Category Archives: The Next Fifteen Minutes

Spring Skiing: Almost like cheating

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Mount Rainier from Crystal Mountain

Luckily for me the splint protecting my thumb still allows me to hold onto a ski pole. With Crystal opening for the weekend tomorrow and me in dire need of exercise I skinned to the top of the ski area today to check out the conditions and test my new splint.

While I might not be ready to haul a 200 pounder down the mountain in a toboggan, I was able to hold a pole in my right hand for the first time since the injury nearly a month ago. For anyone with a superstitious bone in their body, it is interesting the note the date of the fall. It was Friday the 13th.

Unfortunately the surgeries aren’t over for me. I also tweaked my left shoulder that day and now that I have the use of my four right fingers I figure I might as well get the shoulder surgery out of the way.

Still plenty of snow in Green Valley

A day in the mountains is a good reminder. This could very well be the last weekend of skiing this season for me. With sunny weather and warm temperatures in the forecast the snow might melt before I recover from my next surgery. So today I slowed down and experienced every 15 minute segment of the day. It was quiet and buttery and easy skinning.

The conditions are prime right now. The snowpack has cooked down to a creamy, not-too-sticky consistency and my turns down were heavenly. The snow cats were out on the hill, which made for some lovely private groomers for me. It almost felt like I was cheating. Almost.

If this is the last weekend of the season, then so be it. It was worth it. For those of you coming up for the weekend, this will be the best spring conditions we’ve had so far. Not too much has melted out and the snow has finally started a legitimate melt-freeze cycle.

Pay Attention to the Good Stuff

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As good as it gets

If there is one phrase I would like to tattoo onto the back of my hand as a constant reminder it is this: Pay attention to the good stuff.

Yesterday, as I sat in the doctor’s office, waiting to see the hand surgeon, I felt myself sinking a little into a funk. I was beginning to realize that just because the stitches were out, my thumb still hurt, and I still wouldn’t be able to move it for two months and even though we had planned to go on a surfing trip this week, instead I was in the doctor’s office with a shriveled and bruised right hand that could have belonged to Frankenstein’s monster, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself.

On the wall of the doctor’s office is a sketch to help patients describe their pain on a scale of 0 to 10. 0 is no pain and 10 is unbearable, excruciating pain. Each number corresponds with a drawing of a face in varying amounts of distress. The 0 face is smiling and the 10 face is crying. Looking around at the world, most people’s faces reflect the same sightly-frowning, arched-eyebrowed 6 face.

6 hurts.

But it isn’t until you’ve visited 10 does your perspective change. Once you’ve felt 10, everything else feels more like a 2. Because unless you have suffered a great loss–an unbearable, devastating loss–do you realize how good you actually have it.

Most of us haven’t felt a 10. Most of us are fortunate. When John was sick, his physical pain level fluctuated between 8 and 10 for an entire year. For me, my emotional pain dipped down into the 4 range during hopeful moments and spiked into the double digits during our darkest days. Even though it wasn’t a physical pain–like the sharp ache of a bone being drilled in order to sew a severed tendon back in place–it was unbearable.

When I remember how fortunate I am to still have my husband with me, this current, annoying pain in my thumb almost disappears. This is no 6. Not even close. Those who have visited 10 know what I’m talking about it.

So maybe the three-inch scar on my right thumb will act as a reminder, like a piece of string tied around my index finger, to pay attention. The good stuff isn’t going to last forever. Powder gets tracked up, kids grow up, our hips and shoulders wear out, and not one of us is getting out of this thing alive.

Instead of dwell on the negatives, it is better to pay attention when life is good–when the cherry blossoms pop on the trees along the street, the way my husband smiles when he’s happy, the sparkle of sunlight on fresh snow. Don’t rush, Kim. Pay attention. This right here is the good stuff.

Change of Plans

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Kircher Cliffs, Big Sky, Montana

Nothing is ever quite certain in life. Plans change. What you thought would be the greatest moment of your life can pale. What should have been drab might turn out to be stellar.

Before I met my husband, I thought I lived a spontaneous life. Back then I was living out of the back of my truck in the summer and dirt-bagging at my parent’s cabin at Crystal Mountain in winter. I didn’t earn much, but I didn’t need much. I was always ready at a moment’s notice for whatever adventure came my way.

Or so I thought.

After spending time with John–when I knew I might be falling in love with him–it was his spontaneity that most intrigued me. John lived like a man on a mission. He knew he would need a liver transplant someday. He figured it would be hard, and maybe he wouldn’t live through it. So he took every single moment and stretched, folded and rearranged it to its fullest.

We could all learn a lot from John. Not a single moment is wasted on this man.

When he first got sick, we expected to go to the Mayo Clinic for a few days and return home to await the transplant. Boy were we ever naive. We had no idea the challenge that lay ahead. The night after his first endoscopy, when I cancelled our flight home and prepared to hunker down near the eye of the storm, it was late in the day when I changed hotels.

We’d been staying at a place near the clinic–somewhere close to his doctor’s office, where we could make the daily appointment rounds as we joined the queue for organ donation and figured out the system. But something went wrong during that endoscopy.

He woke up, but didn’t rally. Where was my strong John? We had a flight to catch. We had a life to continue living back at home. And here he was, sick and hurting and telling me he wanted to stay in the hospital that night where they could look after him. He was transferred to the hospital by ambulance while I went to the hotel to check out and take a taxi to a place near him.

As I stood in the elevator, pushing two suitcases and wondering how he was doing back in his hospital room as I frantically changed our flight and hotel arrangements, another woman joined me on the next floor. She glanced at my bags, then at her watch. It was 6pm. She smiled. “It’s late to be checking out,” she said. She was trying to be nice.

I felt a sword in my throat. I knew that if I looked at her I would cry. If I even glanced in her general direction I would break down. This was all too soon. John and I had only been married a year. This liver transplant thing wasn’t supposed to happen yet. We needed a few good years. Our adventures had only started. I tried not to look at this woman, her shiny face a picture of Midwest kindness.

I lifted my chin slightly, my eyebrows making strident arches above my bloodshot eyes, and said, “change of plans.” But I wasn’t as brave and strong as I’d like to pretend I was. My voice wavered. My chest heaved. She knew enough to say she was sorry and to help me stare down the lighted buttons above the door.

As I exited that elevator and headed towards the taxi cabs waiting to transport loved ones with downcast eyes, the earth shifted below my feet. My plans had changed. Our plans. Things would never be the same.

And so when John texted me today to tell me that he’d changed plans and would indeed be joining me in Big Sky for a few days, I was thrilled. I’m here in Big Sky on my book tour and had planned on returning home tomorrow. But not so. My spontaneous husband is now joining me here.

That is the miracle: that my husband is still alive and that we are still being spontaneous. When I say that I’m grateful for every single day I have with him, I’m not kidding. I really am.

Book Signings, Presentations and Shameless Opportunities to Ski Across the West

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The best part about writing a book about my life in the ski industry is that the book tour takes place at ski areas. After a brief respite from the tour during the holidays and the month of January in which it forgot to snow anywhere in the Lower 48 besides Crystal Mountain, I’m back at it.

Tomorrow night I’ll be at the Seattle REI for a presentation hosted by Washington Ski Touring Club. Join me for my slide show presentation on how ski patrolling taught me to live just 15 minutes at a time. I will also be selling books, so stop on by and say hello. It’s free, but please RSVP.

John and Kim Kircher, Big Sky, Montana

On Saturday February 4th, I’ll be at the Summit Hotel in Big Sky, Montana for a book signing. According the weather forecast, it very likely will be a bluebird powder day on Saturday. Therefore, I’ve scheduled the signing for the aprés ski hours. That way I can enjoy blue skies and great skiing all day and still sell books in the afternoon. See how that works? This ain’t my first rodeo, as they say in big sky country.

The fun continues the following weekend when I go to Brighton, Utah for a book signing on Saturday February 11th. I’ll be there in the afternoon resting after what will hopefully be another great day of skiing. If you’re in Utah, stop by the Brighton Center and hover around my table. That way others will want to stop by and see what all the hoopla is about. Otherwise I’m just a sad smiler holding a plastic flag that says, “please, buy my book, please.” And no one wants to see that. Not even after a great day of skiing.

Cypress Mountain, Vancouver B.C.

February 25th I’ll be in Vancouver at Cypress Mountain at the Cypress Creek Lodge for a book signing and wine-tasting, which is brilliant, right? Why didn’t I think of that before? Instead of just a free basket of candy to lure to kids over (which, of course, brings the parents who will at least listen to my pitch as their kids unwrap free Hershey kisses and Clif bars), at Cypress there will also be wine on hand. Or at least there will be wine in my hand. Just saying.

So there you have it: Kim Kircher’s Boyne West sweep. Maybe I should make t-shirts with my tour dates listed on the back. Takers?

Psychological Seams

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When a good friend of mine re-carpeted her small cottage a few years ago, the carpet company couldn’t get it right. On the first attempt to lay the carpet, the installers measured incorrectly. My friend shook her head and chocked it up to an easy misunderstanding. When the installers returned the following week and STILL had the wrong sized carpet, my friend started to lose her patience.

The floor was ripped up and exposed and bare feet were not an option. Even wearing slippers was risky. All she wanted was to wake up in the morning and put her feet down on some cozy carpet. Instead, her floor was covered in sheet rock dust and splintered wood.

On the third try, the installers still couldn’t get it right. But they laid it anyways, claiming that the overlap between the two pieces of carpet in her bedroom was merely a “psychological seam” that only she could see. The installer told her, “no one else will notice it.” Of course, the seam was in her bedroom, so no one else would ever notice it; because they wouldn’t see it.

Still to this day, it is only my friend and her husband that notice this “psychological seam.” Life can be like that sometimes.

Others can’t see them, but you know they’re there. These are the seams, the places where our confidence overlaps insecurity. Or where our public image and our private self overlap. I’ve been working on my public image lately. Having come from a mountain life at the end of a dead end road, I realize that the world has changed. According to Ingrid Backstrom, more people now participate in the world of skiing. Thanks to social media, even those with real jobs and city lifestyles can live vicariously through pro skiers like her.

The simplicity of the mountains is where my psychological seams disappear. I’m glad I wrote a book. It’s a new chapter in my life. Yet self-promotion and publicity have proved harder than the actual writing. I’m an introvert at heart—one who prefers to craft phrases and sentences carefully at her keyboard, rather than adlibs in a public place. But I’m learning.

Being an author forces me to get out there and bump up against my psychological seams. I have to be out there in the world, raising my arm–no emphatically, desperately waving my arm–asking for attention. BUY MY BOOK, READ MY BLOG, WATCH MY REALITY SHOW (that last one hasn’t quite happened yet; I’ll let you know when Oprah calls).

Sometimes I want to crawl back into anonymity; but then I get an email or meet someone that actually paid money for my book and tells me it CHANGED THEIR LIFE. Whoa. Didn’t see that one coming. I recently met a guy in Aspen who drove all the way to my book signing after he heard my interview on Aspen Public Radio. He told me he had to pull over onto the shoulder when the interview aired on his long drive home. It meant something to him, and he’d driven all the way back to buy my book.

Old seams that I thought only I could see are now open and raw. My story is out; my secret insecurities and fears exposed. I suppose we all have our own psychological seams hidden somewhere between our real selves and the one we portray on Facebook. While sometimes I long to just put my feet down on an unblemished span of cozy carpet, I’m glad I’m more exposed now.

What about you, dear reader? What seams have you exposed or found when least expected them?

Live Radio Interview Today 1pm PT

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I’ll be on the radio today and you can listen in live and even call in with questions. Here’s the dope:

Join Me Today at Alpental Ski Area

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I will be signing and selling books today at Alpental. With snow in the forecast, it will be a great day to hit the slopes and meet me for some aprés ski action at 2pm in the Denny Mountain Lodge. So if you happen to be at the Summit today, please stop by my table and talk to me. Because there’s nothing sadder than an eager looking writer alone at a table with a pile a books.

My memoir, THE NEXT 15 MINUTES: Strength from the top of the Mountain takes readers on a wild ride of salvation, finding answers to a scary diagnosis on the ski slopes. As a ski patroller, I use explosives to prevent avalanches and my EMT training to save lives. When my husband got sick, it was the most important job yet: rescue him. My training taught me how to survive any crisis, even a terrible diagnosis: just calm down and breathe. During the twelve months waiting for the liver transplant that would save him, I conquered my greatest fear by returning to the mountains. I mined our lives spent skiing, climbing, and exploring the wilderness for lessons I could apply to our current dilemma. THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES offers a rare glimpse into the strange and fascinating world of ski area work, where steep terrain and deep snow, the twin fuels that run our business, can teach us how to get through the worst trials just fifteen minutes at a time.

Check out the Summit Website page for more information. Hope to see you there!