I easily turn shy. Something about being the focus of attention challenges me, and though I can usually get through it, my first reaction is normally to duck. Over the weekend it happened a few times. Here’s one:

It’s been snowing for the last few days. The local ski hill is scheduled to open this Wednesday for the season. I got heckled on Friday by folks who know my habits for not having hiked, yet. “What have you been doing? Running? Nordic? Nursing injury?”

Yeah. All of the above. But today I woke up and I could tell it was time.

The parking lot is filled with either couples or dudes. No women hiking together. No women hiking alone. I gear up, put in music, and start walking. One foot in front of the other and 45 minutes of bootpack gains a decent pitch, an open glade, and the promise of one huge backside slasher down low on skier’s left.

On the hike back up after my second lap, my goggles fog. At the top I take them off and set them on my base to clear, then wander over to look at line potential. When I get back, a skier has just topped out. He starts to put his skis down, then looks up and decides instead to come stand next to me. He’s nice, asks my name, makes small talk, asks if I’m doing another lap; the skier’s equivalent of, “Do you come here often?” I put my goggles back on and wish him a good run.

I wear a lot of black on the hill. Dress in layers, refuse the tapered waist. I tuck my braid under my hat and run mirrored lenses in my googles. Hiking, or on the lift with unfamiliar faces, I tend to keep my head down and hood up. Eighty percent of the time people assume I’m a young kid – a teenage boy. It’s caused a few problems over the years, like the time an older man tried to start a fight in lift line, only to be told in no uncertain terms by the local pack that pushing a girl was unacceptable. “I didn’t know…”

Most of the time, though, it works for me. It allows me to just be one more person out playing in the snow. To be pretty good. Rather than pretty good for a girl. I like it that way.

Here’s to a season of clear googles.