What now, a snow recession, too?
Grand County, Colorado
Never mind this week’s historic power transition and high hopes for a new president during a time of war and recession. What I’m wondering is where’s all the snow?
A ski bum has his priorities, and my “audacity of hope” is for some pow-pow to ease the pain of slowly sinking into debt.
With no fresh snow in the trees and steeps at Winter Park and Mary Jane, though, I’ve been getting creative and instead hit the groomers, ripping intermediate runs such as Mary Jane Trail, Cranmer, or Butch’s Breezeway.
I lay down wide giant slalom turns at mach speed while singing along with my iPod to “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes,” a band that does punk versions of pop love songs (nothing like their “Where do Broken Hearts Go?” done double-time with a driving beat, heavy guitar and wailing vocals). Pulling G-forces on skis puts life back in perspective for me.
But the groomers can get a little slippery, (I reserve the term “icy” for the vast blue icebergs I grew up skiing on the East Coast). And that’s when I hit the moguls, turning my knees hydraulic on Gandy Dancer, a narrow gully of what I call “hero bumps,” perfectly shaped mogul lines on a gradual pitch where I won’t pick up too much speed.
After only a few dances with Mr. Gandy, however, my knees and lungs are spent. And as much as I love mogul skiing, I crave powder. So, last Saturday I followed some friends – Jeff, Doug and Dave – into the backcountry in search of the fluff.
I can’t tell you where, mind you. I was sworn to secrecy, and the guys restricted me to reporting that we skied “a peak in Grand County.” (If I say any more, they reckoned, our private stash will soon be as crowded as Berthoud Pass).
It was warm and sunny when we pulled into the parking lot that morning and the guys pointed to the hulking peak – our goal for the day.
I was skeptical about reaching the top, but as the old saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In likewise, inch-by-inch, we picked our way toward the high summit, through thick treed forests at the start then to an exposed ridge above treeline.
We fueled our climbing with egg salad sandwiches and Snicker’s, the “poor man’s Power Bar.” But the route was steeper than other local backcountry areas, and my climbing skins slipped often and I slid backward as if walking up a sand dune – exhausting.
My chest was heaving when I crested the summit, then I gasped a little extra at the awe-inspiring view – a sea of snowcapped peaks all around us.
We paused to take it all in – the sky above a powder blue and hardly a breathe of wind – then we ripped it down the steeps.
Unfortunately, my telemark skiing skills are pretty limited (alpine touring, or Randonee gear, is on my wish list), so I tried something new: I just pressed my heels down on my telemark skis and made regular Alpine turns.
It worked, and I howled with joy in a wide field of fresh snow. Awesome.
We stopped about halfway down our hard-earned climb to put on skins and climb again, this time stopping just short of the summit and skiing down another line through thick woods, at one point carefully tiptoeing across a wide avalanche path.
I landed me on my butt more than I wanted, and I cursed loudly after falling in a few deep tree wells along the way, but I made it.
That night I ate just about everything I could get my hands on to make up for the burnt calories, then I slept like a baby until late Sunday morning, so grateful for all of the options to get out into our majestic peaks and enjoy what we’ve got here – fresh snow or not.
” Unless he’s skiing with a snorkel, Charles Agar is just never satisfied. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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