It was a thing of beauty: one of those things that happen once in a lifetime. People would be talking about it for days, weeks even, and Jacob realized this as he tweaked his board. That’s just how big this air was-he actually had time to grasp the greatness of this moment-and then it was gone…

“Jacob,” his teacher shouted. “Put that darn toy away and pay attention!” The class laughed, but Jacob didn’t. He continued riding his signature model fingerboard toward his pocket, boardsliding his desk one last time. Their laughter turned to cheers as he held his board high on pinky and index, embarrassing the thousands of fans and promoting his sponsors. I, Jacob thought, am the shit.

In the weeks that followed Jacob was filled with anticipation, and October, hardly noticeable before, seemed three months long. Fingerboarding and reading snowboarding magazines was all that got him through those long days at Layton High. Not that there was much left of his snowboarding magazines (he’d used every picture to line his locker-JP Walker and Jeremy Jones wallpaper), but he still read every article, knew every ad, chuckled at every editors half-witted and undereducated remark. These efforts to calm his nerves only wound up feeding the fire that was within him, as he eagerly awaited opening day at his local mountain.

Until finally, it came. The night before was like Christmas Eve. No, it was better. Jacob and his friends had planned months in advance for this day. They’d already purchased their seasons passes, they knew who’s mom would be driving, what car they’d ride in, and what they would be wearing. They even knew what runs they wanted to hit. And running into the local pros was the talk of the morning’s drive to the hill. Mike’s mom quietly smirked at the thought. “That would be like bumping into Michael Jordan at the basketball court,” she said. But her remark went unheard. After all, she didn’t know a thing about snowboarding.

When they reached the hill the crew piled out of the car like animals being set free from a cage, barley remembering to thank Ms. Mulder for the ride. “Be careful!” she said one last time before the boys disappeared into the lift line.

The hill was crowded and the snow was minimal, but no one seemed to notice. The vibe in the line was pure energy, and everyone there couldn’t wait to take their first run of the season. The endless lift ride was quickly forgotten as Jacob strapped on his board. His real board! Adrenaline replaced blood as he leaped forward to get a jump-start on his friends, already anticipating the first hit just around the corner.

Sun shining, snow squeaking, wind racing, the thought of his epic finger air was still fresh in his mind. The approach to his jump was tricky, and this, being only his second year riding, made it hard to stay in control. But Jacob went for it anyway, and he caught his edge on the top of the jump, flying head first into a rock that was hidden just below the glistening snow.

Jacob died.

The first day I went to Brighton this year I saw a young snowboarder get helied out to the nearest hospital. In Colorado, not a week before, a young snowboarder flew off the side of the trail and died hitting his head on a exposed rock. I’ve been snowboarding for 12 years and went hiking early season every year, before I should have. I’ve seen many split open heads, many ruined seasons, because it’s so hard to wait for the conditions to be right. I understand the feeling of invincibility. I make my living off of it. But please, if you want to have a fun and healthy season, listen to your mother, be careful.

Jason Brown is a pro snowboarder, musician, and fingerboarder. You can check out the rest of his world at www.jasonbrown.com.