The Song of the Ski



  Wilson MacDonald, Canadian poet 1880 -1967  

Norse am I when the first snow falls;
Norse am I till the ice departs.
The fare for which my spirit calls
Is blood from a hundred Viking hearts.
The curved wind wraps me like a cloak;
The pines blow out their ghostly smoke.
I’m high on the hill and ready to go-
A wingless bird in a world of snow:
Yet I’ll ride the air
With a dauntless dare
That only a child of the north can know.

The bravest ski has a cautious heart
And moves like a tortoise at the start,
But when it tastes the tang of the air
It leaps away like a frightened hare.
The day is gloomy, the curtains half-drawn,
And light is stunted as at the dawn;
But my foot is sure and my arm is brawn,
I poise on the hill and I wave adieu,
My curving skis are firm and true,
The slim wood quickens, the air takes fire
And sings to me like a gypsy’s lyre.
Swifter and swifter grows my flight:
The dark pines ease the unending white.
The lean, cold birches, as I go by,
Are like blurred etchings against the sky.

One am I for a moment’s joy
With the falling star and the plunging bird.
The world is swift as an Arab boy;
The world is sweet as a woman’s word.
Never came such a pure delight
To a bacchanal or a sybarite:
Swifter and swifter grows my flight
And glad am I as I near the leap,
That the snow is fresh and the banks are deep.
Swifter and swifter on I fare,
And soon I’ll float with the birds on air.
The speed is blinding; I’m over the ridge,
Spanning space on a phantom bridge.
The drifts await me; I float, I fall:
The world leaps like a lunging carp.
Hand erect and the tired winds drawl
A lazy rune on a broken harp.

Child of the roofless world am I;
Not of those hibernating drones
Who fear the grey of a winter sky
And the shrieking wind’s ironic tones,
Who shuffle cards in a cloud of smoke
Or crawl like frozen flies at chess,
Or gossip all day with meddling folk
In collar of starch and a choking dress.

Come, ye maids of the vanity-box,
Come, ye men of the stifling air:
The white wind waits at your door and knocks;
The white snow calls you everywhere,
Come, ye lads of the lounge and chair,
And gird your feet with the valiant skis
And mount the steed of the winter air
And hold the reins of the winter breeze.

Lord of the mountains dark with pine!
Lord of the fields of smoking snow!
Grant to this vagrant heart of mine
A path of wood where my feet may go,
And a roofless world to my journey’s end,
And a cask of wind for my cup of wine,
And yellow gold of the sun to spend,
And at night the stars in endless line,
And after it all the hand of a friend—
The hand of a trusted friend in mine.

  Wilson MacDonald, Canadian poet 1880 -1967  

I do not ski.  Driving miles in winter conditions and paying good money to line up in the cold for those fragile looking ski lifts, and then hurtling down the slopes… no, that is not for me.  Cold, heights, speed, physical exertion, risk… never.

But I have friends who love it… who even have their own ski chalet… for whom no winter is complete without a ski holiday. Reading this poem by Wilson MacDonald helps me understand why such sensible, practical, intelligent people are actually willing to participate in skiing.

We are waiting for a major winter storm … a foot of fresh snow, with driving winds and then freezing rain.  It has not started yet, although the wind is howling and cancellations are already being announced.  Apparently New England is going to get it even worse!


City of Hamilton
3:35 PM EST Thursday 07 February 2013
Winter storm warning for
City of Hamilton continued

Heavy snowfall near 25 cm and frequent blowing snow tonight and Friday.

A winter storm will affect the regions tonight and Friday.

Snow associated with a trough ahead of a Texas low will spread into the regions this evening then quickly become heavy at times overnight and towards morning as the low gets closer to Southern Ontario and intensifies into a major winter storm.

The heaviest snow will occur during the Friday morning rush hour on Friday and may continue until near noon. Strong and gusty northeasterly winds will whip up the freshly fallen snow and result in very low visibility at times in blowing snow.

Total snowfall amounts of 25 to 30 centimetres are likely across the regions. Snowfall rates of 3 to 5 centimetres per hour are possible during the heaviest snow. If this occurs, near zero visibility in very heavy snow will be a significant issue to deal with.

Hazardous winter travelling conditions from near zero visibility areas of heavy snow and local blowing snow are expected especially on Friday. Rapidly accumulating snow will also contribute to dangerous driving conditions. Travel plans should be changed accordingly.

The snow will end in the evening as the storm moves away.

A Texas low will track northeast across Illinois this evening then follow a path over Lake Erie into Western New York State or Northern Pennsylvania on Friday. The storm centre will move away Friday night and merge with another winter storm forecast to affect parts of New England and the Maritimes.

Here’s more from  The Hamilton Spectator

  • The Associated Press  … Thu Feb 07 2013 11:57:00

New England braces for top 10 worst storms

BOSTON – New England is bracing for a major winter storm expected to dump up to 2 feet of snow in some places from Friday into Saturday.

The National Weather Service in Taunton says most of southern New England could get between 18 and 24 inches of snow starting Friday morning and continuing into Saturday afternoon. The Cape could get a little less, although forecast totals varied widely.

Meteorologist William Babcock says it’s looking like it’s going to be a very powerful storm. If everything falls the way it has the potential to it could be among the top 10 snowstorms in New England.

New York City is also bracing for snow, anywhere from 4 to 6 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the city is ready, and if bad weather has to happen, it’s better to have it on a weekend.

The storm will inevitably bring inconvenience, danger, and distress… a storm like this always does.  It is good to know that it will also bring joy and excitement to the hardy souls who enjoy outdoor winter sports!

What is happening in your part of the world?

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2 Responses to The Song of the Ski

  1. We’ve been promoted from ‘winter storm warning’ to a full-scale ‘blizzard warning’. It’s so quiet right now (5 pm AST Friday) it’s hard to believe what the next 24 hours are supposed to bring.

    • motleydragon says:

      Good Luck!

      We’re in a real mess here, but less serious than many places. Everything is closed. We have about a foot of snow, but so far the predicted winds and drifting has not started. Two mountain access routes were closed earlier but have been reopened.

      I just heard on CNN that the city govt in Boston has ordered everyone off the road, with jail time for anyone who is caught driving!

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