Winter Break- Post # 1
Harper Smith slowed to a stop, her skis wobbling on the ice encrusted snow. She took her goggles off and shoved them in her pocket with a little grunt. It was late afternoon, heading into evening, and the bright winter sun had just disappeared below the jagged mountaintop which seemed close enough to reach out and prick her finger on.
Shivering, she burrowed her chin into the collar of her pink down jacket and studied the sign to her right. This was a black diamond run. One she had absolutely no business going down on her own. But Amber had long since disappeared, probably off sucking face with her hairy boyfriend at the lodge, leaving Harper to fend for herself. She scowled at the sign, feeling decidedly un-Christmassy.
Harper had flown home for winter break only a few days ago, but it hadn’t taken her older sister but a few measly hours to slip back into their old routine of calling all the shots. She’d known Harper hated to ski, but Amber had pressured her anyway, and now here she was.
Harper eyed the sign again and sighed into the collar, letting the puff of breath warm her, if only for a second. Experienced skiers only! It seemed to shout, and she shivered again. Not only was she not experienced, she was downright awful. But growing up inOregon at the base of a badass skiing mountain, one was expected to learn to ski. And to like it.
One of the reasons she hadn’t been able wait to apply to USC last year was to go somewhere sunny and warm, and very non-snowy. As well as to forget all about Justin, her ex-boyfriend who also happened to be regular ski patrol on this very mountain. He was the main reason she hadn’t wanted to come today. Well, that and the possibility of breaking her neck.
Harper looked around. The mountainside was eerily quiet. The ski lift above squeaked and jerked as it moved forward, but not a single soul perched on any of the chairs. Crimony. What had she gotten herself into? Pulling out her cell, she frowned at the lack of bars. No service.
She squared her shoulders and surveyed the steep, winding run below. If she hadn’t stopped to stare down the sign, she’d probably be halfway to the lodge by now, and that much closer to warming herself by the fire and sipping a well deserved hot cocoa. She made a mental note to slap Amber when she got there.
Wrapping her gloved fingers around her poles, she took a breath. Here goes nothing.
She pushed off and immediately felt her skis slip and slide. The ice had gotten worse as the temperature dropped, and she struggled to maintain any kind of rhythm as she snow plowed shamelessly down the mountainside. Thank God Justin wasn’t here to see this. He’d get a laugh out of it for sure. He’d always been a remarkable skier, even qualifying for the Olympics right out of high school, only to dislocate his shoulder a week before he was scheduled to leave. These days he worked the off season at a local outdoor store and spent the winters as ski patrol here. At least that’s what she’d heard from Amber.
Not that she cared, of course.
Slowing to a shaky stop again, she tried to ignore the incredible burn in her thighs. This wasn’t exactly her Wii workout. She turned to look back up the mountain, a little creeped out by the lack of people. It was getting dark fast, leaving her with a panicked feeling in the pit of her belly. She really should have been at the lodge half an hour ago. They’d be closing soon. How could she have misjudged the time so badly?
There goes my freaking hot chocolate.
Pushing off again with renewed urgency, she wound around a thicket of trees, trying to use her poles to keep herself upright. The run twisted and turned over bumps and ridges that she had to negotiate with every bit of her meager skill in order not to go careening over the side of the mountain. Glancing nervously to her left, she couldn’t even tell how far down it was. Growing shadows from the looming pines and spruces made it hard to tell which way was which.
The wind was kicking up in savage little gusts and she put her head down, burying her frozen chin into her collar as best she could.
Snow plowing around a sharp corner, she hit a bump and felt the already precarious grip on her balance give. Her right ski shot out to the side and she wobbled, trying to regain what was left of her equilibrium.
“Whooooaaaa!” she cried, barely recognizing her own voice. She was gaining momentum, despite trying to slow herself down with the poles. Stupid poles. She jabbed at the ice, only to have them bounce back wildly, sending bits of frozen snow into her face and hair. “Holy shiiiit!”
She was headed straight for a giant spruce. The news report which would surely air that night, flashed before her eyes. Dumb ass college student killed trying to snow plow her way to the lodge. Story at ten.
Harper squeezed her eyes shut and braced herself for the impact, expecting a mouth full of bark any second. Instead, she felt the ground give way in a soft swoosh of air. She fell straight down, leaving her stomach above as if on a roller coaster.
When she landed it was with a thud which knocked all the air from her lungs. She sat there stunned, trying to remember how to blink. Ice and snow was packed down the back of her shirt, and it encrusted her long hair which was hanging in miserable clumps around her face.
“What the…” Looking up past the circular wall of snow, she realized with a jolt of fear what had happened. She’d fallen face first into a tree well.
Even Harper, who wasn’t exactly an outdoorsy kind of girl, knew the inherent dangers these things posed to skiers. They were basically wells made of snow, formed when a tree’s branches shelter its trunk from snowfall. She’d heard about them growing up, mostly on the news when some schmuck fell into one and had to be hauled out by search and rescue. That’s if they were lucky. Harper remembered a time or two when the poor schmucks hadn’t made it.
She bit back a panicked scream and tried to stand. Reaching for the trunk of the spruce, she used it to balance herself until she was upright. She’d lost a ski in the fall, but the other one clung to the bottom of her boot like bacteria, and she used her one remaining pole to kick it off.
She didn’t seem to be hurt. That was a good thing. She could have broken several bones in the fall. Still, she was in a pretty serious jam and she knew it.
Looking up again, she was met with the dark, ominous canopy of the tree above. Her teeth began clicking together as she took an unsteady breath in the unnatural silence.
*Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to join me next Thursday for the continuation of Winter Break And don’t forget to visit my friend Ashlynn Monroe’s blog tomorrow for her story, Reunion- http://www.ashlynnmonroe.com/apps/blog/