au-tumn – noun : The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall. In the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.

For most, the arrival of autumn is a time to lament the passing of summer and attempt one last hurrah before winter arrives.  The hustle-bustle of a busy summer lifestyle dies out, begrudgingly replaced with preparation for several months of inactivity.

We skiers are not like most.  Instead of a time for death and mourning, autumn represents rebirth for skiers.  The smell of a crisp autumn morning conjures up images of falling snow, new ski equipment and adventures with friends.  The longing memories of the prior season are joined with a feverish anticipation for what is to come.  This is exactly what a small handful of skiers experienced on Berthoud Pass on the morning of Monday, October 3rd.

But before I tell you about that, a little background is in order…

I work as a ski coach for the University of Colorado Freestyle Ski Team (www.cufst.com).  Being on a college campus makes autumn a rebirth “double-whammy” of sorts.  Of course, like all skiers I’m excited about the rebirth of the upcoming season.  But, being a coach for CUFST adds additional excitement over the rebirth of the team as well.  New and old members arrive on campus every autumn and the team is reborn.  Last year’s rookies become this year’s veterans.  Last year’s veterans are back for more or have graduated with their college degrees.  And of course, rookies join the team with wide eyes and high expectations.  The names and styles may change from year-to-year, but the excitement and anticipation remain the same.

“Remember that October powder day last year?”

“I wonder who I’ll ski the most with this year?”

“Where will I have my best day this season?”

“Remember that crash so-and-so took?  Brutal!”

“I hope I have the right equipment.  Should I get new skis?”

“I’ve been rehabbing my knee all summer for this!”

“This is going to be THE season…I can feel it.”

This enthusiasm and wonder is the same from year-to-year and forms a common link between generations of CUFSTers.

Back to the small handful of skiers on Berthoud Pass.

On October 3rd CUFST held an informal, high-altitude training at Berthoud Pass.  Despite a lack of snow, it felt fondly familiar to the mid-winter routine of waking early, driving up the pass, packing a backpack and hiking to a summit.  It was fantastic.

Berthoud Pass is a special place for me and other members of CUFST.  During our high-altitude training the landscape reminded each of us of past skiing exploits while simultaneously inspiring future plans.  Veterans told the rookies legendary tales of team members from years gone by.  Plans were hatched, friendships were formed, and a community was made stronger.

Objectively, skiing is simply sliding downhill with long sticks on one’s feet.  Holistically, skiing brings skiers together to form an undeniable community.  CUFST is a sub-community of the greater skiing community, and one that I feel lucky to be a part of.  It is strengthened in those special moments and places, like Berthoud Pass.

For me, Berthoud Pass has been the location of countless shared experiences with countless people.  These experiences have strengthened a true sense of the skiing community for me.  I can think of so many examples, but here are just a few.

New Year’s Eve 2010-2011 with my wife Kelly, Mt Russel (-30° F)

Tim Petersons first true powder day after moving from VA

Josh breaking his leg and the following extraction

Doug and I getting face-shots during white-out May storms

Cory laying out a beautiful back flip

Andre destroying himself doing a back flip in the same location (but convincing me to try as well)

Depth hoar, depth hoar, depth hoar with Brian

Maroney and I simul-jumping “the gap”

CUFST high-altitude training, October 3rd, 2011

What skiing community/communities are you a part of?  What places act as a catalyst for your community growth/strength?  If you don’t know, I encourage you to find the answer to these questions for the upcoming 2011-2012 ski season.  I promise you won’t regret it.  You may just find that this activity we call skiing is a lot more than simply sliding downhill with long sticks on our feet.

au-tumnnoun – The infancy of winter, when excitement and anticipation are high.  When community is born, reborn and strengthened.  When skiers realize it is more than just skiing.

Guest blogger Joel Bettner on pre-season excitement

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