Woosh! Doug executed a perfect parallel stop as he reached to wipe his goggles, which again were beginning to cake with the heavy snowfall. He peered into the white, attempting to see if he could spot his ski buddies who had taken the blue run when he charged off the black diamond ridge tagged as Dead Drop. He grinned through his now-freezing face as he thought of them watching him fly over the edge in his Kelly-green parka toward the copse of trees at bottom, just before the next run split. It was the parka that gave him his nickname on the slopes, where his posse and other downhillers knew him as ‘Go!,’ like a stoplight that knew no stops or cautions. He had a reputation for fearless descents and, he had to admit, he loved the attention. Doug adjusted his goggles over his balaclava, which he much preferred to a helmet. They always seemed way too clunky and confining and, let’s face it, a bit counter to his ‘Go’ reputation. Before pushing off, he looked around, completely around, to see who else was on the way down in the squall. Maybe it was better at this point to just get down.
Where is everybody?
Doug paused again. Squinting hard into the blankness, he could not find any sign of other skiers or boarders, and it seemed to be getting harder to see, to know what was “up” or “down.” Damn, it’s cold, he thought, his fingers starting to sting and numb. There must be another front coming in for the temperature to drop this noticeably, Doug mused, pushing off again, carving his way toward the Never Ender run, an easy green, which would take him to the lodge where his friends were no doubt headed for a round of beer and backslaps. He moved more cautiously than usual as visibility worsened and the snowfall thickened around him. It was dreamlike and peaceful in a way. He could just take his time for a change.
Where is everybody?
It sure was odd that he hadn’t run into even one other person. He couldn’t possibly be the last one on the mountain…could he? The tram was full on the way up, and he was fast, maybe the fastest skier on the slope. And Dead Drop was the shortest route, though gnarly in the extreme, always dangerous near the bottom, where the big-barked trees challenged the best of skiers. Everyone else should be well behind him, pushing hard to get down as well, given the worsening conditions. Doug skied to his left just as a waft of air and a rushing huff passed over and behind him. Hey! Hey!, he shouted and turned quickly to spot the downhiller who had just flown by; but there was nothing to be seen, just the steady pour of snow as he wiped his goggles clear again when his nose began to run. Doug rubbed the back of the glove across his upper lip, which came away wetter than he expected as blood dripped in large glops onto the snow at his feet. He stared at it for a moment, his mind suddenly blank with confusion and a creeping fear. What the…?
Gathering his resolve, Doug wiped again, reminding himself that it was just a nosebleed, probably caused by the dry mountain air and the cold, which seemed to be increasing now at a noticeable pace, penetrating his every pore. He reminded himself that he was strong and fit, like the Douglas fir his father had named him after, honoring his hope for a healthy child as well as his Scottish ancestry. He was tough, tougher than most, which made skiing the perfect sport for him.
The bleeding and wiping continued, and now his glove was quite wet with blood when he noticed a sudden headache, which seemed to come from nowhere.
Where is everybody?
Pushing off, Doug could imagine the run split, with Never Ender banking off to the left, winding its way gently downslope to friends, warmth and maybe a bit of first aid. His head pounded. His nose dripped steadily, sloppily.
The snow now seemed more like a white, wet fog as he moved downward, floating in lazy swoops, hesitating now and then as the pain drained his attention and resolve. Looking uphill as he made another turn, he could make out movement through the growing thickness of his eyesight. Yes! There were people moving, pulling a toboggan. Ski patrol! Great…he could just follow them down. He might need some help after all, as he suddenly felt so weary, tired in a way he had never experienced, dropping down to his knees.
The figures loomed quickly from the snowfall and Doug raised his pole to attract their attention and help. As he looked on he noticed someone on the sled, prone and probably injured. Hey! Hey!, he called, though he now noticed that his cries seemed to have no sound. Hey! Please!, he screamed as they passed him without notice. Tears streamed down Doug’s face as he saw that the figure on the sled was in a Kelly-green parka, a dark splotch of blood covering the face, pooling sadly on the coat.
Doug watched the sled disappear, making its way downhill. The snow whirled and billowed, engulfing him, and he was no more.