After dinner, a short break and then a few of us head outside for a moonlight snowshoe outing. A quick tutorial and I am adjusting straps and maneuvering my feet expertly into the snowshoes. In a straight line, we follow Philip out of the village and into the darkness beyond. A faint veil of golden light has slipped over the mountains creating a kind of ethereal glow that only enhances the fairy tale-like feeling I had at that moment. We continue our ascent, the steely teeth on our snowshoes creating a distinct crunch with every step, our breathing labored at the high altitude. When we finally reach our destination, Philip asks us to turn off our headlamps and stand in silence.
At that moment my lungs fill gratefully with icy mountain air. Around me I am surrounded by a family of rippling peaks, miles of virgin snow blanketing the world as far as the eye can see. I feel incredibly and utterly alive in my own skin.
There's not a sound to distract my thoughts, not a place to be, not an email to write, not a worry or fear in the world at that moment. Beneath the stars, I stood with that little group of people I had met only hours earlier feeling connected to them in a way I knew I would never be with anyone I knew back home.
After a celebratory shot of caramel-flavored vodka, we embarked on our descent and readied for warm brownies in the Kota and a dip in the Jacuzzi.
It’s finally past midnight and, though everyone else is already asleep, Matt and I are still exploring. Maybe it’s the jet lag, maybe it’s the excitement, but there is a magic about this place that sinks itself into our skin, into our bones, and it’s not letting up.
Finally bedtime, we bundle up instead of stripping down. I am in my new fleece hat, mittened and can barely see over my scarf. Matt is looking much the same. We inch and squirm (not gracefully or quietly, I might add) our way into the sleeping bags and with a zip, we are cocooned. My body begins warming instantly, but my toes (notoriously chilly even in the warmest of months) are slowly freezing into ice blocks. Inhale. Exhale. My breath comes out in frosty clouds.
After what feels like hours, I finally fall asleep.