Stephan locks his car and carries his skis to the edge of the river, where the ice rises in jagged layers against the shore. Using his poles for balance, he clambers down to the flat surface, brushes off the bottom of his boots, and steps into his bindings, feeling the skis flex under his weight. He stamps each foot, checking that his boots are fastened securely, then straightens and scans the river. No movement to be seen. Setting both poles into the snow, he pushes off, kicking back with long strides as he finds his rhythm. He turns east, following the line of the cliffs to the north, the wind finding him as he leaves the shelter of the shore.
There was no question that he would be skiing this morning. After days of disappointing weather, the snow had arrived overnight, burying the dirty crud of salt-sand-slush-ice under a thick layer of fresh powder. Slievar, his father had called it. Good snow for skiing. It only lasts for a couple of days before the wind and the sun transform it into something else. It might become crusty snow – tjarvva – or skabrram, hard snowdrifts interspersed with bare patches. Not good for skiing.
But this morning the snow is pristine, nearly frictionless beneath his skis. No one else is out this early, no tracks mar this perfect mouhta. Stephan leans on his poles and switches to a skating stride, pushing hard and feeling the effort in the sudden rise of heat on his skin. His father’s voice recedes and the landscape blurs. Light snow is falling, whirling around him. He is startled to feel tears in his eyes.
His phone vibrates but he does not respond. Stephan is skiing.