by Deanna Blackwell
I slammed the door to the Saab and threw my boot bag up over my shoulder. The sun hung on the mountains in the west, but the cold had already begun its long sweep down the sprawling Yampa River Valley. The winds washed down from Canada and raced across the crystalline stream, cutting the valley in two, and I pulled my parka up around my face before beginning the arduous climb up the steps to our condo.
My thighs still burned from the last run, a long, grueling, uncompromising dash down The Closet, with its steeps and trees and bumps and wildly undulating fall line, followed by a fast mile-long run-out of groomed and packed powder down to the base. It had been an exhilarating afternoon.
“My God!” I cried as I forced the door closed with my butt and stood there shivering. “Jeeez!” I shook a few snowflakes from my head and thwacked my gloves against my shoulders, and then I hobbled across the foyer to the fireplace, the toes inside my boots cramping from the cold. I opened the fireplace door and grabbed a piece of pinon, threw it inside, and then I did it again before prodding the smoldering ashes to life….
“Damn, I can’t believe how raw it is out there! Gawd!”
…. The phone rang suddenly, and my heart jumped. I lunged for the receiver.
"Paula, it's Bob, Bob Dixon, from the ski patrol."
"Oh. Oh, sorry. I thought it was Shadar."
"He’s not home yet?"
I paused. "No. And I'm beginning to worry. He hasn't called or anything, and that's just not like him."
"Why? What's the matter?"
"Ahh, we've got a missing kid on the mountain. He was supposed to meet his parents at the base at two, and he never showed. I was going to see if I could convince your old man to run a sweep with me."
"Didn't you already run sweeps? It's after four."
"Yeah. That's the strange thing. We didn't see a soul, so I sent my crew home. Then I got the call about the kid. I've gotta get enough people to run another sweep, check the trees, stuff like that.”
"God, I hope he's all right."
"Yeah, so do I. Thing that worries me is we've only got another hour of daylight, and then it gets really hairy. I wouldn't even bother Shadar, except I've already assigned everybody else to different parts of the mountain. That leaves Sunshine for me. Oh, hell. That's all right. I can do it. It'll just take a little longer, that's all."
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