Excerpt from Glacier Gold

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When  we arrive at the base station of the Gletscher Express the next morning, I instantly spot Andi in the crowd. He’s hard to miss with his orange-and-yellow instructor gear, his height, and his pretty head. He doesn’t see us; he’s busy herding a group of kids into a car.

The children’s groups usually stick to the easy slopes in the lower regions of the resort. On the ride up, I tell Jay and Carl I’ll get off at the middle station because I need a few hours on the beginners’ slopes to polish my front flip. They see right through me, but whatever. I let them tease me until I’m out of the car and the automatic doors close on them and their silly remarks.

I do practice my front flip for a bit, all the while watching out for Andi’s little group.

After half an hour or so, I stop the practicing. My front flip already is pretty much perfect, and also, my muscles are still sore from yesterday.

And I can’t do cartwheels all morning, not with all the speck and scrambled eggs I’ve had for breakfast. In case I manage to accidentally meet Andi, I mean to impress him with my stylish riding and maybe a smooth line or two I haven’t quite worked out yet, not be sick all over his snowboard ...

 

In the end I am lucky. I spot him at a short T-bar lift about a hundred yards below me, guiding the six kids of his course down the run, looking like a duck with its young. I have just stopped my board to look on for a bit when two of the kids crash into each other, both of them taking an epic tumble. Andi stops the group, kicks off his board, and climbs the slope to help.

 

As I watch him pick up the kids and check them for damage, comforting them, I find myself intensely wishing I was one of those clueless youngsters.

And at the same time, I suddenly see Jay and Carl were right.

This is getting me nowhere.

Because I don’t want to be the guy who interferes with his job.

All six kids are crowding him now, shoving each other to get closer to him. It’s because he is handing out sweets. With the day being nearly windless, I can hear his soft, hoarse voice as he admonishes them to be considerate of each other.

I don’t know why, really, but watching him pat the kids’ oversized helmets, being all responsible and patient and nice with the little rascals, makes my stomach do the strangest things. It’s like rising into my chest, squeezing at my heart.

Hoping it’s just the front flips and the speck, I quickly move my board to go downhill on another trail.

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