The Fork in the Snow

by Claudia Giamati
Wisconsin, USA

The Fork in the Snow

I love to ski. I’ve have been skiing since I was 14, and skating since I started walking before age 2. In the early 80s, when I was young and in good shape, I used to enjoy the thrilling sport of leaving the groomed trails at a ski resort and skiing in the trees.

Most of the good tree skiing is through fresh powder, which is a big part of its lure. However, there were always numerous places where the early bird skiers had cut nice trails. Often these pre-cut trails were quite scenic.

One day while skiing I was exhilarated by the beautiful day and the full eight inches of new snow that had fallen on the western part of the state of New York. How better to enjoy the day than to get in a little tree skiing? After leaving the path to follow a small pre-cut trail, I came upon three boys, who had sneaked into the trees to smoke cigarettes.

I knew these kids were probably locals and knew the terrain well, so I asked if they had skied the path I was taking and if it was any good. One of the boys yelled out, “Yeah, and when you come to the fork by the big oak tree, go right!”

I yelled back, Cool! and mushed away. As I worked my way through the trees, I noticed that the trail wasn’t well traveled.

A few minutes later, I heard, “Hey Lady! Lady!” I turned around to find one of the three boys I had just seen. At age 22, I wasn’t used to being called “lady”, but these boys were probably no more than 12 years old. I was surprised that this kid had followed me, but I stopped and said, Yes?

“Lady, don’t go to the right down there,” he said. Why?, I asked. “Because there’s a cliff!” he exclaimed. No way — really?! I replied. My heartbeat had rocketed upwards.

I skied slowly along to see what he was talking about. As I negotiated my way through the trees and came out safely where the left fork dumped me, I looked up the hill to see the 15-20 foot drop that would have befallen me had I taken the right turn.

Even at 22, I knew enough to know this boy had saved me from certain injury and possible death. I whispered a prayer of thanks and skied on my way.

That boy had the courage to risk being ostracized by his buddies for warning me. That can be a huge risk for an adolescent. I don’t have those injuries to look back on, and I don’t have to live with their after-effects; indeed I might have lost my life to thrill-seeking in the trees.

I wouldn’t recognize that young man if I saw him today, but I am ever thankful for his actions as a young boy.

Originally published as HeroicStories #434 on Aug 11, 2003

1 thought on “The Fork in the Snow”

  1. I will never understand the motivation of someone who deliberately directs another person to “take the right fork,” knowing it will lead to injury. Much easier to be the kid who warned the lady in this story.


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