After living in Chicago for over a year, Michigan has become a great place to escape from the noise and masses of strangers. Nineteen years in the state was long enough, but it can be the right medicine for feeling fried at the end of the year. Add snow and a fiberglass board, and I'm golden.

I wake up very alert, and it's still dark out. I wonder how I'll ever get back to sleep, worried I will be worn out before I even make it to the mountain. A harsh beep over my shoulder sends a shiver down my body. I realize it's my phone, and I had woken up three minutes before my first alarm. That's right, my first. I normally set about five, and need about five, but this morning is different - it is my first snowboarding trip of the season.

I energetically hop out of bed to carefully select the artists whose songs end up on my phone for the day. The car is packed, and I pick the best CDs out of the collection under the passenger seat, which stopped growing about four years ago, save for the few I got for Christmas this year. Gracing my ears for the first time in ages are jazz bass legend Jaco Pastorius' Live in New York Vol. 2 (my first jazz album) and ex-Chili Pepper John Frusciante's Shadows Collide with People on the way there, with Frances the Mute by The Mars Volta, and Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails (the first cd in my car) on the way back. The Northern Michigan roads themselves are just as nostalgic, bringing to mind many snowboarding, fishing, and camping trips.

When I reach Nub's Nob in Harbor Springs, Mi, the parking lot is about one-third full, a good sign that I won't have to share the lift or any given run with someone else more than a few times. There is nothing quite like the sensation of being slightly pulled off a ridge by sheer momentum, or turning a mound of powdery snow into a cloud, but it's taken to the next level by the right soundtrack. The morning requires fast songs to get your heart rate up, with eclectic, positive songs for the afternoon, and darker, slow songs to majestically float between the trees as the sun sinks in the sky, muted by orange goggles. Don't get stuck riding the lift without your headphones, but take caution while on the hill!