The First Turn
By Andrew McLean

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Originally published Black Diamond Equipment

Whoa. This is, uhmmm, steep. I don’t want to die. I’m scared, no, terrified. But, okay, all right, I wanted to do this. This is supposed to be fun. Being scared is just part of it. I’ve done this millions of times before - relax. You’re not going to fall. The basics - remember the basics - shoulders downhill, hands up, stay balanced. Turn your brain off - you’re thinking too much. Okay, here we go - turn on the count of three… one, two,….. no. Not just yet. Okay, this time for sure…deep breath…


A flash of adrenaline rushes through your body you rise up and start the irreversible motion of committing to your first turn. You try to forget the million of reasons not to do it and concentrate on the one that matters - not falling. There’s a moment of suspended animation as your skis rise up and start to come around through the fall-line, throwing clumps of snow off the topsheets that hang in space with you. Then, for a split second, you are completely airborne and pointing straight downhill surrounded by huge exposure and unforgiving mountains. There is nothing you can do at this point but rely on instinct and experience. I will land this turn. 

Why the hell am I doing this? Will my ski get hung up? Will this slope fracture? The moment of truth comes as your skis touch down. Tip and tail pressures are subconsciously feathered as you sink into the turn, concentrating on your downhill inside edge but keeping the possibility of a desperate self-arrest close at hand. A blast of snow flies out from underneath you, hangs in space, then disappears with a hiss. The ski is holding. Things are under control. Visions of tearful funerals are quickly replaced with an overwhelming sense of purpose and self confidence. Life is good. Skiing is great. I need more…

Aside from just being pure fun, there’s no rational excuse for skiing steep lines, climbing big walls or finessing your way up a frozen ice pillar. So, why do it? Perhaps like many things in life, it’s all about facing your fears and irreversibly committing to something with heart and soul - things that climbers and skiers perhaps take for granted. But, unlike many other things that lead to interesting lives, these activities have a dark side to them - you can get hurt or die in pursuit of them. It’s a risk versus rewards choice that we all have to make. Since its inception, Black Diamond has been upping the angle each year with new products to help make that choice easier and safer. Although we can’t be with you as you ease into that first turn, you can count on our years of experience and understanding of the products not to let you down, which means you’ll have more mental energy to expend on the important things - like not falling.


Copyright - Andrew McLean Back to Writings Index