The name Little Burn doesn't exactly strike fear into the heart of amateur skiers and snowboarders. Most big-name extreme skiers are more likely to be found zipping down a run such as Revenge or Buzzard's Alley or "The last person to ski down this was found six years later gnawing at his own forearm, which was also broken." But as I rode up the Timberline Express lift at Copper Mountain, staring down at the Little Burn, fear struck me indeed.
Now I have skied my share of black diamond and double black diamonds. Despite my great advances in the skiing world – such as learning to put on my boots and how to eat an entire meal from Saltines, ketchup and Tabasco sauce – I still lack a few of the helpful skiing skills. So you can imagine my trepidation, not due, surprisingly to a fear of injury -I'm actually sponsored by Poudre Valley Hospital – but instead to the larger fear of what I call "mountainbarrassment."
Anyone who has ever been to a ski resort knows what I'm talking about here. Notable examples of 'mountainbarrassment' include the skier wearing bright-neon orange pants together with lime green ski boots and a Dallas Cowboys jacket, the snowboarder trying to look cool doing an awesome 'trick' and hitting his or her face against a metal railing, the person at the base of the mountain fumbling with two skis, three poles, a Weimaraner, plus a fishing pole, and the pinnacle of "mountainbarrassment," the poor soul who falls while trying to dismount the chair lift.
I needed to psych myself up and take my mind off of the potential for "mountainbarrassment." I needed inspiration. I needed a small child. I spotted one from the lift, maybe 5 or 6 years old, working his way down Little Burn.
"Look," I said to my friend Matt, "if that little guy can do it, then we shouldn't have any trouble, right?"
No sooner are the words out of my mouth than the poor little kid skis straight into a mogul twice his height, causing him to do a forward flip over the mogul, resulting in him landing on his face and an audible cry of pain.
So it becomes necessary for me to find another source of inspiration before I reach the top of the awe-inspiring Timberline Express lift. I quickly turned to my previous experiences going down runs tougher than Little Burn, such as the double black diamond East Face at Steamboat. My roommate, who was born with skis on-I can only imagine how much that hurt, likes to drag me down that one a lot. I got through that hard run, I tell myself, so I can do Little Burn. Then I remember that I didn't actually ski down East Face, it was more of an awkward side-slide bail out.
In fact, the run inspired me to look for a production company to help me make my own extreme ski video, "Bailing out with Gavin McMeeking, to the EXTREME," which would feature me finding ways to avoid skiing some of the world's most challenging mountain terrain. There would also be another feature entitled "Tricking out with Gavin McMeeking, to the EXTREME" with footage of me slowly skiing over small jumps while I wave my arms a lot. I'll keep you updated on the production schedule.
So with neither inspiring children nor confidence-building memories to rely on, I realized I was going to be forced to take on Little Burn with nothing but my ability. Then, it hit me. My true savior, the pinnacle of all skiing equipment, my Spyder cotton undershirt – bad skiers don't wear Spyder, I told myself. That's why it costs so much. With this newly found confidence I launched myself down Little Burn and eventually made it to the bottom, unscathed.
Sure the skiing probably looked ugly as hell, but I, in my bold Spyder shirt, sure didn't. If only I had the money for an Obermeyer jacket, then it would be
"Look out, Jeremy Bloom, here comes Gavin McMeeking, to the EXTREME."
The lesson, of course, is that while you can find inspiration in everyday life, you can also buy it, and that's usually easier, though more expensive, so make sure you get a good-paying job. Come to think of it, skiing itself is expensive, so there's another reason to get a good job.
Gavin McMeeking is a graduate atmospheric science major. His column runs every Friday in the Collegian.