mark malu
The scene of this week’s meditation, Mark Malu off the Road to Provo, Snowbird

People are weird. Everyone thinks that he or she is superb at something, even if that something should happen to be monumentally trivial.

Regardless of the value of the gifts people allege to possess, most of us think of our gift as intrinsic to our nature, a defining trait that allows us to feel as though we are the agents of our destiny. Should our gifts be applicable to employment, they become labels by which we are known; be it “artist” or “mathematician,” our identity is forever linked to our talent.

The weird part is that the very term “gift” denotes something given by someone or something else to us, meaning that it must exist independently from us. In no way can we be responsible for it or it wouldn’t be a gift in the first place. Gifts are powers or moments granted to us so we can build a small storehouse of courage to draw on, allowing us to proceed.

Before I take this meditation too far afield, let’s bring it back to the realm of the White World. In skiing, as in life, we are granted gifts, in the form of moments we couldn’t possibly create for ourselves. The biggest gift one can receive as a freeskier isn’t just the ecstatic moment itself, but awareness, right down to one’s toes, of being chosen to receive the gift in the first place.

The simple truth about gifts is that they first must be unwrapped. Then they must be put to work. An unopened gift, or one that lays idle, suffers a terrible fate, a fate not just for the individual, but for all of us. It is music that is never played.

When it comes to skiing, the gift starts with your presence in the White World at a moment in time that is at once no accident and not of your invention. I’m reminded of such a time during the incubation period for Snowbird Secrets when my co-author, Guru Dave Powers, and I tiptoed towards the rope that barred us–and about a hundred other snow junkies– from an uncut powder expanse accessed by the thus far embargoed Road to Provo.

The rope suddenly dropped and a battalion of skiers surged forward. Dave and I moseyed along the lower perimeter of the Road, below the masses, calmly watching as one squadron of skiers after another could withstand the tug of gravity no longer and dove downhill. In a few seconds the Goo and I were alone in the lead. The gift burst open like a piñata crammed with joy.

In these special moments, ego plays no role. Neither Goo nor I worked to be in position; we just possessed the intuitive knowledge to be in a place where grace could find us. Which is not to say the self is absent; quite the opposite. You know it’s you who received this gift, found and anointed by powers beyond our analysis.

The Goo says it beautifully: “Everyone gets these moments from time to time, but it’s the recognition of the sublime and immersion in the exquisite nature of the gift which you need to be amazed by.”

One of the beauties of such moments is that they open up, pulling time like taffy, so we can spend more time with the Gift. Openness is the attitude required for gifts to be bestowed. Again, our Guru: “I remember these runs as gifts forever; they are the runs you cannot get by being pushy. They only come when you are in the right state of openness.”

Getting to “the right state of openness” may sound like metaphysical hooey, but it’s attained every day by those who express their deepest gratitude for the gifts that can only be unwrapped in the mountains.

Let the music play.

jackson hogen