Dropping into the Snow and out of Reality: Learning to Live and Love Unconditionally
Sitting here writing this, I'm in my kitchen in Tahoma on the West Shore of the lake. Attempting to catch up with my body and periodically staring out the window at the snow ruffling off the vibrant pine trees as the sun encroaches it; nothing is really wrong. The cabin is toasty; and though I'm home healing a sprain, I truly couldn't be happier. My life revolves around skiing and snowboarding everyday. I sit and heal in order to get back to the slopes. So I can't really blame my body for forcing me to take some time off. And staying home isn't exactly a struggle here; there's a reason where I live is nick-named “Stayhoma”.
I was living out of my car for about a month before I shacked up with a couple of supremely rad friends. When I say living out of my car, it's true that I had my sleeping bag rolled out in the back of my Storm Trooper and the passenger seat was basically my closet/kitchen; but I only slept there a total of probably three nights. The Tahoe community is like a soggy bowl of Honey Nut Cherrios, or an Emmylou Harris song on vintage vinyl; it makes your heart warm and makes you feel safe. From coworkers, to old distant friends and hitchhiking strangers, everyone up here opened their homes and their hearts to this little unorganized travel rat. Several times I've seen strangers helping strangers dig their cars out of the snow. No one locks their doors and everyone picks up powder hounding hitchhikers.
When I first arrived, I stayed with a family in Truckee who took me in for several days as I started work for Homewood Mountain Resort. I accompanied them to a party at their friends place where I met a Squaw Ski Patroller who befriended me and allowed me to crash with him for a few days. On other nights I ended up sleeping by a fire in a house full of Argentinians and played Star Wars drinking games with some coworkers, falling asleep by yet another wood burning stove. Something I've definitely learned while living in the mountains is how to use a wood burning stove. I even perfected the art of creating blanket forts to trap the heat and bond with roommates.
I essentially had to turn down offers of places to stay. I even chose a few of those nights to sleep in my car just to see if I could. By this point, my heater had begun functioning again after the mechanic gods sent me an angel at the local convenience store “PDQ”, who stopped me before I murdered my car with regular water straight to the radiator. So with the Storm Trooper happily putting away on some anti-freeze and fresh oil, I could run the heater for ten minutes before I turned her off and tucked both of us in for the night – and yes, I made sure each night that the exhaust wasn't backed into a bank, I too have heard the stories. But even with three blankets laid out, a down sleeping bag, cardboard covered windows, and a few minutes of heater time before sleep; I still woke up those mornings pretty frigged and felt like a tin man on skis. Nevertheless, survival was accomplished.
Even though the weeks of Christmas break are absolute hell in Tahoe, I was blessed to have new wonderful friends to share a few brews and lines (ski lines!!) with. And my luck just kept getting better. I made three friends at work who were also homeless, and in mid-January we happened upon a dream rental. For dirt-cheap rooms and a mad decent space to party, cook, and play chess in; we moved in to a cottage in Tahoma and have been living in a blissful ruckus ever since. Minutes away from Emerald Bay, the Rubicon trail, Sugar Pine Point State Park, the lake, Eagle Rock, countless other wild adventures, and most importantly: work and West Shore Pizza; there's not much reason to leave home. It takes a lot of debate before the four of us successfully decide to make it a night out that involves driving more than five minutes away.
The first couple weeks after moving in were a bit of a blur. Between turns at the shot ski – fashioned out of a lonely child's ski from Homewood south lodge rentals and tin travel shots glasses – and turns at the chess board; a night at the "Snow Rat Shack" usually looks like the questionable mix of a classic 80s snowcation movie and an old English gentleman’s club.
After the honeymoon phase faded out around three weeks in, we finally started to settle down a little bit. Now you can catch us on a regular night, snoozing in front of a movie or discussing philosophy around a nice flush bottle of wine by the fire or the waterside. From time to time we still embark on a quick naked run or a round of circle of death, but with the fresh slopes on our mind we often find ourselves shutting down early in order to embrace the curves with a solid set of rested bones and preferably sans hangover.
Life is wonderful. I have to wrap up so I can prepare my body for the adventure ahead; this week it's a free snowcat adventure into the backcountry behind our mountain where we can shred it up on some demo pow skis all day dropping in on Ellis Peak – am I sounding local enough? If there's anything I could ever ask for you to take away from the tales of my adventures, it's this:
Open yourself up to the world and it's people, love unconditionally, and in return you will know happiness. Whether it's embracing the sheer drop of a line on the mountain, or allowing a stranger to take care of you and vice versa; push yourself and let go!