When Nuria Garrote Martinez from Sevilla, Espana arrived in Dillon, Colorado, she came with only one small suitcase. I was shocked by her compact luggage.
And not only were they small, but they were made of fabrics I had limited experience with as a sixteen-year-old mountain girl. Pants that clung to her thighs. Shirts that stretched perfectly over her torso. Everything looked tight. But more than that, the fabrics were… thin. Nearly sheer.
I began to worry. I searched her wardrobe. I wondered what she might wear after the first snow. We could already see our breath in the mornings.“Nuria,” I remember saying. “Did you bring warmer clothes?” Puzzled look with big, wide, brown eyes. “Like jeans and thicker pants and stuff?” Another puzzled look. And then finally her response: “But these are long pants. And I have a chaqueta.”
I shook my head. No. Those long pants would not do. And neither would that flimsy coat. They would not do at all. Not in two feet of snow. Not in the car on the way to school as we waited for the heat to kick in. Not in the bleachers at a frigid football game.
I wondered for a moment if this was going to work out – this Spanish exchange student for 10 months thing. How would Nuria survive here … exposed to the elements?
Fifteen years later, I am click-clacking my way through a Denver parking garage, glad for the thick jeans and high boots that shield me from a chilly November day. I am armed with Patagonia sweater jacket and hat in pocket, just in case. Out of the corner of my eye, I see another instructor. In tights. And black heels. And a tweed skirt. And one of those thin cardigans that is there for modesty, and not much else.
She looked sophisticated. And, not quite silly, but…chilly.
Because I teach in jeans. And flannel shirts. And boots. And scarves. I specialize in practicality. And flavor. And genuine, honest-to-god warmth.
Not necessarily because I get cold easily – I don’t.
But because I naturally gravitate to the warm and woolies. My fingers find solace in a fat, luxurious yarn; pleasure in the reassuring width and weight of a knit cable. They are drawn to the chunky stitches of a cardigan; the warm soft scarf; the pile of flannel; the embrace of a woolen vest.
Because, quite simply, I am a mountain girl. My feet fit in Sorels better than stilettos. My hands want to burrow into downy pockets – not the thin, pathetic respite of dress pants.
You will not see me in heels and slacks. Or tights and a skirt. Because these garments do not offer the protection – the security – the comfort – I have come to expect. ((At least not in wintertime.))
Because I am a mountain girl. I leave the house with a hat. And the mittens my grandma knit. And I feel damn proud of myself when I pull a scarf up around my face in a gust of cold wind.
And “down coat” is pretty much my middle name.
Because I don’t feel comfortable in skin-tight anything when the temperatures dip below 40. Because I feel exposed. Vulnerable. Likely to shiver.
Because, mountain girl that I am, I have learned to be prepared.
To weather life’s storms.
To bundle up instead of wussing out.
Because I have been sledding enough times to know what it means to layer. Because I have been ridiculed by my brother enough times to know that complaining about being cold is never an option.
On the high school ski team, I used to wear long underwear, a downhill suit, snowpants, fleece coat, down vest, down coat, mittens, neck gaiter and helmet. All on top of each other.
Because I refused to wuss out and go in.
I preferred to make the runs – to ride the lift – to brave the gusts. At night. In the dark. When it was ten below. Because I was tough.
Because I knew how to suit up. And sack up.
And mountain girls always make the most of it.
Because I had sat through Bronco games in below zero temps. Plus windchill. And stayed the whole game.
Because I know the difference between comfort and cold; timid and tough.
And I am the latter.
Born and raised
So cheers. To mountain girls and sweater weather. And the world’s best: Sorels.