resort, you wandered off up the ungroomed side of the mountain and cried yourself to sleep as a blizzard rolled in. Skiers and boarders alike were up early and on the mountain the next day, reveling in fourteen inches of fresh powder. Nobody found you until the spring thaw, mostly because they weren’t looking.