Our last season together
Our last season together
Every year, while most students at Syracuse University loath the snow and long, cold, dark months that accompany it, a small group of skiers and snowboarders on campus eagerly await the first snow every year. Last year, that day was Dec. 7.
On the eve of the first snowfall, our group set out to Thornden Park and began digging homemade rails and jumps into the powdery snow. As my friends and I poured water over the newly built features so that they would freeze before morning, we realized this might be our last time skiing together — at least for those of us who were seniors. For the younger guys, this was their last chance to absorb the energy of the group to carry on in future seasons. One last chance to build features in backyards, drink cheap beer, eat burgers and hot dogs off an old charcoal grill, and ski surrounded with our best friends.
Although the snowfall was less than we expected, we were still able to get in a string of great ski days through January and February as my final semester at Syracuse unfolded. We filmed clips, photographed deep powder days at Toggenburg (a small ski mountain 30 minutes from Syracuse), drank beers, got covered in snow, and had the winter we had all hoped for. Looking back, I am so thankful for that short string of normal days since what followed was anything but normal.
On Feb. 21, I shattered my right collarbone while photographing in the park at Labrador Mountain (another small upstate ski mountain). I woke up after the surgery with two titanium plates and 11 screws surgically implanted in my shoulder. I thought my season had come to an end. But three weeks post-operation I felt strong enough to stand and continued to try to make photographs (please don’t tell my doctor). I couldn’t snowboard or ski, but I was able to hold a camera in my left hand and adjust its settings with my broken arm.
Though I wasn’t able to ride, I found joy in the fact that I was still able to photograph and experience the remainder of the season with my friends. A week or two later the pandemic hit the U.S. and we weren’t sure if we’d get another chance to ski together before we all went our separate ways after graduation.
Luckily my friends and I were able to remain in Syracuse and quarantine together despite SU closing and most students leaving campus for the year. For weeks we sat inside, played ski films, and watched as not only our ski season but the end of our senior year disappeared before our eyes. In early April, we decided it was safe enough for us to all travel into the woods together in our pod to try and continue the ski season as best we could. We only had two days of skiing before the snow melted but those days were unanimously the greatest days of the season. We hiked down the closed Labrador Mountain where I shattered my collarbone a few weeks earlier, to the abandoned terrain park with shovels, snow rakes, and skis dragging behind us. We dug leftover boxes and rails into the patches of snow that remained on the mountain. The snow was slush, the beers were warm under the hot sun, the grill was too big to bring on the mountain, and the skiing was sketchy. But none of that mattered. These were our last days together on the hill. Our last days of hooting and hollering after an almost-failed backflip. The last days of our last season together.
By late April all the snow had melted, we graduated on Zoom in May, and my collarbone was completely healed by June. These are the frames that resulted from our last ski season, a season of unfortunate events.