University High School
Instructor: Molly Klaisner
That Winter Night
Personal Essay & Memoir
That Winter Night
It was a bleak Thursday night. The dread of my schoolwork loomed over my head as I and the rest of my school's ski club drove down to the local ski resort. The music playing in my ear drowned out the hushed gossip and distracted me from my lack of personal space. When I got off the bus, the winter cold immediately stung through my many layers and jackets. The migration into the ski resort was unusually quiet. The dark grey sky and upcoming midterm exams had silenced all. Walking into the resort, I felt a blast of heat and an oncoming wave of sound from children fastening boots and running around. I scanned my season pass and halfheartedly put on my helmet and boots. I waddled out to the hill. Again, the winter cold began to pierce my body while an unfamiliar mountain stood before me. The mushy snow squished under my feet as I walked towards the mountain. I looked back and saw my friends following in suite. We decided which hill to conquer, fastened our skis and set out towards a chair lift. We tried greatly to find entertainment in our waltz toward the chair lift. With forced jokes and laughs, we hurried to the lift and jumped on.
The wind picked up as we flew up the mountain, hastily silencing our conversation. The cold creaking of the ski lift overcame the wild whistling of the wind. I peered beyond the strong fog that had surrounded us, staring into the expanse of trees. No one said anything as the end of the ski lift began to appear from behind the fog. The mechanical hum of the chairlift's terminal grew louder and louder as it approached us. I jumped down and moved through the muddy snow to where the slope began. I looked down upon the hill, but my view was cut short by the fog. The ominous grey sky loomed over us, blocking out all sunlight. My friends began to ski down the mountain and I followed them. I pushed myself forward and began the decent. The screech of patches of ice rang through my ears. The icy air stung my face as I had forgotten to put my ski mask on. A rush of adrenaline from the falling sensation began to surge through me. I looked down at my black and blue skis cutting through the melted snow. I picked up speed and began to race past the people around me. People became nothing but blurs flying past me as I descended the mountain. Heading towards a ski park at the end of the hill, I shifted my weight side to side to mock slalom down the mountain. The weight of my dreaded studies and work faded behind the joy of falling down the mound of artificial snow. Cutting back and forth in large C-shapes, I realized it was too dark for my goggles. My ski goggles, as most do, had a special lens to act as sunglasses. On this dark and foggy day, they did nothing but further reduce my visibility. Without stopping, I pulled my goggles off my face, resting them on my worn blue helmet. I wicked the sweat off of my forehead and looked just slightly further ahead. Patches of dirt and grass lay in my path. If the storm had passed through this morning, I would have had fresh snow and a beautiful view: perfect conditions for skiing. Instead, I couldn't see anything, and not enough snow had fallen for skiing to be safe.
Despite this revelation, skiing lifted the weight of the world off my shoulders. Nothing could interrupt the exhilaration of a perpetual fall. With my blood pumping and heart racing, I followed my friends into the ski park. The ski park was the main reason behind our selection of which hill to ascend in the first place. Normally, it was full of snowboarders doing flips off of jumps and sliding down rails. Today, however, it appeared less glamorous. Soon I began to feel alone. My friends faded away from my view as the winter storm picked up its pace and I began to focus solely on the ground in front of me. Skiers and snowboarders were doing tricks throughout my peripheral vision, but the mountain still felt empty. The screech of my skis on the icy snow began to drown out the hollers and laughter of everyone around me. In my mind there were no shouts. No cries of laughter. No one around me.
I started to pick up speed as the dull sky stared down upon me. The wind raced faster, piercing through my jackets and snow pants. I leaned further forward and began sprinting down the slope.
A ramp raced into my view, and I was going too fast to avoid it. Falling toward the ramp, I heard the rustle of my skis get louder and louder. I began to get excited as the thoughts of doing a flip for the first time bounced around in my head. The freezing cold air stopped piercing my face. Filled with pure ecstasy, I jumped with all my might. I saw the ground run away from me and the world start to spin. I felt weightless. I saw other skiers riding up the same chairlift I had taken. People were racing down the mountain past me. I saw ski instructors skiing backwards, watching their students. I heard the shouts of snowboarders doing tricks around me. For a moment, the world brightened completely. Childish laughter rang through my ears as the world swept around in a panorama. But as the world spun, I began to fall. The people surrounding me escaped from my view, succumbing to the grey sky, relentlessly staring down at me. I began to feel heavy. The mountain came forward to meet me, but I couldn't turn to meet it. I couldn't turn my body and get in the proper position to land. Instead, completely motionless the earth slammed into me. staring at the dull sky, I felt a sharp pain in my back. The deafening noise of my collapse filled my ears. I couldn't breathe. I began to panic. The pain in my back was not subsiding. My lungs were screaming for air. My entire body felt like it was on fire. Desperately trying to calm myself I rolled onto my side. Gasping for air I tried to push myself up, but I couldn't find the strength within me. Through the ringing of my ears, overcome by panic, burned alive by the flood of freezing winter air, I heard someone shouting my name.