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!!

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