I am not a great skier. Sure, put me at the top of any run and I’ll make it to the bottom.. one way or another. It may not look pretty, it may even involve some pain and the transaction of all my useless junk staged out in my front lawn for $10… but I’ll make it to the bottom. I’ve never had a lesson in my life.
I didn’t learn how to stop or turn until maybe my third attempt down a black diamond aptly named ‘Warpath’ when I was 12.
Even then I remained a point-and-shoot skier who thrilled in the glorious feeling of frozen tears being sucked from my eyes (couldn’t afford goggles at the time) as I hit what I believed to be terminal velocity on the steepest faces of that.. um… Southern Illinois Mountain… The resort had the word ‘mountain’ in the name, so, yeah, legit mountain.
Moving from Chicago to Washington State brought the prospect of skiing in real mountains for the first time in my life. I hadn’t skied since high school. In fact the last time I had skied I had broken my thumb (?!) on a manmade hill trying send it in the terrain park.
No sooner had I hit the jump at full speed than I gave up on the whole endeavor, deciding instead to just close my eyes and relax every muscle in my body to brace for impact…
Yep, Definitely just went complete, dead weight limp in the air… and landed every bit of myself on my… thumb. It probably looked amazing. Post injury I had to give up my once every two year ski trip to focus on my budding baseball career that would take me all the way to the end of a bench in town called “the coffin” South of San Diego…
The door to the Bell 407 slid open and the dull roar matured and was now accompanied by a blast of cold air.
The first time I stepped through a helicopter door it was to step out onto the top of a corniced mountain ledge, to be left there.
I was heli skiing. Standing there watching our ride fly off, it got really quiet for a moment. Our group had to spend a few minutes stomping down a landing pad for future runs and it gave us time to look around. My heart was racing. I had no idea what to expect. Equal parts excited and also what the heck am I doing up here. The snow was deeper than anything I had ever been in, and it was fresh and light. The grade was steeper than anything I had been on before. I had really only skied on one real mountain by now, the rest could hardly be anything more than hills compared to what was now spread before us.
Our guide nonchalantly clicked in, said “follow me one at a time with good spacing,” and dropped in. Turning the skis downhill felt like jumping off a cliff, once committed there would be no option to abort mission. It took maybe two turns before the feeling of floating took over. It cannot be described. Floating, flying, the cold blast of snow plastering you in the face as you dive deep into a turn only to be launched into weightlessness before the next plunge an infinity later. Bouncing of powder pillows, weaving through the larches, launching off features and dropping small (very small) cliff faces. Laughter, whooping, hollering, giggling, all involuntarily erupted and lasted the whole run.
What’s past euphoria on the joy dial? Because the whole day felt like we were redlining in that zone.
I am not a great skier. I have a lot of GoPro footage to verify this. But I am not convinced anyone has more fun falling down the mountain (with or without style) than I do. And I think I’m getting better. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube tutorials. Powder fever is a real thing. I may never get the opportunity to be carried to the stash in that winged chariot again (every hour at work could possibly pay for half a rotor blade rotation…) but I will forever be seeking out opportunities to find wide, untouched bowls filled with those deep powdery goods. I used to wonder why anyone would ski tour over hitting the resorts with the ability to be carried to the top of the runs via lift. Not anymore. Weeks after our heli trip I strapped my ski’s to my back and (for lack of touring setup) snowshoed for 4-1/2 hours to the highest point I could find where the snow seemed deep and there were no tracks to be seen. The end result was a 12 second, 3 turn run that couldn’t even be considered an appetizer… so I had to do it again.
We love to ski. I love it. All of it. I’ll ski on groomers, in corn, shoot I’ll even go ice skating when the conditions freeze the surface to that glossy yeeeshness. It’s not as much fun but there’s fun to be had (it’s more fun when you stay vertical on such days I am told).
But truth is, after skiing in real powder, its hard for everything else not to taste like PB&J the day after dinner at Ruth’s Chris….
Heaven knows we can continue to survive on PB&J, but golly will we ever be thinking of finding a way back to Ruth’s Chris…
I’m gonna have to get into ski touring aren’t I.