Dashing through the snow and ‘ letting it all go’
It was my third time on the ski slopes and I never felt so free, writes Yang Yang.
My mother said I was born on a snowy day, and a snowy winter always promises a good harvest in the coming year. Winter has thus become my favorite season and snow can always cheer me up.
Afraid of water, I have never been a swimmer; worried about breaking my legs, I never let myself go on ice. However, when I ski, I feel completely free on snow.
When my airplane finally landed at the airport of Changbai Mountain in Jilin province, I let out a sigh of relief. I hate flying.
The moment my friend and I walked out of the airport, the clean air filled in my lungs. Coming from a city like Beijing that is infamous for its smog, I felt this was the first time in months that I dared to take in deep breaths.
At that time, I had just finished working on a sad story about the Nanking Massacre. Having been immersed in the bleakness of it for weeks, I wanted to free myself from the heavy history.
The holiday village served us well. Even though it was the end of March, when the skiing season was closing soon and few visitors came, the villagers didn’t lower their service standards. They picked us up at the airport and sent us directly to our hotel. Our room was comfortable and breakfast satisfactory.
At the equipment center, we put on heavy boots, suits and helmets, and dragged the skis walking slowly into the snow, or more specifically “snirt”, since thousands of skiers had tramped on and soiled the snow.
At this time of the year, there was no snowfall on Changbai Mountain, the temperature at night was rising above 0 C. Some of the trails had been shut down. But the bright side was that there were fewer skiers so that sometimes, it seemed like you were in the “kingdom of isolation”, you were “the Queen”, as the song
from the motion picture goes. This was my third time skiing, and I had mastered the basic skills: how to speed up or slow down; shift the weight of my body; not to squat backward, use more of the ankles to work on the skis; and most importantly, relax and trust oneself.
My friend started from scratch. I taught her the basic skills and she kept practicing on the primary runs. Soon we were ready to try a more difficult trail.
The middle-level trail was steeper than the primary’s and you could pick up speed very quickly. It also provided more chances for skiers to practice how to make small turns.
It took only several minutes to finish the skiing on the trail, but taking the slow cable car up to the top of the mountain took up much more time. Once or twice, I found I had no company besides the staff running the cable cars.
I put on my goggles, took a deep breath and positioned myself to rush down the mountain. There was nobody in sight, there were only trees in the perfect white world, wind blowing in my face, and the whoozing sounds made by the skis rubbing against the surface of the snow.
Down the steepest part, I completely let myself free. I felt the skis had become parts of me, and this wood in the snow was home. I had never been more confident and free. I turned to look at the trees on the two sides of the trail, opened my arms to embrace nature, and even started to sing
loudly. I was so excited. This excitement was different from the thrill of being on a roller coaster that rolled 360 degrees. It was different from the time I conquered my fear of water while at sea, snorkeling to see the colorful views hidden underwater.
Skiing relaxes me. I felt just like those trees, and I belonged here. I felt brave and powerful. The bleakness that had shrouded me for weeks was gone.
However, when I tried going down the trail a second time, I somehow shifted my attention from the view to my feet.
I wanted to try some new skills, and my body got stiff. On the flattest part of the trail after speeding up, I decided to imitate athletes whom I had seen on TV to make some beautiful turns, but my legs became tangled and I fell.
After lying on my stomach for several seconds, I stood up quickly, geared up and continued with my favorite sport.
On the third day, the temperature was so warm that most of the trails were closed. I suggested to my friend that we should try the highest level trail — the red one — that was still open.
She hesitated, but agreed finally. We tramped to the highest peak, and I offered to take a look at the steepest part of the run. The ski shop’s staff dressed up as though they were members of a national team training there. They advised us not to try.
We took their advice, but we swore that we would try it the next time. Contact the writer at yangyangs@ chinadaily.com.cn
Clockwise from top: Norway’s Petter Reistad competes at the 2015 China Tour de Ski in Nalati, Xinjiang.
Hemu village; traditional Tuvan fur skis.
Panoramic view of Changbai Mountain; ‘snow always cheers me up.’