Superstar, A Skier’s Pilgrimage – The Mountain Times
By Merisa Sherman
In Japan, citizens of all kinds make pilgrimages to bless aspects of their lives. Businesses will travel to distant temples for a monk to bless their financial future; old women will come, panting at every step, so they can have a blessing for their grandchildren; and young people come with no knowledge, looking for advice for their future. It’s a hodgepodge of individuals who have come for their annual blessing or the trip of a lifetime.
But there are more dedicated souls, individuals who seem to have the way of the place. They move more easily, more gracefully through the busy crowd. They know which market stalls to lean on. You can feel the open-air market moving, as if constantly tinkling, filled with delicious street treats and souvenir talismans. The fabric flows in the breeze, like flags marking their street carts.
And yet these individuals are so smooth, so startlingly unique in their movements that you cannot marvel at the beauty of their difference. They seem to pour into the crowd like silver sludge from the Terminator. I have a poster of river rocks in a flowing river that has been hanging in my room since boarding school. They flow like this water. Steady, beautiful and sometimes shattering with a big splash.
It’s the constant, in a large group of people all in town for their celebratory pilgrimage. Not one of them really pays attention to what’s going on around them. Their thoughts are filled with the challenges of the future far beyond and caught up in the memories of times past. Your mind can only handle so much, and the crowds begin to fade, their once clear silhouettes becoming shadows on your shoulder. And so you look at your feet and slam into the thing just out of sight.
And the cacophony of colors makes the spectators happy and now the market trembles with their laughter. The combination of all this joy at the top of dreams changes a person inside. Why are you here if not to celebrate the happiness that a single moment can bring you? Maybe we should laugh at ourselves, and maybe not take our pilgrimage so seriously? But how, with all these big dreams overtaking our goal, can we breathe and just enjoy the moment?
You can if you’re sitting in the Superstar parking lot, your legs just worn out from the three (maybe two, huh, it really was one) errands you just did. Your legs were shaking halfway through that last run – it’s definitely been a day – and now it’s time to take that long walk through the parking lot and find that precious chair. You know, the one that took quite a bit of trying to find the perfect fit in your car. With the perfect angle and… who are we kidding? After a few runs on Superstar, we would sit on anything.
We do this thing, every spring. We come from all over the East Coast to revel in Superstar glory, each with their own vibrant colors and unique stories to tell. Together we create this great story of the world of skiing, all woven into a stunning quilt with ribbons, bows and knots. Think of the incredible, completely wacky individuals who come together to celebrate this great thing we have. Breathing in this absolutely weird experience and, more importantly, bringing the thing itself back to life.
Because the thing grows and shrinks like the people themselves. New skiers come and old skiers spend more time at the umbrella bar than they do on the hill. And it’s beautiful, as you can visibly see the ski breathing because every day brings new dreams and new legs. After a few more errands and a few more beers, the slate is completely cleaned, period artwork erased by the hardworking groomers. Every day, every spring, every year is so different, and yet the structure of the dream remains the same. A big S, winding down the mountain, let it be bumpy and clean-shaven.
But we know he is dying. We can see the damage every time we make the trip. There is less snow than the day before. And we know now is the time. This day, with the wonderful characters that make up our little community, today is the thing. I can close my eyes and in a week, in a month, I can imagine going through those bumps like water, getting caught behind a rock or a bump every now and then, but still going down. Always caught up in the movement that is Superstar. Every lap, every rotation of the femur, every end-of-lap compression seems to be flowing through my body and I’m connected, truly, with the soft spring snow around me. I made my pilgrimage and was blessed.