Kai, you’re going to owe me big for this . Korra ran towards flag number 12 in front of the ski school, as best as one could in ski boots. At the end of her one half-day of the week, Kai had stormed over to her locker, buzzing with excitement. He nearly wiggled out of his boots as he told her he’d secured a second round interview with the Heli-Ski Tour shop down the road. ‘I’m going to be a guiiiiiiiide!’ He sang as he stomped around. His elation was contagious up until the moment he told her sheepishly that the interview was… right now. And that he had a private adult ski lesson scheduled… also right now.
He begged her to cover for him. ‘It’s just supposed to be a guided tour around the area, anyway. You won’t have to teach her anything! Just show her around!’ Korra hemmed and hawed and made a show of considering the inconvenience. Not that she’d ever say no to Kai. It was just nice to see him grovel from time to time. She crossed her arms and waited for his coup de gras -- a not-quite-adorable but definitely hilarious pout coupled with his best attempt at big puppy dog eyes. How does that ever work on Jinora, seriously? She laughed out loud and gave in, agreeing to cover his ski lesson for the afternoon. He’d better get that job .
Korra despised teaching adult skiers. Kids were so much easier . Mostly because they listened. Kind of. If they didn’t, a dash of creative flair and a game or two would trick them into skiing properly. And they lit up magically whenever they overcame a task, like round-cheeked little light bulbs. Korra had been told she had a special way with the younger students, but it really wasn’t her. Adults were the real trouble children, stubborn and unwilling to listen. They all came packaged with a complex set of preconceived notions about their own skiing and how to ski. It was truly not her fault that any lesson with a student older than seven took twice as long. Korra was not looking forward to this.
Her mind traveled to her half-eaten sandwich, sitting forlorn in her locker instead of in her roiling stomach, where it belonged. I’m going to make him buy me lunch. Maybe one of those giant hamburgers ... She grinned at the promise as she huffed over to flag number 12, where a woman in fitted red ski pants fidgeted with her skis. Oh great , Korra thought to herself as she noticed the European style pants and fashionable cut of the black and crimson ski jacket. A prissy, rich, Euro skier. How fun.
“Hi, I’m Korra.” She barked, trying to sound chipper as she closed the last two strides to the flag. She extended a hand to the woman, who turned in surprise.
“I’m Asami.” Asami shook her proffered hand and Korra couldn’t help but notice how soft her skin was, a stark contrast to the strength of her handshake. They dropped their hands and Korra smiled, focused on seeming like she genuinely wanted to be here. Asami, for her part, remained rather confused.
“Nice to meet you, Asami. I’m so sorry for the delay; I’ll be your instructor today.”
“Oh.” Asami lifted her goggles onto her helmet and Korra was struck by the piercing green that looked back at her. “I thought my instructor was supposed to be…” Asami slipped her phone out of a jacket pocket and glanced at it. “... Kai?”
“Right. Yeah.” Korra scratched at her head, fiddling with the strap on the back of her helmet. “Kai is out sick today and we’ve had to shuffle some things around to cover his lessons. My apologies for any inconvenience.”
Asami smiled and Korra released a breath of relief. Maybe it won’t be so bad? She has a nice smile . “No problem at all. Korra, was it?”
Korra nodded and grinned back, feeling a little less like she had to fake it this time. “You got it.”
“Nice to meet you, Korra.”
“Shall we get going? Don’t want to waste any more of your time!” Korra gestured to the slopes and Asami followed, skis in hand.
Once settled on a chairlift, Korra launched into her standard new student interview. “What’s your assessment of your own ski level?”
“Hm.” Asami paused to think for a moment. “I can get down almost any hill, but there’s significant room for improvement. On most blues and blacks, I can hang on to the fundamentals and keep form but honestly it falls apart in steeper terrain or on moguls.”
Cut and dry, but informative. Self-aware even. Hm. Korra was pleasantly surprised. “Is there anything in particular that you’re looking to work on today?”
“Today? No, not really.” Oh?
Well at least she was honest. “Oh.” Kai had mentioned something about not having to teach… “Won’t be much of a lesson then, will it?”
Asami laughed and Korra found herself grinning, pleased that her humor was well received. “I guess not.” The green-eyed woman chuckled. “Today I mainly want to see a bit of the mountain, get an insider’s perspective, if you will. There’ll be plenty more time for actual ski lessons later in the season.”
“Later in the season?” Korra couldn’t help her curiosity. The longest any of her students stuck around was for a week or two. “Are you new to the area?”
“Sort of.” Asami adjusted her ski poles as she spoke. “I’m just here for the ski season, renting a place on the Blackcomb side. This is my first week here and I thought it would be a good idea to get to know the area right away. What better way to see the mountain than with someone who’s required to know it inside and out?” She turned her head to Korra and smiled again.
“Wow. That sounds like a dream. Move to a ski resort for the winter and ski all day every day?” Korra nodded appreciatively.
Asami barked out a laugh. “I wish! No, I’ll be working during the day. I’ll get the weekends and hopefully a few extra days here and there…” Then Asami cocked her head at Korra. “Isn’t that what you do though? Ski all day every day? You’re the one living the dream.”
Korra chortled back, cringing at the twinge of darkness that tainted her laugh. “I guess you’re right.” She shook her head, dodging the reminders of the dream she’d once had.
“Any part of the mountain you’re interested in getting to today?” Korra changed the subject, not wanting to dwell.
Asami shrugged. “How about you just show me your favorite spots?”
That livened Korra right up. An afternoon ‘lesson’ spent wandering around the mountain searching for leftover fresh snow? Hell yes. A spark of excitement pushed laughter out of her before she could contain it. But. Safety first.
“Well, first let’s do a couple of runs around here, yeah? This might not be a formal lesson, but I’d like to get an idea of how you ski before I take you frolicking around.” She chuckled and Asami nodded, returning her laugh.
“A test before a frolick?” Asami smirked and the playfulness in her tone caught Korra by surprise. “Sounds fun.” She wasn’t flirting, was she?
Nah. Korra shook the thought away as they exited the lift and she guided them to one of the blue slopes that would take them back to the village. Easy to start. She observed Asami as they flew down to the base. Her assessment was spot on: near perfect form on the intermediate terrain, maybe could do with a few adjustments but nothing major. And the woman loved her speed. Korra couldn’t help but grin. This is going to be a fun afternoon.
They skidded to a stop across from the ski school and Asami turned back to her, cheeks flushed from the cold and beaming. “How’d I do?” She said breathlessly through her smile. It really was a nice smile.
“I think you know.” Korra winked behind her goggles. Okay, don’t flirt back you fool. “Let’s up the ante!” Korra smirked. They took the Whistler gondola this time, headed higher up the mountain to access a few single diamonds that Korra could use to get them to some of the frontside bowls.
Asami held her own, as promised. She slowed on the steeps and the moguls and Korra came up with a half dozen ideas for her to improve but kept them to herself. For later . Instead she guided them across Whistler’s back bowls—whatever was open this early in the season—winding in and out of glades to catch patches of leftover powder.
Conversation came easy on their rides up and they drove hard on every run down. Asami pushed herself through areas clearly beyond her comfort zone and Korra was impressed at her determination to improve and to have fun doing it. Korra found herself thoroughly enjoying the ‘lesson’ despite her earlier apprehension. She led them to her favorite runs across the top half of Whistler mountain and around 3:30pm landed them at the base of Peak Express.
“How’re you feeling?” Korra asked. “If you’re up for it, I can get us on the last chair up to the peak look-out. No one else there to spoil the view. But then it’s a long ski back to base. I do not recommend it if you’re tired.”
Asami didn’t even hesitate. “Hell yes.” Korra grinned. This was her favorite thing to do. She knew almost all the Ski Patrol folks that’d be closing up for the day and she’d frequently tag along with them on their last ride up to close the lifts and slopes. God, she loved having an in with Tenzin.
“Jinora!” Korra called out to Tenzin’s daughter as she approached in her red patrol jacket. Evidently, she was on shift to close the mountain from the peak down. This early in the season, few runs were open up top, which meant purely difficult terrain that needed to be swept and cleared. Korra had seen enough to know Asami could handle it.
“Hey Korra!” Jinora called back brightly and she skied over. “You got an adult lesson?? That’s unlike you.” The incredulousness was apparent in her voice and Korra cringed. Not in front of the clients...
“You can thank Kai and his cold for that.” Korra bit back, hoping Jinora would catch her hint.
Mercifully she nodded solemnly while side-eyeing Korra’s student. “Right. Yes. He’s, uh, starting to feel better this afternoon.” She was a horrible liar.
Korra rolled her eyes behind her goggles. “When are you heading up?” She asked, urging the conversation out of dangerous territory.
Jinora glanced down at her watch. “‘Bout five minutes.”
Yes! “Can we head up with you on the last chair?”
“Um.” Jinora glanced over at Asami. “I’m not allowed to take guests up on last chair.”
Oh. Right. Korra was still technically working. And despite the fun they’d had, Asami was still technically a student. “Well…” the instructor hummed in thought. “Nothing’s stopping us from being on the second to last chair, right?” She wiggled her eyebrows whimsically, resigned to the fact that her antics would be lost behind her goggles. Man she hated not being able to make faces at people.
“Haha, I guess not. Stick around for a few and you two can get on right before me.” Jinora smiled.
“Whoo!” Korra pumped a fist in the air and turned to a patiently smiling Asami. “ This is my real favorite.” She introduced Jinora and Asami and they chatted amiably until it was time to go.
As soon as they’d sat down on the chair in front of Jinora, Asami asked, “Kai’s not actually sick, is he?”
Korra sputtered out an incredulous laugh and racked her brain for a way to explain herself out of the question. Her brain came up with nothing. No way but the right way… she sighed and shrugged. “Caught.”
To her surprise, Asami laughed heartily. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell. I doubt Kai would have been as much fun as you were today.”
Okay, this woman can’t be flirting with me. “He’s a pretty cool kid, actually. Great skier. Not as cool as me, of course.” Don’t you dare flirt back, Korra .
Asami smiled back at her. “Is he friends with Jinora?”
“They’re together, actually.” Korra corrected. “Been dating for a while, practically high school sweethearts.”
“Aw. That’s cute!” Her voice turned up on the word ‘cute’ and Korra found it unexpectedly endearing. Seriously Korra, no. “How do you know them?” Asami asked.
“Oh, Jinora’s dad, Tenzin, and my dad go way back. Tenzin runs the Ski Patrol for Whistler-Blackcomb. I’ve known him and his family since I was a little tyke; skiing straight downhill without knowing how to stop.”
Asami belly-laughed and Korra felt more than flattered. “It’s wonderful you have a sort of family here.”
Korra detected a little sadness in her tone and her instincts to cheer up kicked in automatically. She dove into a detailed account of her favorite times with Tenzin’s family and how they all involved playing with the Ski Patrol puppies they often fostered for training. That never failed to draw a smile.
Asami seemed interested and, without conscious thought, Korra found herself slipping into descriptions of her own life and family. She normally lived in Toronto, but had been instructing in Whistler for the last three winter seasons. She hadn’t been teaching long, but as a gifted skier Tenzin had encouraged her to seek out instructing. Her parents lived in the north, where she grew up, and had encouraged her connection to Tenzin and his family.
It was absurdly easy to talk to this woman. She normally never talked so much about herself, especially during a paid lesson, but Asami was a kind listener and Korra barely noticed as she almost spat out her whole life story. She left a few of the darker bits out. No need to sour the mood.
As her thoughts began to turn to those difficult years in her life, she decided to change the subject. “How about you, Asami? Where are you from?”
“I live in New York, normally.”
“Oh my god. I’ve always wanted to visit!” Korra bounced a bit in her seat, wobbling the chair on its cable. “Is it like it is in the movies??”
“Not at all.” Asami teased. “Since you’re familiar with Toronto… I’d say ‘movie’ New York is like Toronto - a bustling city where people are trendy, knowledgeable, and well-dressed. Real life New York is like a dirtier, less walkable, noisier version of Toronto. With more people, more tourists, and more subways.” She paused and tilted her head. “Except for Times Square. That part is just like in the movies.”
Korra chortled. “You don’t make it sound all that appealing.”
“Honestly?” Asami looked at her solemnly. Or, what Korra thought was solemnly because there was no way to tell behind those damned reflective ski goggles. “It isn’t all that appealing to me. I like the city; don’t get me wrong. Everything you want and more than you can imagine is just within reach. It’s a really powerful feeling. But I… think I’d like to end up somewhere with a little more… room to breathe.” As she finished, Asami looked around them and took a deep breath. “I can’t imagine anything better than a place like this.”
“So, what keeps you there?” Korra blurted. The words were out before she realized they might be overtly rude.
Asami responded with a thin-lipped smile. “Work. Obligations. Life, really.”
That sounded sadder than Korra wanted it to be. “Where do you work?”
“Future Industries.” Asami answered quietly.
“Oh super cool! What do you do there?”
“I was, uh, an engineer.”
“Was? What happened?” Korra should probably have paid attention to how the engineer’s tone softened wistfully but she was too curious to notice.
“Um…” Asami hesitated and stared hard at the tips of her skis. “I guess you could call it an… unexpected promotion.”
“Oh.” Korra caught the melancholy in her voice that time. That sounded… complicated. She was beyond curious now, but didn’t want to trample on this poor woman’s emotions by prying. She could take a hint. “Well, Whistler is a great place to be for a few months. We have lots of room to breathe.” Korra offered and smiled earnestly.
Asami gave her a weak smile in return but kept her gaze focused on the tips of her skis. Korra’s mind churned with guilt for bringing up the unsettling topic. Just as she geared up to launch into a ramble about the stunning view at the peak, Asami continued.
“I’m, uh, actually the CEO. Now I am. I mean. I’ve recently taken over the company.” She said quietly.
“Woah.” Korra turned to her in shock. How old are you?
“I wasn’t supposed to… but my father passed away about a year ago and he left everything to me. I went from being an engineering supervisor to President of the board of directors overnight.”
“It was the craziest year of my life. I got thrown into business school and I had to watch the CEO they appointed make every wrong decision in the book. And I mean literally. I would read about it in class one day and the next, there the CEO was, doing exactly what all my professors said not to do.”
Korra bit her tongue, too enthralled by the story to risk stopping it with her big mouth.
“After engineering school, business seemed… easy? I mean, not actually easy, but… it’s not differential equations you know? The numbers kind of speak for themselves. And you have people, advisors, to advise on the people part of things. So after a few months of that idiot trashing our stock, I exercised my majority share on the board and fired his ass.” Korra laughed out loud at the unexpected crassness. From the CEO of Future Industries. Damn .
Asami chuckled back and continued her story. “The man was livid. Said I should try to do a better job than him and then stormed out of the meeting. It was like a movie scene, I swear. To my surprise the board decided his last idea wasn’t his worst one. They named me CEO while they searched for someone new. It’s been nearly half a year and I honestly can’t say they’ve been trying very hard. So that’s how I um, ‘got promoted.’” After a pause, Asami shook her head, lifting a gloved hand to her helmet in near disbelief. “I’m sorry for dumping all that on you. I don’t know why I started babbling on like that. My apologies.”
“No, no, it’s alright!” Korra rushed to appease. “Honestly, your story is fascinating. Thank you for telling me. I’m sorry about your father. Sounds like you’ve been through hell and back.”
Asami smiled, and this time it felt realer. “Thanks. You must be some sort of magician to get me talking like this; I’m not normally so open.”
Korra shrugged off the compliment. “It’s not me. I’ll bet you it’s all this extra air you’re not used to having in the city.” She winked. Then she remembered she was wearing goggles. Sigh.
Asami laughed again at her joke. I could get used to being considered this funny .
“We’re almost there.” Korra said as she lifted the safety bar up. “This is one of my favorite views. But we only have a few minutes because we need to get down before Jinora. Ski Patrol needs to be the last one down.”
“Got it.” Asami nodded.
“This early in the season, not all the runs are open so we’re either going to have to take the long way around or the single diamond in Whistler bowl. None of my favorite doubles are open yet, unfortunately. They usually get good in early January. Are you feeling a longer, slower black for the way down or you got another steeper run in ya?”
“I think I know what you’d prefer.” Asami said coyly.
Korra barked out a laugh. “That’s not what I’m asking. You’re the client, remember?”
“Like I said, ‘show me your favorites.’ That means we do what you’d prefer today.” Asami said decisively.
Korra couldn’t help but grin. Then again... safety first. “Agreed. But pushing yourself on a tough slope at the end of a ski day is a recipe for injury. So we won’t go down the double diamond unless you’re certain you’re not tired.”
“That’s fair...” Asami seemed to think it over. “Is it a mogul run?”
“There’s an area that’s pretty clear of them, but it’s on the steeper side.”
“Let’s do it.” Asami grinned mischievously as they got off the chair and gasped as she took in her surroundings. “Wow... This is gorgeous!”
“Right?!” Korra said as they skated skied to the look-out. “Want me to get a photo of you?”
Asami was already fumbling with her jacket to pull out her phone. She took a few panoramas but when she turned back to Korra she paused. “No. Get over here and let’s take one together! You’ve been an incredible guide today and I’d rather remember that than have a picture of me all alone at this beautiful place.”
Korra was surprised but she obliged and skied over to Asami. They lifted their goggles from their faces and posed happily for a selfie that only caught a fraction of the view. Their smiles shone, though.
“We look pretty nice!” Asami said approvingly as she scanned the picture. Then, unexpectedly, “Wow Korra, you have gorgeous eyes.”
The unwarranted compliment nearly bowled Korra over and she felt heat rise to her cheeks. Asami appeared to think nothing of it as she tucked her phone away and skied over to her instructor. “Um, thanks?” Korra said awkwardly.
Asami just smiled back before pulling her neck warmer over her mouth in preparation for their long ski back down to the base. “Ready when you are!” She nodded to Korra who was still recovering, shaken by the effect Asami’s comment had had on her.
They took few breaks on their way down, only stopping to turn back and appreciate some of the steeper portions they’d tackled. When they finally pulled up at the ski school, Asami turned breathlessly to Korra. “You weren’t kidding; that’s one helluva run!”
“It is! Best cardio workout I can think up; doing that.” Korra grinned, also a little winded. “I try to do it at the end of every ski day.”
Asami smiled, “Then you are definitely living the dream.”
“You could say that…” Korra shrugged jovially. “So. Are you going to schedule any more lessons for the season or take what you saw today and run with it?”
“I…” Asami smirked. “... may have already done that.”
“Oh?” Korra raised her eyebrows. This time she lifted her goggles so she could actually express something with her face.
“I want to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can while I’m here. So I booked a lesson once a week for the whole season.” Asami looked a little shy and Korra couldn't fathom why.
“That’s awesome!” Korra said excitedly.
“I’m really looking forward to it.” Asami smiled. “Thanks for a wonderful afternoon.” She extended a hand to Korra. “Hopefully we’ll run into each other again.”
Korra slipped off her glove and shook Asami’s hand. “I’m sure we will! I had a great time this afternoon too. If you’re looking for any recommendations beyond the tourist traps around the base, come find me.” She grinned.
“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.” Asami said as she took off her helmet. Korra stared despite herself, mouth slightly agape. That raven hair had no right to look so splendid after a day of being stuffed into a helmet. It had no business reflecting the sunlight so dazzlingly and swooshing so silkily when Asami shook it out with her fingers. Wow. Only when Asami’s curls cascaded loosely around her face did Korra comprehend how striking this woman was. From her lightly painted eyes (and who puts on makeup to ski, really?) to her curved full lips and her jade green irises, she was absolutely stunning. And also friendly, kind, a good listener, and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There was no possible way she’d been flirting with Korra. She screamed straight.
“Nice to meet you Korra. See you around!” Asami lifted her hand in a wave, then picked up her skis and walked off in the direction of the Excalibur Gondola.
Korra stood dumbstruck for a good minute before blinking herself out of her trance. So she’d just spent an epic afternoon skiing and getting along famously with a gorgeous, successful stranger. So what. It was her job.
She pulled out her phone and typed up a text to the topmost contact on her messages list.
You would not believe who I had as a student today.
The response flashed back in less than a minute and Korra smiled fondly down at her phone.
The CEO of Future Industries.
Korra flipped to a browser and ran a quick Google search for ‘Asami CEO Future Industries.’ The sheer volume of content on this woman impressed her, but Korra was drawn to an image of Asami on the cover of Time magazine and an article titled ‘Tradition Makes History: Asami Sato.” And the picture of her, surrounded by the bold red frame of that unmistakable cover, was… powerful. Not to mention extremely alluring.
She sent Kuvira a link to the article and the photo.
This is her. Bigshot.
Damn. Is she that hot in person?
That gave Korra pause. Oddly, her instant response was that the picture didn’t even come close. But that wasn’t right. She’d barely even gotten a look at the woman’s face. She shook the thought away and answered quickly.
No one looks hot in ski clothes
LOL too true
I’m headed home. Think you’ll have time for a video chat later tonight? I miss you.
The phone went silent for a few minutes. Long enough that Korra shoved it back in her pocket and walked to her locker to change out of her boots before checking it again. Her heart sank when she saw the message.
I’m swamped, won’t have time tonight.
Bummer. Try again tomorrow?
can’t wait. Love you.
Sad and a little conflicted, Korra collected her belongings and made her way home.