Big Bear

The sunlight crept through the single window in the room to wake up Chris. It was about 8:15 in the morning; right on time. The mountain opened at 9, which gave them enough time to gulp down whatever breakfast was upstairs waiting for them, then to head back down and get ready. Next to Chris on the other side of the room laid Conor, his younger cousin. Dead asleep, Chris always had to throw a pillow at Conor to wake him up or else they would miss being the first ones on the slopes. They both slowly stumbled out of bed, grabbed their pants, and began to zombie-like walk upstairs. The smell of homemade waffles and maple syrup filled the staircase. They each quickly grabbed a couple of waffles, drenched the plate with syrup, and ate them so fast it was as if a vacuum sucked them up.

Downstairs laid all their gear: boots, helmets, gloves, heavy coats, goggles, and thick pants. It took them a solid 10 minutes just to put their clothes on, including their underlayers and hand-warmers. Their long, skinny, boards waited for them in the garage. They quickly went through the garage, grabbed them, and walked out.

9 am; mountain is open. Big Bear Mountain was just 100 feet from where Conor’s house is, so a quick walk through the woods helped save time and energy. They can simply walk out onto the mountain, strap up, and start their day. The crisp air tingled on the little skin that was showing on their faces, just in between their goggles and where their turtlenecks started. Along the horizon were other mountains, covered in trees and white blankets from all the snow. Wherever you were, you could see these mountains. Just as Chris finished buckling both his bindings, Conor asked him “Wanna go down Jamboree for a practice run?”

“Yeah, sure. I’m down for a blue.” The blue trails were slightly less intense than the blacks, but slightly more intense than the greens. They rarely ever go on a green trail.

The first run of the season is always a “warm-up,” but the boys never let up. Straight runs. Very fast-paced. It was near impossible to keep up with them. Sometimes they would download an app on their smartphones to track how fast they were going, then at the bottom of the hill, they would compare stats for bragging rights. The mountain was not that big; this “warm-up” took an entire 30 seconds to get from top to bottom. The boys unstrapped their back binding, walked over to the lift that fit 2 comfortably, and slowly made their way back up.

Now the boys always hated this part of the day, the chair lift. The machine was 30 years old, it was slow, and all they wanted to do was board. Depending on how fast they could go, they could fit at least 3 runs in the time a single chair lift took to go up. The seats were always wet from the snow and rain, so the boys basically just sat in an icebox for 5 minutes. On the way up though, the view was incredible. The entire mountain was visible, in that you could see every trail on this trip. One trail in particular stood out to the boys, Terrain Park, one of their all-time favorites. The trail included jumps, rails, anything the workers could find that can be described as “terrain.” A group of people are always spotted at the entrance to the trail, waiting for their turn to hit the tabletop rail, following the medium-sized jump, doing a Nosegrab in midair. The boys watched from afar some other kids doing tricks with their skis, when Chris noticed the mini-bus.

The mini-bus was an old, broken down bus that has no engine or seats on the inside; a perfect ramp for Terrain Park. The owners allowed the workers to graffiti the sides of the bus to make it really stand out. Chris and Conor would go full speed down the hill and over the bus, doing any trick that they could think off. The mini-bus was the boys’ favorite terrain, up until 2 years ago. They were so anxious to see it up close that when off the lift, they barely attached their bindings. Terrain Park was close to the top, so it didn’t take long to get there. They boarded down fast, and saw the bus from the top of the hill. “I can’t believe it’s back,” Chris said aloud.

“Me neither. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since, well ya know,” Conor said quietly.

“James would’ve hated seeing this,” he said. Chris could tell that he was tearing up because of the sniffles and the fogginess on his goggles.

James was Conor’s older brother. They were so similar and so different in numerous ways. It was always a competition between those two. Chris always had a special relationship with James. Cousins, best friends since birth, there was a bond that couldn’t break even if someone hit it with a sledgehammer. Chris used to think of him as his brother, because they basically were. It used to be the three of them, speeding in and out of people on the slopes. A trio like the Three Musketeers. When it wasn’t ski season, it was football season. They would go to each others games, and cheer each other on. And just as the boys were moving on with their lives, the one thing that they wanted to forget forever made its way back into their lives.

The old bus continued to stare back at the boys from the bottom of the hill. They were shocked that the workers would put that back on the mountain. This feeling of disgust in their stomachs sat and ate at them. Chris tried to comfort Conor, letting him know that it’ll be okay and what not. Conor then got a rush of anger, contained anger. He then started to head down the hill without saying a word to Chris. Chris followed, but he realized too late that Conor was going over the bus. It looked as if he is floating in the air, and it seemed like he was up there for an eternity. As he reached the climax, his hand reached toward the sky, not letting his focus leave the landing ramp. He landed perfectly, continuing down the mountain without waiting for Chris. At the bottom of the mountain, Chris finally caught up, he says “Are you okay buddy?” Conor couldn’t even speak. He simply pulled his goggles above his helmet, and hugged him, as the snow gently fell around them.

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