Fresh Tracks

Winter brings healing.

The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances. —Aristotle

When snow falls thick and heavy in the early evening dark, the world slows to three-quarter time and closes around us, quiet and peaceful, and calm. Everything slows. Light blinks sleepily from streetlamps through the deepening shadow theatre; sound bends oddly around corners amidst the persistent downrush. The air is damp and fragrant, like sheets on the line, and over it all hangs a patient, reserved quietude. The deepening snow teaches, and it heals—there is no stopping this storm. We must simply learn to live with grace until it passes, with the knowledge that our tracks will fill behind us as if we were never here.

Like everywhere else, our town has been burdened by a tremendous weight of uncertainty. That’s to say nothing of the individual struggles we’ve all endured through the isolation, fear, and loss of the last year. Even our beloved Bridger Mountains—perhaps an analog for our collective psyche—burned fiercely, leaving scars that will take decades to scab. And yet the snows will come, as they always do, and along with them the simple joy of winter.

In these dark, cold months, we have time to gather ourselves. We have long, lazy hours—so different from the frantic rush of a Montana summer—to calculate the incalculable. We will ski and skate, and climb and sled, and breathe deeply of the pure, frigid breeze. We will escape into the backcountry, where peace and adventure and deep powder await, and where the calculations of risk and reward—normally a formidable puzzle—seem almost quaint compared to navigating the status quo. Avalanches rarely strike at random, and it is easily within our power to avoid dangerous slopes. If only it were so simple to prevent other problems.

But winter is also an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, and start again. Snow and wind transform the land, making familiar places unknowable. Our trails are obscured; our paths erased. Perhaps, when the storm clears, we can set a better track.

Once we’ve found time to heal, and the backcountry has renewed us with beauty, and deep winter snow has salved our wounds, the sun will return. And as the gauze of winter is peeled away, the blackened Bridger ridges will turn green—they will. Until then, we must simply learn to live with grace until the storm passes, with the knowledge that our tracks will fill behind us as if we were never here.