Snow Going Back

If I could describe my mindset as a bell-curve the last few weeks, it has been firmly on the steep slope downwards.

My baby boy is happier than every; every smile from him is a shot of endorphins. The day-job is booming, I’ve become Director of a new company spin-off, I’ve completed the first 6 weeks of being the head of a “charity” and we somehow raised $10,000 at the Mr. Perfect Trivia Night on Saturday.

It defies logic to feel this shit in the cloudy times. But depression, anxiety and mental illness eats logic for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. And desert when it gets the munchies.

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So when I realised we had 4 days coming up at “The Snow” last week in Thredbo I felt a mixture of emotions. Nerves that I would ski for the first time ever, happy I could attempt to switch off for a few days, and anxious our boy Finn would not scream relentlessly for the 6 hour drive.

In just a four-day window I felt I had embarked on the world’s most aggressive slingshot ride. Except this one did not stop and there was no way off.

The drive turned out to be easy. A couple of naps, two pit-stops and some breast-fuel for Finn and we were in Thredbo.

Our hosts, and friends, invited us stay at their prime-position house at the bottom of the slopes. A log fire and view of the snow-capped mountains greeted us. A physical Christmas card.

With both couples now having babies just weeks in age apart it is a different type of fun that revolves around the little ones’ schedules.

I love walking so took Finn’s nap times as an opportunity to grab the Ergo carrier and go exploring. Wrapped up like a mini-Michelin man he fell asleep within minutes which means I know have an hour or more of smashing the steps.

As most people know I cannot get enough of history. The real history, not the kind dictated in textbooks and on most TV, movies and by Governments.

I had associated Thredbo with a landslide disaster in 1997 I once read about. Some frantic Googling later and I knew I had to see the actual site.

Due to a mixture of an underwater burst water main and a road (Alpine Way) and mountainside that was not originally built to be a main access point, the earth gave way.

On Wednesday 30 July 1997 at 11:35pm 1000-plus tonnes (conservatively) of liquefied earth collapsed and took two ski lodges with it. 18 people died.

But one guy survived. I am not sure I believe in miracles so I will not call it that. As I am fairly certain Stuart Diver had something extra inside that he summoned upon when he could have let go and slipped away to death.

Stuart managed to cling on for 65 hours trapped in an air pocket between two huge concrete slabs, immersed in water and suffering hypothermia. His first wife Sally died alongside him.

Fast forward to 2015 and Stuart lost his second wife to cancer but he still lives above the site at Thredbo today. I could not quite comprehend the resilience this man must have to just get out bed everyday.

As I paced through the windy resort roads looking up, guessing which house was his, I almost walked past the landslide site. Expecting to see a massive expanse of clear land or a huge memorial, there are simply some steps that lead to an elevated platform looking across to the mountains.

Finn was asleep at this point and it was eerily quiet. The howling ice-cold wind the only noise that broke the silence. I tried to imagine what the scene was moments after the earth gave way. Pure chills went down my spine.

Later that night Finn did not sleep well. With the ensuing sleep deprivation came nightmares and then what usually occurs when I wake up in the morning. Instant racing and thoughts.

With the Mr. Perfect Trivia Night just two days away this was multiplied and compounded with nerves and then the thought that in a couple of hours I would attempt to ski. And potentially end up in hospital as I have commonly achieved many times during activities.

This continued right up until I embarked on my first run down the slopes. I had visions of not being able to get on or off the chairlift or falling over continuously.

But my mate Tom showed the sort of patience and calm I envied. Talking me through every turn he gently encouraged and guided until I felt enough confidence to take on the slopes on my own in the afternoon.

After 20 minutes standing in silence, fiddling with my gloves, boots, jacket, pretending I was waiting for someone, I finally plunged. Despite feeling like a bullet I no doubt looked like Bambi on Ice.

But it did not matter that I could only really turn to my left or that I wiped out a child on my first run or even that I had a habit of turning too far and strangely skiing down the slope backwards seamlessly.

The adrenalin rushed through me, only subsiding after another long walk towards home. As my levels stabilised I sat sipping a beer, contemplating the day. A couple of mantra’s flowed through my head.

Ride the twists, turns and drop-offs, give yourself time to accept them and take a day at a time (I struggle to believe a guy that had severe social anxiety is now writing this).

You do not have to be the loudest ride-goer. But you do need to be on the ride.

You have no idea what is possible and what highs are coming or you will miss if you jump off the ride. Just hold on tight. The worst scenario is not getting on the ride in the first place.

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