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Right Coast Rules: Hemingway and Axl Rose


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It was a low-snow day, early in the 2006—2007 ski season when all ski days were low-snow, and it seemed as if salvation might never come. Dirk and I were driving to the back side of Camel’s Hump, our backcountry touring gear rattling around the trunk of his car.

“Here, read this, he said, handing me a dog-eared book. I’d been singing the chorus to Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine repeatedly, and I suspect he was merely trying to shut me up.

I glanced at the cover, because we all know that’s how you judge a book. Ernest Hemingway. The Nick Adams Stories. What sort of shit was Dirk trying to pull?

“Check out the one called ‘Cross Country Snow, he said.

So I started reading: “The rush and the sudden swoop as he dropped down a steep undulation in the mountainside plucked Nick’s mind out and left him only the wonderful flying, dropping sensation in his body. He rose to a slight uprun and then the snow seemed to drop out from under him as he went down, down, faster and faster in a rush down the last, long steep slope. And: “George was coming down in Telemark position, kneeling; one leg forward and bent, the other trailing; his sticks hanging like some insect’s thin legs, kicking up puffs of snow as they touched the surface and finally the whole kneeling, trailing figure coming around in a beautiful right curve, crouching, the legs shot forward and back, the body leaning out against the swing, the sticks accenting the curve like points of light, all in a wild cloud of snow.

I had never read Hemingway. In high school, when we might have been introduced, I’d been far too busy pursuing my dual passions of smoking pot and playing Black Sabbath riffs on an old Fender Telecaster.

In January of 2007, all that was behind me (though perhaps not quite as far as one would hope), and I was on my way to ski with a good friend. To be honest, with the hills of northern Vermont more gray than white, going skiing felt a little desperate, like swimming in a kiddie pool or mountain biking on a gravel road. Not quite the real thing..

But then Dirk handed me a book, and I was returned to the place in my mind where the memory of last year’s deepest powder day quietly lurked. Suddenly, the prospect of a mellow day of touring over dust on crust was not merely something to do because there’s nothing better, but something to anticipate, something to relish.

We motored on in silence, Dirk’s eyes on the road, mine on the book, not yet skiing, but already there.