White Out & Wide Open—The Blog
Some words tend to have multiple meanings. For example, there are at least five different ways you can construe the meaning of “grounded.” On my last ride I encountered a situation which pretty much tapped into all five meanings.
Grounded—to quit dreaming and start paying attention to things that matter.
I was riding with a group of friends out of a canyon and over a peaked ridge. As the other riders stayed to the left of the rocky peak, I decided to veer to the right and sidehill through the steeper drifted side, thus momentarily separating myself from the vision of my group.
Too often we ride past areas that offer unique experiences. Just by going left I was encountering a little more difficult terrain while picking my own line around the ridge peak. But then, the downside was that my following actions were not visible to my group, who continued over the ridge at a fairly brisk pace.
Grounded—an electrical conductivity directed into the earth.
As I held my sled on its side, clinging to the steep terrain, I cut across the section of the hill where all the drifting snow had collected making for some better snow to lay my sled on its edge. As I crossed beyond the northern point and hit the northwest face of the slope, that took me into the area where the snow had drifted from.
In other words, I went from sidehilling in deep snow to suddenly finding my hillside ski penetrating deeper than the depth of the snow.
Without warning, my ski made contact with some object with much greater density than snow, causing it to carom abruptly to the right away from the hill. This sudden unanticipated jolt, combined with my body hanging out on the left side of my snowmobile, removed the handlebars which were once wrapped inside my fingers.
Grounded—beached, aground, stranded.
Now, with only air in my hand to grip and my body mass suspended a considerable distance from my snowmobile, I truly became grounded—beached, aground, stranded—with one not-too-graceful thump.
In desperation I lunged for the rear bumper of my sled as it turned downhill and fell victim to gravity. As I tried to upright myself and chase down my sled before it could pick up momentum, I experienced that grounding sensation again as I tumbled face-first into the snow, my finger tips touching, then losing contact with the sled’s bumper as it raced out of sight.
Now did I mention the mountain I was cresting dropped down into a gnarly canyon about 500 yards below?
When I finally got myself upright, caught my breath and dusted the snow off my face and goggles, all I could do is look at my snowmobile tracks which disappeared down the mountain.
Grounded—form of punishment … having privileges suspended.
As I began my descent down the open west-facing slope following the tracks of my sled much like one would track a wounded animal, I listened intently for any sound that resembled an out-of-control snowmobile coming to an abrupt stop due to contact with an unmovable object … like a tree or rock.
I could faintly here the sound of the other snowmobiles, now two ridges away, and the constant thump, thump, thump of my beating heart as it tried to pump oxygen back into my body.
With each step I took, the vision of a snowmobile scattered in a hundred pieces across the hillside left me in fear for what I knew would be the inevitable. And with each step the mountainside seemed steeper than the previous. But the tracks continued to wind farther down into the canyon, missing sparsely scattered trees by inches as though it was on a mission to pick up maximum speed before completing its fateful journey.
This is one of those events where you know there’s just no heroic scenario to explain the inevitable damage. It was going to be hard to tell a snowmobile manufacturer why his demo sled ended up on an insurance claim. There definitely was going to be a price to pay.
Grounded—being mentally and emotionally stable.
Finally, after what seemed to be hours of hiking through miles of deep snow (it was only about 400 yards and about 10 minutes) I saw my sled. But rather than being in hundreds of pieces, it was parked peacefully between two Aspen trees, motor still running.
In it’s last bastion of open space before dropping over a steep drainage into a creek bottom lined with “impossible to avoid” pine trees, the tip of the right ski had nipped one aspen tree turning the sled slightly and slowing it down enough to allow the left ski to wedge against another Aspen, bring the sled to a gentle stop.
After a moment of giving thanks to the good fortunes that prevented an impromptu rummage sale, I straddled the sled and wrapped my hands firmly around the grips and rode back up the hill and in the direction my fellow riders had taken—with pride in tack but some confidence shaken, I resumed this great day of riding.