“I am so happy”.

Four words I haven’t said much in 2021. Words reserved only for intimate moments with those who move my soul, in a year that has delivered stressors galore. While laughter is my default, it hasn’t been as prevalent as usual thanks to Covid restrictions, an inevitable parental death filled with loss and then the business pressure that has come with both.

The thing about skiing is, no matter what hell you think you are living, when you click into skis you click into a mindful meditation in nature you didn’t realise you signed up for.

When you make your first turn, your third turn, your thirtieth turn of the day you’ve already left all other thought behind. Every turn requires presence, for without it you lose an edge or lose your balance and we all know where that leads…ski patrol.

Then, when through the consistent presence, the turns begin to link and you enter the flow, joy takes over.

It may not happen every run, you may just be glad you made it down alive, but you can be guaranteed you didn’t think about anything else on that run than what you were doing in those moments.

The human condition often means we spend far too much time in our heads, ruled by rigid beliefs we learned as kids that make no sense, telling ourselves false stories about who we are and ignoring our hearts where joy resides. We’re living in the past or angst-ing about a future that hasn’t even happened. Who can blame us in today’s world.

I fled to the mountains this weekend in search of a 2021 circuit breaker. Covid was knocking on border doors between Greater Sydney and regional New South Wales where I live and the open road beckoned to snow lined ridges I had not touched in over two years.

Day one at Perisher was misty, that’s romantic speak for Australian ski field fog, the kind that hangs and grips the air, makes vague shadows of once immaculate tree shapes and sucks the light and shade from the snow laden floor.

I thought I’d hate it, but I loved it.

Every turn felt technical, even though the pitch was far from steep, but danger sat in the details from unseen rocks to orange poles. This was living, this was skiing, negotiating challenges in my path and doing it half blind, just based on feeling and intuition that came with experience and skill and with friends doing the same. And there it was, that spontaneous laughter that movement in mountains often bring.

Day two turned bluebird with lockdown keeping lift lines at bay. It’s impossible not to smile when you’re living in your element, in the moment, in nature that goes on for miles.

“I am so happy”.

Four words that sprung from my lips without thought or care or calculation while sitting on a chairlift after a morning of perfect runs under an Australian sun.

I was in the moment. If asked, I knew that life still presented troubles, it is living after all, but troubles are always well eased with time spent in the mountains and mindful turns made on skis.

Skiing and snowboarding is a privilege, more so than ever in a pandemic world, now’s the time to embrace it if you can, because what you give in risk you’ll get back in moments galore.

Skiing during a pandemic: where do seasonal snow workers go from here?