The view from the top of the bubble at Okemo. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

It’s been five years since I last skied. So, when my friend Jill asked our group of friends if we wanted to come skiing in Vermont with her, I was absolutely terrified. Before, I was a natural skier. I grew up figure skating from when I was five years old, and the process came to me quite effortlessly. But since having been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 15, and then receiving chemotherapy that affected the strength of my ankles, and then experiencing a surgery where my fibula in my right leg was removed, I wouldn’t say I was all that confident about my natural born skills anymore. Nonetheless, I decided to take my chance at it. 

And, of course, I had to document my trip. I brought four rolls of 35mm film with me and my favorite $5 point-and-shoot camera. Shooting film for landscapes, in cities and just to document adventures with my friends is one of my favorite things to do. I love the way it captures fleeting moments so organically, and the way you have to trust your eye and have faith during the development process. Waiting to have it developed is like Christmas for me. It was also perfect for this trip because I kept my camera in my coat and pulled it out whenever I wanted to snap a photo quickly. It was just point, shoot and go.

The view at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The trip started out very chaotically, a common theme for our friend group. We had all flown into New York to meet at Jill’s house in Long Island and then made the four hour drive to Okemo together. It was all six of us packed into one car with all of our snow gear during one of the worst snow storms to hit the East Coast in years. As we drove through the city, I took in the view from the Throgs Neck Bridge. Clearly, we were all distracted and didn’t realize that the car was nearly out of gas. All the sudden, the car sputtered and the gas pedal stopped working in the middle of the highway. Luckily, Jill was able to pull off to the side of the road, and we waited for an hour in the freezing car for Maddie’s mom to bring us a jerrycan to fill the gas tank. 

Six hours in the car and four feet of snow later, we finally made it to our destination. It was the most snow I had ever seen in my life. When we pulled up to the house, the snow was piled higher than me on both sides of the driveway. And to make it even better, it was perfect snow for skiing.

Jill and Maddie filling the gas tank with a jerry can. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.
My first time on a ski lift in five years. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The first day was rough but it was also liberating. Since finishing treatment, I had been so nervous to get back on the slopes. When I went down the first run, I felt so powerful because the motions seemed to be coming back to me naturally. I felt like I could do anything. Jill and her sister Jenna led the way. They decided to take us down a blue trail called “Screamin’ Demon” for our second run so we could get to another chairlift that would take us up a different side of the mountain, but that didn’t go well. We should have known to stay away when we saw the name. But once we got to the top there was no going back. 

Jill and Jenna, our personal ski instructors. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.
Olivia atop Screamin’ Demon before making her descent. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

This hill wrecked us. The snow was uneven and there were so many moguls and patches of ice; I fell so many times, and to make matters worse, my skis kept popping off. We didn’t have nearly enough runs under our belt to take on the Screamin’ Demon, but we eventually made it down with a few bumps and bruises along the way. 

Makayla, covered in snow, at the bottom of Screamin’ Demon after wiping out at least 30 times. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

After witnessing us wipe out on the last trail, Jill and Jenna decided to take us down some greens to regain our confidence. Mountain Road became the group’s favorite. Prior to this, I’d only been skiing up in northern Michigan where there aren’t any real mountains and the greens are basically flat. To me, the greens at Okemo were more like blues in Michigan. 

Mountain Road, our saving grace. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The views were absolutely breathtaking. They didn’t look real to me; they looked almost like transition stills from an old cartoon. No photo could truly capture the beauty, I don’t think. 

Allie, Jill, and Jenna chilling before going down the next run. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

By the end of the first day, we were all completely exhausted. After skiing for five hours, and all having our fair share of wipeouts (well, minus Jill, Jenna and Allie who were all seasoned on the slopes), we were ready to go home. We rewarded ourselves with some waffles from the waffle cabin, conveniently located at the bottom of the trails. Safe to say, they were some of the best waffles I’ve ever had in my life. 

Breathtaking views from the top of a run at Okemo. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

Waking up the next morning after skiing for the first time in years was not pleasant. I was the most sore I had been in quite a while, and all the bruises on my hips from falling were just the cherry on top. 

We hit the slopes bright and early that morning, ready for another day of skiing and beautiful views. The second day was much smoother for me. I only fell twice – a huge improvement and confidence-boost from the day before. I felt really good going down blues and greens (minus Screamin’ Demon, of course) and was even able to help my friends Maddie and Makayla (well, kind of).

Allie standing in front of the waffle cabin. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

At the end of the day, we decided to go up to the very top of the mountain in a lift called “The Bubble.” It was a covered, six person high-speed chairlift, which meant we could all fit, or so we thought. As the six of us shuffled toward the loading zone, Makayla’s and my poles got stuck on the gates and we couldn’t make it onto the chair in time. So we caught the next one, alone, with no idea how the bubble worked. We hadn’t realized the cover was automatic until it was too late and we lifted it ourselves, getting our skis stuck on the foot rest in the process. But we made it off alive and that’s all that mattered. 

Making our way down a long blue on day two. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.
Makayla in the bubble on our way up to the top of the mountain at Okemo. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The view from the top of the mountain was so beautiful. The skies were so blue and there was hardly any wind. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend together. 

The bubble lift’s orange cover kept us warm on our way up. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The run from the top of the mountain was a long blue, and by the time we got to the bottom we were exhausted once again. 

I am so proud of myself for what I accomplished that weekend. After a long hiatus from skiing, I faced my fears and told myself that I am strong enough. My greatest limitation in my life is when I let my mind get in the way of things. But I know I can do anything I set my mind to, despite what may be the cause for my mental blockade. Skiing, for me, may be just a small victory, but it’s in those small victories that we build ourselves up to get through the greater challenges that life throws at us. No matter how small they may be. My love for my friends only grew stronger after spending time with them, and I’m so grateful to have them in my life. 

Me, Jill, Allie, Olivia, and Makayla. Maddie had to take a little break at this point–she was exhausted. Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.