Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fairy Tales & Powder: Childhood Ski Dreams Can Come True

I came around the corner...
Wham!!
My eyes bugged out of my head.
My mouth dropped open
as I shook my helmet in disbelief.

I had dreamed of this moment,
of standing here,
at the entrance to this particular trail,
on a power day such as this.

SomeWhere
despite the absolute awesomeness of the day,
no one,
not a single person,
had been here.

I looked around,
first uphill then down,
making sure this wasn't a dream
wondering if someone was going
to pop out of the woods
and burst
the perfectness of my moment.
And then it sinks in.
I am going to ski this.
This will be all mine.

A tear forms in my eye...

oh my god,
Seriously?!
CALM DOWN.

But I cannot.
My heart is beating so wildly.
Here,
before me,
untouched and virgin,
lies a path through the snow.

And not just any snow.
Like feet and feet of wind drifted snow.
Like waist deep snow.
Like MY Snow!!!

The big selfish grin spread slowly across my face,
I Bit my lower lip in great anticipation...
I rocked back on my tails, swung those tips around,
and let my skis just fall down the hill.

For a while I ride my tails,
swinging my skis gently within the halfpipe like riverbed,
finally full of snow after this latest dumping.
slowly but surely
my speed increases
until I am bouncing from one drift to another.
Bouncing?
from drift to drift.

Wait, this is like...
rhe winddrifts are skiing like...

...PILLOWS??

A huge Whoop explodes from my throat
as I try to keep myself from laughing
at this.
So New
So unexpected
So absolutely freakin' awesome.

I drop from pillow to pillow,
the snow beneath me exploding
like feathers from a pillow during a pillow fight.
A Blazt of snow hits me in the face
with each pillow puff.

Pillows?!
Face Shots?!

What the hell is going on here?

How about a waterfall drop?
Sure,
whatever.
I'll take that drop and
Pooof!
Snow surrounds me everywhere and I rock forward and into the next turn.
Miraculously smooth and skiing like a dream come true.

I can't help myself.
My mind begins to go crazy excited now
overwhelmed by the drops and snow and
the whole entire freaking experience of it all.

I honestly never thought this would happen to me.
Not here in Vermont,
in Killington,
on this trail.
and certainly not today.

But here I was,
making swooping GS turns,
dodging around trees
Just enough space to redirect my tips
and land in the next pillow of snow.

It was so smooth
so sexy
so powderlicious.

As a Child,
I had heard tales of this trail
This secret place,
hidden so blatantly
among all the trees
in Killington.
A place where only the good grownups would go.

That's where I wanted to be.
Even though I had no idea what this trail could possibly have looked like,
I imagined my future self,
ripping up the powder
In my dream,
I was, like, totally super awesome, dude.

Eventually,
I found this trail.
I still remember the first time I skied it.
It certainly wasn't pretty.
or even like anywhere close to awesome.
More like:
Ohhhhh, this is what this trail was like.

And my dream changed.
Now I knew where the turns would be,
where the waterfall would
pop up
unexpectedly
around that turn,
you know, that one.

Sometimes it would be skied out.
Others would be fresh.
I skied it alone
(yeah, yeah, lecture me about safety another day)
Othertimes in a trail of two or three skiers,
right on top of each other in glorious powder eight style.
And it had always been super fun to ski.

And then,
it snowed a whole lot.
And then,
And then,
And then...


And Then...
A Childhood Dream Came True.

Skiing This Run,
On this Mountain,
On this Day,
was,
for me,

Epic.





May You Find the Spirit of the Mountain within You.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Skiing Killington at Night: Finding My Own Private Nemo

My morning started with Freshies on East Mountain Road.
The plow guys were working so hard, but had yet to get to my access route to the mountain. If I could have figured out a way to take a photo while driving safely, I would have. It was just gorgeous - an untouched ribbon of white, so inviting as the snow reached from treeline to a just not hidden the guard rail separating the road from the golf course. The lights from the condos were glowing through the darkness thst marks five in the morning and the snowflakes glistened in the light as they fell slowly to the ground. I could see only as far as my headlights allowed; I had faith that the mountain was there, buried in white and just waiting for the moments when skiers would find all her secret hidden passageways filled with soft, luscious powder...

With my skins on, I left right from the back of my car in a contrastingly immaculately plowed parking lot. I had to step up the plow berm to even gt up onto the fresh snow and huge gust of wind hit me right in the throat. Quickly, I shuffled across the open expanse that is always the base area and hugged the treeline on skinner's right. The wind literally vanished and I was left in a quiet solitude amidst the darkness.

Like a monster scouring through the depths of the ocean, a groomer was beginning to make his way down underneath the chairlift. His lights made a dance through the trees and the snow beneath my feet was littered with glittery gold stripes. So together we would be for a while, my groomer friend and I, as he went down and I went up. Each on our separate journeys in the darkness,

While the snowflakes twinkling in the light of my headlamp was stunning, it was the snow on the ground that was really the focus of my attention.
And It had to.
The wind had created such distinct waves in the snow pack, that even against the tree line there were varying depths and densities in the snow. There would be fifty strides of smooth, glistening snow where I groomer had visited just before the sixteen inches had fallen. But then I might wander too close to the treeline and end up a soft pile of theigh deep which they had moved to the side to make a perfectly flat surface for the downhill skiers and riders.
And I would smile.
Cause it was pretty damn deep in that there snow :)

As I came out of the woods in to prepare for the next trail junction, I realized that I was indeed truly alone. It looked as though no groomer or snowmobiler had come through this way in days. The wind had pushed the snow every which way and all about, pushing it up against trees and pulling it harshly from others, leaving their roots exposed to the bitter cold that was descending upon us. You could have filmed a scene from some apocolypse flim...and we were the only ones left.

As we rounded the final bend, I pulled in behind a nook of evergreen trees to quickly change from my softshell into my ever so cozy Biwak Puffy. Yeah, it's a bright glowy pink, but it is so lusciously warm and like wrapping myself in a sleeping bag. It only takes a few moments for the heat from body to fill in the air space between my merino baselayer. I am all snuggled up and finally ready for the change. I swing my arms fore and aft, willing the blood back into my fingertips so that ai ahve enough dexterity to grap the tip loop. And then I remember - I hadn't finished my tea from yesterday and the water was still warm!!! What a wonderful treat on on a blustery summit.

But I knew which way I wanted to go.
And so I went rolling in the deep.
Literally.
My tip got caught in a chunk of windblown snuck into my perfect powder run and I suddenly went log rolling down the hill until I was sitting on my right pole looking up at the tree tops on the summit. I chuckled to myself, thankful for a pile of light and fluffyness to land in. Packing down the snow around me, I cautiously stood up and shook the wicked cold snow out of my back. Super glad no one was here to see that, I thought to myself.

And then the rest of the float was all mine.
It was heavenly.
Literally, like it felt like floating on clouds.
Poof
Poof
Poof
Each turn was it's own wonderful world.
Poof
Poof
Poof
My breathing intertwined with the sound of fresh powder puffing up as I moved my skis through the snow.

It was Perfect.
:)

I hope that everyone had an absolutely wonderful day in Nemo's Powder this weekend, no matter how much snow fell around you.
It could have been an inch, sixteen or thirty-four...but it's all the same to me.
Fresh, Light & Lovely.
The way life should be.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You

Friday, February 1, 2013

To Be Fourteen...and have your First Backcountry Ski Tour

When I was fourteen,
I didn't even think about skiing in the trees because I would mess up my race tune.

When I was fourteen,
I thought hiking for slalom laps, decked out in all our protctive equipment, down lower Highline was the most badass thing that a skier could do in the public eye.

When I was fourteen,
Earlier lift for super G down Bunny Buster was like a dream come true - especially when we got to launch over the Lip at the top of Mouse Trap and the work road at the bottom of the Bowling Alley.

When I was fourteen,
I wore a full Descente outfit with my pants rolled at the cuffs, we hung our helmets at the of the giant slalom course in protest of wearing them...and I had a major crush on my bright yellow Rossignol 9S slalom race skis.

My beautiful young cousin Megan is now Fourteen.

She wears Icebreaker, Arc'Teryx & Mammut
and would never dream of skiing without a helmet.
She now has hand-me-down three buckle ski mountaineering boots,
adjustable poles and Fischer Koa 84s
and Skins.

And she went on
her first backcountry tour
in the half foot of fresh snow
that we got last week.

It snowed pretty much the whole duration of our skin up through the mountains.
Stride after stride,
I kept checking behind me to make sure
that the young teenager was enjoying herself
and not just suffering along behind Vespi.

Everytime I looked,
I could see her eyes meandring about,
checking out everything that the Killington woods had to show
someone willing to explore them.

And there was amazement in them.
And a curiosity.
Where the hell was my cousin taking me?

And she kept moving.

Sliding her skis along the snow,
no frankenskinning happening here.

Just nice long strides
moving her further and further into the backcountry
as Vespi kept right in line with the humans.
Puppy Coopie, of course, ran every which way in search of greatness.
Actually, I think Coop has figured out that he can get more skiing in if he hikes far ahead and then sprints back down the trail repeatedly in the pow.

Gotta love a dog who loves powder!!

As we switchbacked further and further up the mountain,
the fresh snow got lighter and lighter
and deeper and deeper.
Megan was willing to lead for a while
...at least until the snow got to be knee deep.
There is nothing an east coast powder skier celebrates more
than light windblown snow :)
It can take six inches and turn it into two feet
- if you know which side of the mountain to ski on!!

We skinned deep and deeper into the woods.
The man made noises which had been heard faintly as we had begun
had now completely disappeared.

We were alone.
Except for the dogs.
and the beautiful field of powder that was
gradually exposed to us as we rounded the final corner.


As we reached our destination
I could see the smile growin on Megan's face
as the reality of the whole situation began to sink in.

We were gonna ski this?!?!

Our first task was to exchange her hard shell and spring gloves for her puffy Mammut Pilgrim Jacket and toasty warm mittens in order to trap all that well-earned warmth.

I have never seen a teenager move so fast.

Those skins were ripped off and folded faster than some of my friends who skin with me all the time. And despite never having skinned before, she had those Alpine Touring bindings figured out in a jiffy and was ready before I was.

She wanted that Powder.
And she wanted it first.

And So,
In this case,
Honors went to the Rookie :)

When Megan was Fourteen,
she learned how to keep dogs at a ski poles length away while skiing to preserve the integrity of their shins and the purity of her powder.

When Megan was Fourteen,
she learned that there is no reason to freak out about scratches on her edges and core shots in her bases. Skiing where no one has skied before is well worth time spent at the tuning bench.

When Megan was Fourteen,
she learned that the woods are still and quiet while the winds of a violent snowstorm rage around us. The snow within the woods can be enough to bury a dog and certainly enough to find fresh powder for everyone in the group.

When Megan was Fourteen,
she learned that a three hour backcountry ski tour in the woods
can make even your deepest worries go away.

When Megan was Fourteen,
she learned the beauty of earning your turns.
she learned to find the spirit of the mountains within her.

It makes me wonder what she'll be skiing when she reaches her thirties.


As so many kindred spirits have before,
May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You!!