If you’ve followed along for a while, you know that I’m nuts about downhill skiing. That said, I pretty much can’t stand the minutia involved in getting ready to go to the mountain.

I live in a condo building and store my skis in a unit in my building’s basement. To load the skis into the car involves sticking my condo-unit key in my pocket, going to the elevator and using a special key to tell the elevator to go to the basement. Once down there, we unlock the storage area door and then there’s a combination lock on the storage unit itself.

Then, we haul the gear upstairs – skis, helmet, poles, boots — and use another key to unlock the car and yet another to unlock the ski rack.

We haven’t driven two feet and we’ve already had to employ six keys. It saddens me that humanity must be so guarded to protect ourselves from each other.

But once we get to the mountain, we’re free. I always felt that there was a camaraderie on slopes — a bunch of like-minded people, willing to brave frigid winds and a mountain that could kill us, just to strap on some heavy piece of equipment and hurl ourselves down a hill. It’s play at its finest. Totally pointless and totally filled with utter, sheer joy.

One day this past season was particularly cold. I was losing feeling in my fingers and my friends and I agreed that we’d grab lunch after this next run. Like I’ve done for more than 15 years, I raced over to the ski rack, popped off my skis, hung my poles around the top and clodded clumsily in my boots into the toasty restaurant.

Probably two hours later, we re-emerged, full and warm and ready to have at it again.

My skis weren’t there.

After an hour of digging in the snow and checking the racks over and over and over again, I realized with sad finality: Someone had taken my skis.

But, maybe it was a mistake, I hoped. Maybe they’d bring them back. Later that night, security informed me that there had been six thefts that day. I learned that equipment thefts are often not done by “just kids,” but have ties to organized crime. Criminals steal the gear, sell it on eBay or Craigslist, and use it to finance drug-running and other illegal activities.

My skis were stolen.

I hate that phrase. I hate what it means and I hate how much it still bums me out even as we head into summer. My skis were 10 years old and cheap and my ski ability had improved so much since I bought them that I should’ve had new ones by now anyway.

My skis had little fiscal value. I bet they wouldn’t command more than $20 on the open market.

And yet, the thieves had stolen something invaluable: my ski-culture trust.

It’s interesting to me that in the Bible, Jesus refers to the devil as “a thief.” If I were to pick the worst adjective for evil, the worst thing you could do, I don’t think I would have chosen that one. I think I’d pick murderer or rapist or despot or tyrant. But Jesus says, “thief.”

Even 2,000 years ago, people knew that thievery was a very evil thing. A murderer is a thief: He steals life. A rapist is a thief: He steals peace of mind. Despots steal autonomy. Petty thieves steal our ability to look at a strange man as a brother and love others as we love our selves.

Before this upcoming winter, I’m going to have to buy new skis. I’m even a little excited for some new, shiny carvers.

But what makes me sad is that I’m also going to buy yet another lock and key.