As I stand up and zip down the ramp from the chairlift, a lady is standing in front of me holding out two red sticks for me to take. I ski up to her, grab the sticks and head off to the left towards the top of the icy ski slope.
Standing on the hillside, I stare out in the darkness, barely making out the forms of other skiers, as the cold night air surrounds us. My companion to my left was a “newbie”. I, on the other hand, felt like an old pro, going on my second season of being part of the parade.
“I wonder how long it will be until we get going? I thought of drinking a beer ahead of time to take the edge off, but decided I needed my complete focus.”
“Yes, last year a lot of liquid courage was imbibed by many, but I’m a purist.”
More and more unload from the chairlift and gather. The brightly colored lights of the snowcat provide a festive aura to the scene of skiers and snowboarders gathering at the top of the ski hill. Someone yells to make room for Santa’s sleigh.
A wooden sleigh complete with runners, decked out in a red and white paint slides down the hill behind me, guided by two skiers on two ropes behind it braking gently.
Soon I hear, “10 minutes, 10 minutes” called out by a voice in the dark. Then,
“Don’t forget, leave 3-5 skier lengths between you as you ski down the hill, pass it on to the person next to you.”
Soon, blinding light as if hundreds of sparklers have been lit illuminated the hill above me. As I turn around, skiers are lighting the flares of the skier next to them. “Newbie” illuminated my flare, I light the next one and turn to the skier next to me.
Before I know it, it’s time to go.
The skiers in front of me start traversing the slope, and I follow.
After about half a minute, a roar comes up from below. I look down towards the village, seeing the enormous bonfire and hordes of people. They have seen our snake of burning firecrackers and are excited! For one fleeting moment, I have the sensation of what it feels like to be a rock star and have the crowd go crazy. This is so cool!
Last year, I was so worried about staying upright and not falling, I held my flares stiffly in my hand. This year, I’ve decided to have fun and wave them up and down in time with the music. Then I decide to go with circles and waves as I follow behind the skier in front of me.
The traversing thing is not too hard, but when we make a turn, my skis speed up as I zip into the fall line. The skier in front of me is zipping along too and suddenly I need to make up speed. I’m waving, skiing and then suddenly I take a moment to peek up the hill.
I feel the moment of magic, that moment of being fully here, of being fully alive. I see this coil of lights going back and forth across the hill, and comprehend how all of us together have created this bit of Christmas eve magic. I feel so lucky, so special, so fortunate to be alive and to be part of this.
Before I know it, I am approaching the bottom of the hill. I kneel down, smushing my flares into the snow to snuff them out, before tossing them into the metal can. I quickly shuffle off, then turn to take pictures of the last of the torchlight parade and the fireworks going off.
This is Christmas eve at its finest, Colorado style.