Day Ever" Essay Contest, Page 5
More: (1), (2),
The Great Honda Snow Buggy Mishap
The alarm clock sounded at 4 am that
morning. It didnt even mater though as I dont think
I had slept a wink. It had been snowing for 2 days and we were
heading for our favorite bc hut. Im sure everyone can relate
to this story, our bags were all packed, actually, mine had been
packed for about a week. The night before we double and triple
checked everything over some rather excessive libations and nosh!
Its amazing how fresh one feels at 4 in the morning with
a killer scotch hangover, knowing that soon we would be breaking
our way up an untracked, what now must have been at least 24
of fresh B.C. champagne powder.
Finally, the over-worked, crusty, hard
water deposited coffee maker spat out the last of its sweet
nectar, we all filled our mugs and were off. You know its
going to be a sweet trip when you have 1 hour to drive and already
the great Honda snow buggy is pushing snow with its bumper
The drive is still very fresh in my mind,
I made some new grooves in the steering wheel that day as we
white knuckled our way slowly but surely to what we all knew
could very easily be the best powder day of our lives. Thats
when it happened, we were but 15 minutes from the parking area,
everyone in the back seat racing, frantically trying to be the
first to get their boots on ( foot room was little to none in
the great Honda snow buggy), I can remember thinking thats
it boys, you all race to get ready and get that trail nice and
packed for me! then those dreadful 4 words echoed through
the great Honda snow buggy, anyone seen my boots
?!! There was silence while our stomachs turned inside
out and tried to escape out our throats. When I was finally able
to say something in English, SHUTUP seemed somewhat appropriate.
Sure enough one of our group had forgot
his boots. The mood had now switched from elation to thoughts
of, well, I hope you dont get too cold sleeping in the
snow buggy for a couple nights !! We got to the parking lot and
oozed our way out of the snow buggy, all of us casting murderous
glances in the immediate direction of the heinous criminal whom
had just crushed us. We decide to slap on the skins and just
yo-yo the slope above the road. As we unloaded all the gear that
had caused the snow buggy to wheelie its way here, there
at the very bottom of the pile, down beside the spare tire was,
yes you guessed it, THE BOOTS ! We were ecstatic, jumping around
and howling like sasquatches at the Kokanee brewery !
If an avalanche hadnt released
before then, our hooting and hollering would surely have set
one off. We got all geared up and slogged our way through thigh
deep powder into that sweet little cabin, none of us could wipe
the grins off our faces. We all knew what we had in store, but
Im sure most of us were smiling thinking about what we
had just been through also.
I wont go into detail on what was
indeed the best powder daze of my life thus far, other than to
say, epic was an understatement! In writing this I did however
figure something out;
For me, it wasnt just about the
best day I ever had sometimes getting there is half the
Stern's Best Day
This excerpt is from a weekly newsletter
"Stern Goes for 50" that I sent to
all my buddies so they could track my progress as I attempted
to reach an
arbitrary goal of 50 ski days. The actual intent of the letter
highlight our weekend adventures so they could be read and savored
the week when the pains and woes of work were getting to us.
The below is
the best backcountry day of my life. Although readers unfamiliar
players and the geography won't be able to capture the complete
the day, they will certainly be able to understand the exhilaration,
of other feelings and the ski buddy dynamics that are endemic
Greetings all, many thanks to SARBS/Babs
for doing the report for #41 - in
my own defense, I'm not some type of perv as you might think
but rather I
was keeping myself adequately hydrated and as such needed to
many times - and I'm sure all you outdoor people recognize the
Yeh #41 was amazing but pales to #42.
Let me tell you how it went. After
the last run, I was able to talk Tom (the Hummer) into returning
Jim/Uniballer would have not part of this at the time as he had
A LOT OF
STUDYING TO DO. Well later that night Jim calls to say he's
in - well in
the AM he calls to say he's out. He says studying, I say one
martinis the night before. Well this may have been one of the
mistakes in the young lad's life.
So we're driving up and we see sun then
fog then sun then near Blue Lake we
are in a blizzard with about 10 inches of snow on the highway.
plan was to ski the Diamond but thought maybe it's calmer on
the other side
of the pass so we returned to the Longest Run. Not much calmer
and as we
are sitting in the truck getting ready Tom joked about returning
for a little coffee - I didn't say anything but thought if he
says it again
I'm in. So we procrastinated and shivered like little children
dreaded leaving the warmth of the truck but we did and off we
went to climb
the Longest Run. We broke through 18 inches of fresh light powder
hour or so later we were on the top deskinning. Our first couple
portended of what we were in store for. We easily carved and
angel dust powder that at times was chest deep. The snow let
us do anything
we wanted. The surface layer running with us was initially disconcerting
but later became our little friend. /Tom made numerous comments
orgasms and if you know Tom, talk of this nature is very unusual
for this individual. /We did this run 3 times which was exhausting
worth it. To make the final climb, I had to resort to drinking
Double Shot - two shot expresso in a can - which gave me the
last bit of
energy I needed. Our final run was during a reprieve from the
and wind. As we were on our final descent and trying to use
up every bit of
untracked powder, we could hear whooping and yelling from the
other side of
the valley. It was some snowmobilers watching and cheering on
Nothing like an audience to make you ski well. Those guys did
a lot in the
area of détente to narrow the chasm between skiers and
The best day I ever had
Unbelievable. Driving up I-70 out of Denver
on a Sunday during prime ski season at 8 in the morning and not
a car in sight. Well, OK, it is closing day and by now, many
people have their sights set on more spring-like activities.
But still, nobody! Whats wrong with these people!? Dont
they know that there was a two foot dump last night throughout
Summit County? Well, its their loss
Road closed ahead? Couldnt quite read the portable traffic
sign. Just pull off here in Georgetown and get the scoop. Need
a pee break anyway. Damn, a semi spun out on the snowpacked highway
down by Dillon, west-bound lanes completely shut down. Guess
Ill just have to head back over to Winter Park. So much
for the free pass to Copper.
Whoa. Arent that many people around.
And look at all that untracked fluff with not a groomed slope
in sight. This could rival any epic day in the BC!
No lines here. This is the way it should
be. Lovely winter quiet up the slope. Think I see someone about
15 chairs in front of me, but theres no one coming down
the hill. Its not THAT early. OK, now Im detecting
some activity. Still dont see anyone, just hear an occasional
whoop! from somewhere in the trees.
Sweet pow. Little wet for Colorado, but
it is well into spring. No champagne here, just thick Guinness.
Good thing its the end of the season legs taut,
reflexes sharp. Wouldnt last in this stuff for but an hour
or two back in November.
Waaaahhhooo! Go where I want, untracked,
emergent bumps, empty slopes. Only issue today is how long the
quads will last. Doesnt anyone know that spring is by far
the best ski season in the Colorado Rockies?
My Very Best Day Telemarking
At first I underestimated its difficulty.
No, Im not speaking of the telemark turn itself, though
that would also be true despite my first awkward attempts
to telemark on E-99 skis I assumed that a reasonable amount of
practice would lead to proficiency. Now, after an amount of time
and an investment in gear that any objective person might consider
unreasonable, Im still working to achieve that elusive
mastery of the telemark turn in all terrain and all snow conditions.
But Im speaking now of the seemingly simple question, What
was your best day telemarking?
I initially thought the answer would just
involve rummaging through the mental filing cabinet, reminiscing
about all of the fabulous days Ive had on skis. Look for
the day that generated the biggest grins, the best turns, the
most joy, and surely that would be my best day. Images and memories
came to mind of perfect slopes of pristine powder, of non-stop
runs of masterfully linked tele turns to the whoops and hollers
of ski partners waiting below, of puffy flakes gently falling
through silence broken only by the sound of breathing and skis
climbing a forested trail, of majestic corniced peaks resolutely
standing sentinel through centuries, and of companionship with
good friends whose very souls are equally touched by skiing in
ways that we never really try to put into words.
Humans naturally gravitate toward pleasure.
We delight in fine food, good beer, and great sex, but I began
to question whether identifying my best day telemarking was just
a matter of finding the ski outing that scored highest on the
pleasure-meter. My mind kept returning to the day that a group
of us skied from Eldora ski area to Winter Park, crossing the
Continental Divide over Rollins Pass. We started at dawn on a
bitterly cold, windy day, everyone putting on storm gear right
at the trailhead. Midway we reached Arestua Hut, and its lone
occupant informed us that another group had gone on toward the
pass but was forced back by the weather. We decided to press
on. Though conditions neared whiteout at times, we crested the
pass, traversed back south below the spine of the Divide, and
eventually made Winter Park after nightfall, regaling each other
over beers at a local pub. The snow was wind-crusted that day,
the weather horrific, and good telemark turns practically non-existent,
but that day kept popping up mentally as I contemplated the question
of which day was my best. Why?
I concluded that achievement has to be
part of the equation. Almost as much as pleasure, we celebrate
personal accomplishment and overcoming adversity, whether that
be a victorious sports team raising high the championship trophy
or an individual skier reflecting on having given the maximum
effort that both body and mind could muster. My best day telemarking
would never be at a ski resort, no matter how perfect the powder
or how short the lift lines. The exertion of the climb satisfies
as no chairlift can.
But even after throwing achievement into
the mix, I continued to question what exactly best
means when it comes to skiing. Another day came to mind, when
I was the defacto leader for a group of five less-experienced
skiers on our way to one of the Tenth Mountain huts. We expected
an easy trip, to be followed immediately by great fun on the
reputedly prime telemark terrain on all sides of the hut. Instead,
blizzard conditions again raised their head, and while breaking
trail through deep snow we began to question whether we were
still on the unmarked route we had chosen to the hut. The group
paused, shivering, as I again checked my map, gps, and compass
and mentally contemplated, but did not voice, the likely consequences
if we traveled too far in the wrong direction. We were on course,
however, and we finally straggled in to the hut to the great
relief of our friends who had arrived hours earlier via a different
route. The next days weather was again miserable, and few
of the still tired folks in my group even ventured out, despite
the tantalizing slopes surrounding us. This was not at all what
we had expected, but as I stood on the deck of the hut that day,
a peace came over me. I let go of all my expectations of what
this trip would be like, and I simply relaxed into the moment
of what it was. In its own way, it was perfect.
So in the end, Ive decided that the
best day on skis must have it all: pleasure, accomplishment,
and, yes, transformation of the spirit. Some people chant mantras
for hours in a quest for clarity, peace, and understanding. Is
it presumptuous to think that telemark skiing at its best could
possibly be a path toward those same goals? Those who are deeply
passionate about telemark skiing and give it some thought would
say no. The yin/yang of a truly great day on skis includes both
the climb and the descent, the masculine energy of exertion and
the feminine energy of quietly observing natures beauty.
Our rhythmic rise and fall as we transition from one tele turn
to the next reflects the cycles of life: the seasons, the sun
and moon, birth and death. Telemark skiing at its best is not
a matter of avoiding faceplants, cruddy snow, disappointment,
or pain. Its about experiencing the full gamut of life,
taking into the heart the good and the bad, the triumphs of a
perfect powder day and the childhood wounds that still bear lingering
scars, and achieving a kind of synthesis, an ability to understand
and gratefully accept all of what life offers for exactly what
it is, no more, no less.
My very best day telemarking? Ive
had many glorious glimpses of it, but in my heart I understand
that its still out there, waiting for me. Ill know
it when I ski it.
Warren Miller may be right: my best
ski day is the one Im having each and every time
Im fortunate enough to be out there carving some turns.
But in the interval between mountain time, I cant help
but think about which day has been my best ever.
Was it my first time ever on skis? That
magical experience of a teenager ripping down the mountain without
a care? No, that couldnt be it. I seem to recall beating
the snow with my ski poles in frustration after my dear friends
left me to figure out the intricacies of getting up the rope
tow, much less getting down the seemingly 40+ degree bunny slope.
For some reason though, I stuck with it. Maybe it had something
to do with the bus ride home. Thanks Kathy.
I kept on skiing through high school, and
thanks to a supportive ski coach I progressed from a top notch
snowplower to a perennial B-teamer. Although we had
a lot of fun on the ski team, the days on our 300 vertical foot
hill tended to blend into one long grey east coast winter. Except
maybe that day Jimmy fell on the sheet ice under the lift. Now
THAT was funny, especially as we bombarded him with snowballs
from the chairs. But after two trips up we realized Jimmy wasnt
doing so well. I think hes okay now. Hey Jimmy, sorry bout
Skiing really became fun when I started
to go on real ski trips. You know, pack up the car
with some friends and beer and head into the mountains for a
few days. I think the trip that really got me hooked was the
one up to Killington in my second year of college. It was a bummer
when it started raining and sleeting and the two guys I planned
to go with bailed. But Kens girlfriend was game to go,
so we borrowed his car and headed up the icy highway. We were
staying in a coed dorm room, so it was perfectly safe. Hey, I
didnt know we were going to the only ones there that first
night. Nor did I know what ice cold Molson draft would do to
her. Anyway Ken, I really feel bad about the car and I wish you
and Andrea had worked it all out.
As much fun as I had skiing back east,
it was when I moved out west that I really discovered what skiing
was meant to be. I was lucky enough to meet some backcountry
skiers who accepted me into their ranks. After picking up some
used leather lace-ups and a pair of skinnies I was
ready to go. Lassen was our favorite playground where I slowly
developed an understanding of the telemark turn. My buds
were kind enough to let me drive to and from the mountains so
I could ponder the intricacies of telemarking as they caught
up on much needed sleep. They also gave me plenty of good pointers.
I still clearly remember some of the sage advice Peter gave me
on our forays up and down the volcano. Advice such as, Dig
your poles in! and, Get your feet below you!
Or afterwards the encouraging words, It probably wont
A year later my perennial ski partner from
high school (not Ken) joined me for our second trip to Taos,
where I was spending a month. On our previous trip to Taos a
storm came in as I was waiting in Albuquerque for Dave to arrive
the next day. Worried, as I was, about my friend and I having
trouble negotiating the roads in such bad weather, I thought
it prudent to take the rental car up to Taos immediately and
let him arrive in the comfort of Greyhound. For some reason Dave
didnt appreciate the sacrifice I had made for him. By this
second trip however, he had the opportunity to look after some
of my dear college friends as I had looked after him. Taos was
once again being blessed with piles of down-like snow petals.
Unlike many of the locals who claim, On powder days you
have no friends Dave and I both thought the statement was
rude and despicable. He was more than willing to miss this epic
powder day and drive down to Alburquerque to meet Tom and Robin.
However, being the thoughtful and kind person he is, Dave thought
he convinced me to keep their safety foremost in our minds and
let them come in by bus. Funny thing, they forgot to thank us
for this sacrifice. That was 15 years ago - his Cheshire-cat
grin as he dropped into Walkeries Chute is as clear in my mind
as if it happened just yesterday. Then at the bottom he looked
at me, nodded, smiled some more, and said, I understand.
All was forgiven. My somersaulting fall two days later with resulting
internal and external bleeding (but hey, I missed the trees)
didnt lessen the glow of that week one bit. It just made
the 36 hour drive home (okay, to the ER first) a little less
As the years traveled on I started skiing
less at the resorts and more in the backcountry. Mt. Shasta became
my home mountain, teaching me about reaching for
greatness and learning humility. On Shasta I conquered descents
that had earlier humbled me, led best friends to the summit and
turned around with lightening close enough that all the hair
on my body was at attention. Last spring my Shasta experience
culminated in a trip with Dave, whom Id been trying to
get to climb and ski Shasta for 13 years, and John, my kayak
soul-mate who had recently moved to the east coast. Neither had
summitted Shasta before, although John had made it close in our
attempt a year earlier, only to be turned back by 80mph winds
and the resultant ice. This time, however, after being blessed
with an incredible thunderstorm in Hidden Valley, we awoke to
near perfect conditions and summitted on an almost cloudless
Friday. Although we carved countless turns in nearly perfect
corn all the way back to camp, its the emotions and hugs
we shared on the summit that made the trip so special. That and
the joy of introducing friends to the wonders of Mt. Shasta and
backcountry skiing. THAT was my best day skiing.
For a little while anyway. Darius, my almost
five year old son and I decided to get in one last day skiing
for the season. I thought wed be going to the lifts, but
he decided he wanted to go cross country, which we
had done just once before. So we loaded the VW van with our gear,
our dog and plenty of snacks and headed up to the Mt. Rose Meadows.
Over the next three hours we toured out across the great expanse
(almost ½ mile), investigated numerous wolf
tracks, summitted the highest peak (a solid 150 foot climb),
ate lunch, climbed the exposed rocks, and skied back down the
mountain to the car. When we were done, Darius looked
at me and said, Daddy, can we do that again. Yes,
that was my best day skiing.
Everyone's a Good One
As my mind wanders examining recollections
ski days, I find it difficult to differentiate one
from another. I can recall snorkel quality powder
days, warm sunny spring and early season days, raging
blizzard days, and days spent with good friends. All
these days, however, seem to blend into a single space
in my memory.
My mind doesn't necessarily divide each
memory as a
separate experience. Instead, the mesh of memories
blends into a single memory of days spent skiing. I'm
not drawn to go skiing based on my recollection of the
perfect day. Rather, it is these combined memories of
skiing to which I have attached a positive association
that entices me to continue to strap on the boards as
often as possible.
I'm not saying that I haven't had "perfect"
in the past; maybe I've had too many perfect ski days.
I don't necessarily want to acknowledge them as
perfect per se because then I might be disappointed
when future outings don't live up to the same
When I compare a day spent skiing to a
sitting in a cubicle, answering the phone, working at
the computer, meeting with clients, nailing up siding,
sitting in traffic, or any other way I could possibly
spend my day, I feel a sense of joy for what I am
doing. When I consider the possible alternatives to a
day spent in the mountains, enjoying the simplicity of
skiing, I begin to understand where the focus of my
energy should be.
My heart and soul are out there on the
of distant peaks. As I make my way out to the
mountains I learn more and more about myself, and the
person I want to be. A day spent skiing is better
than a day spent doing anything else. Every ski day
is a perfect day.
The Best Day I Ever Had
Looking back it seems like a dream. Every
girl's dream come true, and so much more. More than I could have
I had been dating John for nearly a year.
Every time I looked at him all I could think was that he was
the hottest guy I had ever seen in my life. And he was so much
fun to be around. John had taken me sailing and rock climbing
to amazing places the previous summer. I took him on a trip to
meet my parents and we spent a memorable week at their cabin
by the lake. It was the summer before college, I was 18 and head
over heels in love.
The summer months flew by and before we
both knew it the time had come for us to head off separately
to school. We got together whenever we could, talked on the phone
and wrote each other often. My best day ever began on the Monday
holiday of President's Day weekend. John and I had spent the
last two days downhill and cross country skiing. This day the
plan was to go for a longer, more ambitious tour. A foot of new
snow had fallen overnight. To be safe we would stick to the trees
and lower angled terrain.
John said that he wanted us to do some
avalanche beacon practice before we headed up into the hills
for some powder turns. He said he knew just the spot, out in
an open meadow down a trail we had been on the day before. We
got into our bindings and headed down the mostly flat track on
a cold green-wax morning. In my memory the sky was more blue
than I have ever seen it before or since and golden shafts of
sunlight poured through the trees. The snow sparkled as if millions
of diamonds had been scattered upon it. I was leading John by
about 20 yards, getting into the rhythm of the kick and glide
when I came around a bend in the track and saw a strange and
unexpected sight. It was an envelope pinned to a tree. On the
outside of the envelope was a big hand-drawn red heart. I thought,
"how cool, someone left this here."
When I got closer I could see the evevelope
had my name printed on it in big block letters.
Taking the envelope down, I tore into it
as John caught up. It was a love note. The sweetest love note
ever read. I was overwhelmed. A single tear rolled down my cheek
as I read, realizing that John must have planned this whole thing
out and snuck down here the evening before while I had gone to
the market. I didn't know what to say. John just reached over
and grabbed me, giving me a big hug and saying softly into my
ear, "I love you baby." We hugged a bit more, then
both began to laugh out loud, laughing at the beauty of the day
and how lucky were to be together.
John and I continued down the trail and
eventually reached the meadow. We spread out a foam pad, ate
good cheese and crackers, and John said, "I'll hide my beacon
first, look that way, no peeking!" It took him awhile but
finally he said "ok, turn around and see if you can find
it." I began the search and it didn't take me long to get
to the point to where I wanted to begin digging. I put my shovel
together and dug down. After a minute or two I spotted the plastic
bag and pulled it out. There was John's beacon in the bag but
there was also something else. A small box with ribbon and a
bow on it.
My hands shook as I opened the little box
in stunned silence. The diamond on John's engagement ring sparkled
as brightly as the snow had earlier as he slipped it onto my
ring finger and said simply, "will you?" There was
this intense rush of emotion and fear---I had just turned 19
the month before--we were so young---what would our parents say?---how
would we live?---who gives a damn?---"Yes" I nearly
screamed as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. We fell
into the snow in a heap, I was laughing and crying at the same
time, John was just grinning. We picked ourselves up and eventually
completed a most wonderful tour.
A few months later we figured out I got
pregnant that night. We were married six weeks later at my parent's
place beside the lake. They thought we were nuts and that it
would never last.
That was twenty years ago this winter.
The bindings were 3-pins, the beacons were Skadis and the skis
were very skinny. So were we, come to think of it. Our son is
in college and about the same age as we were back then. No, our
lives have not been as perfect as that day. We've had our bumps
in the road. But looking back it's been an incredible experience
to be married to my best friend, my soul mate, and still the
hottest guy I've ever laid my eyes on. What a wonderful journey
we've been on.
And it all began on the best day I ever
"What?" It was all I could manage as I watched him
pass me--pass me as
though I was standing still. Motoring down the bumps in Copper's
Spaulding Bowl, I had just been overtaken by a man on cross-country
It was my first time skiing in the mountains, and I had no idea
make of this.
It was 1987, and at that time there were only two modes of travel
Minnesota skiing lexicon: downhill and cross-country. And in
1987, I was
a hotdog, or so I thought. My opinion was forever changed, however,
I was manhandled on a double-black diamond by the first tele
skier I had
ever seen. He was wearing army-green pants and a sky blue goose
coat, and he passed me at an incredible speed in a field of car-sized
moguls. All I could do was stop, slack-jawed, and watch him go.
low and centered above his skis, he didn't break his rhythm the
entire length of the run, skiing right on to the Storm King poma
passed him going up as I was going down, but that was that last
I saw of
I decided, that day, that someday I would be the mystery man
in the puffy
blue coat. Or at least I'd be a tele skier.
Another ten years passed before I realized this dream. Picking
perfect year to become a ski bum, it snowed over 600 inches on
slopes of the Tetons the season I moved to Jackson Hole. True
promise I had made to myself, I soon purchased a used pair of
Canyon skis with Voile 3-pin bindings and a pair of Scarpa leather
and set to teaching myself the intricacies of the telemark turn.
It didn't come easy. I would ski the mornings in my alpine gear,
switching to tele gear in the afternoon. Those were long, brutal
afternoons, but for two months I kept at my regimen. After much
and many miles of vertical, it came together one day; suddenly,
mechanics of telemarking made sense. This is not to say I looked
doing it, but I found myself no longer limited to the groomed
generally more confident free-heeling down the slopes.
This newfound confidence led to discussions of backcountry skiing,
something about which I knew little and had, until that point,
considered. I had heard that, in the spring, the ski patrol was
open the backcountry gates from the ski area on days where there
avalanche hazard forecasted for all elevations (this was prior
Jackson's present open-gate policy).
In preparation, I bought a used F2 beacon and earned my Level
rating. I made my first off-piste turns on the gentle terrain
Teton Pass, but mostly stayed within the bounds of the ski area.
March it came: my roommate Pete learned they were opening the
gates above Rendezvous Bowl the next day. We had been waiting
The now-famous Jackson backcountry was at that time still a cherished
secret. The most trafficked destination when the gates opened
Bowl, southwest of the ski area. From the gate atop Rendezvous
it is only a short traverse and bootpack to some of the steepest
you could hope to ski--doubly true if you're doing so in leather
Prominent amongst the ski-able entrances to Cody Bowl is a steep
known locally as Pucker Face.
In summer, I was told, Pucker Face looks nearly vertical from
tram platform. Now winter, to me it looked as daunting, replete
cliff bands and unreasonably steep lines. If a person were to
fall, as I
still often did in my telemark gear, there was little chance
for him to
arrest his fall; it was dangerous.
Yet the top of Pucker Face is where I found myself the next morning
company of my roommate and 25 other eager bodies. Pete and I
had made the
"first box", the first tram, and talked excitedly about
how we were going
to make the most of it. This high talk had brought me to the
top of the
one of the most intimidating runs I had ever seen, and in tele
less. Presently my excitement dampened.
Scoping the run during the approach, I determined I needed to
stay hard to
skier's left, lest I become intimate with a 60-foot cliff and
traverse around the basin of Cody Bowl. None of this, however,
apparent to me at the top of the run, as the entrance to Pucker
Face has a
short, relatively mellow pitch, the end of which marks one's
into the heart of the run, a 50+-degree exercise in stupidity
inexperienced tele skier. From the top, one can see only the
I was contemplating all of this as I slowly readied myself, taking
much care in removing my skins, adding layers, and locking down
According to Pete, I wasn't saying much at this point, save the
expletive. There was a light wind, but by all measures the conditions
were perfect: stable, packed powder, consistently cold temperatures
the past week, and a bright, blue sky overhead.
"Do you want me to go first?" Pete sensed my obvious
"No, I'm good."
I wasn't, but I had no further recourse. One more deep breath,
A snowboarder had cut in front of me, breaking the age-old unwritten
skiers code, and had completely snaked my line. I swore at him
carved a long, smooth arc on his heel-side edge down the upper
Pucker Face. As he transitioned to his toe side, he caught his
in the firm powder, launching him head-over-teakettle into the
the steeps below.
It became immediately quiet as we listened hard for the outcome.
Looks shot around as to whether he was okay, but all I recall
uttering was, "Dude..." with grave inflection. Thinking
of the cliffs
below, my irritation was replaced by genuine concern. Before
manifest itself into action, however, a small, tumbling form
visible far down the mountain. It came to a short rest, but then
and waived its arms indicating it was okay.
Without further thought, I started down. I felt awkward and rigid
neared the drop into the meat of Pucker Face, making three or
parallel turns. Cresting the edge, the snow quickly dropped away
present plane and I began to plummet.
Now hurtling down what seemed a surreal pitch, parallel turns,
point my safety net, unexpectedly became a liability. My rickety
not up for the challenge of jump turns and, in an act of pure
I dropped a knee. It felt stable in a way I had not experienced
Surprised at myself, I transitioned to the other ski, again in
stance. Then another, and another. I was in pure survival mode,
was ripping down the fall line linking tele turn after tele turn,
face shot after face shot. In truth, stopping would have been
difficult, but fortunately I had no sense to do so. I banked
the cliffs, never leaving my newfound rhythm, and continued down
Suddenly, the traverse was before me, and I made a long right
it. As I came to a stop, my eyes went first to the snowboarder
painstakingly post-holing his way up to where I stood on the
I looked then at my tracks, tight and consistent helixes down
section of Pucker Face. Finally, my eyes shifted right to the
of skiers coming up the ridge, screaming and raising their fists.
out a long victory cry.
As we skied out below Four Pines, a wide grin remained on my
face. I fell
several times and was anything but impressive, but it didn't
mind was higher up the mountain.
In the years since that day, I have become a more versed backcountry
and have undertaken far more intimidating trips. Certainly, that
not go down in the annals of ski mountaineering--it's actually
for Jackson. Yet, I don't know that I will ever again feel the
accomplishment and sheer bliss as I did that perfect morning
Face when it all came together for me. It was the best day I
The Best Day
The best day started off as one of the
The night before, I was wandering through
the grocery store, picking up some
last-minute items for the big day. I came around a corner and
into my ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. "Oh, hi Andy,
how are you
doing?" "Well, just fine, until a few seconds ago."
I thought I had reached a point where I
was over her, but this chance
meeting brought back a flood of emotions. Early the next morning
I met my
friend Bob for the ride up to the trailhead, and it was still
heavily on my
mind. Bob did his best to get me into a more positive mindset.
After all, we
were heading up to do a big spring ski descent that both of us
thinking about for years.
"Andy, did you tell her what you were
doing today?" Bob asked. "Well that
would have been a good idea," I replied. But, instead, when
she had asked me
the night before what I had been up to lately, I had just stammered
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff."
Part way up the hike in, I was still a
little moody, but I was starting to
feel better. It was a bluebird day, and we were hiking through
alpine basin. Then we reached the summit. "Oh man, I left
my food in the
car!" I exclaimed. Another mood shift was coming. But there
couple of guys on the summit, and they offered me some of their
maybe life's not so bad.
Bob and I made our way to the top of the
snow on our descent. There was no
one else around. We had the whole 3000-foot descent to ourselves.
was perfect June corn on a beautiful day. Now, I enjoy powder
skiing as much
as the next, but there's something special about perfect, buttery-smooth
corn on a steep slope, with unrelenting exposure, where when
your edges into the next turn, you are almost weightless. And
it is nearly
effortless as you surrender to gravity and let it guide you down
Bob and I leapfrogged each other down the
mountain, stopping every few
hundred feet to watch the other skier and revel in the moment.
descent like that, I want to savor it as much as I can. And when
the bottom, I had reached a state of euphoria that would last
In that day, I went through a full range
of emotions. From downcast and
depressed to exhilarated and living for the moment. Of course,
happen in a relationship without the skiing, and it can happen
without the relationship. But it is ironic that the best times
of our lives
are often defined as such, or perhaps heightened, because they
contrast with some of the most difficult times of our lives.
Yeah, I was cool. I was hip. "The
sex," if you will. Standing there in my
shredded plastic two buckle Scarpa T-2s that just didn't quite
fit; I felt
like a cowboy. Years of watching far too many westerns under
of my Father and I was suddenly John Wayne walking out of the
swing doors in
my cowboy boots. My toes bent. Yep, the infacuation is still
there. I was
out of hard stiff Salomon alpine demonic death trap boots that
had a grip
around my leg that could suck the life out of a bear. The duckbill
the softer plastic, these were leather cowboy boots in comparison.
the college aged telemark rental guy had just called me cool
for trying tele
at a young age and being from Connecticut. I felt like a local,
absolute goal for any outdoors activity oriented teenager in
Out the doors of the rental shop at Grand
Targhee did I strut, preparing to
mount my steed; a pair of K2s with Black Diamond Riva Z bindings
awaited anxiously out front. If the sang "get right back
up on that horse"
was needed, it was needed now in its most literal sense. I lacked
ability to get on my skis. They were flapping and sliding incesently,
resisting all of my efforts to get my boots inside the bindings.
and hopes were dropping at an exponential pace as I looked around
all of the other college age telemarkers looking at me, seeing
that I was an
absolute newbie. My cover was blown. Thankfully, another tele
out and took the time to explain to me how to adjust the bindings
fit my boot (they were currently too small for my boot) and how
get on the skis. Praise be, my image was back. Little did I know,
the first, and not the last time another telemark skier would
hand out to help me out. Slowly I fell my way toward the lesson
I had an hour private with one of the local instructors. Regretfully,
have forgotten the name of this isntructor who took the time
getting my alpine locked legs to move in the tele form.
We took the chairlift up the bunny hill,
and the fear of falling on the
chairlift suddenly took hold of my thoughts for the first time
moons. The scene of me pulling "penguin" 4 year olds
out of the net below
the unloading station at my local mountain where I instruct hit
me with the
all too possible event of the role reversal as the sign for "keep
up" passes me by. Multiple years of unloading from chairlifts
realize that all my worries are for naught, as I touch down upon
platform and glide down in a parallel turn quite effortlessly
(kudos to the
guys who tune the rental skis at Grand Targhee) to the summit
of my first
A well groomed slope will always hold a
special place in my heart, and Grand
Targhee had that slope. They were prime learning conditions;
that still seemed to remain untracked at that hour in the afternoon.
start off, We began with the classic shuffle step. The roll reversal
true, as I watched 5 year olds power wedge down the bunny slopes
while I was
crawling along doing my best to get my toes to bend and my skis
under my body. An hour later, my feet were working better than
but that was about it. Still, it did not matter in the least.
I was having
more fun being terrible at telemark skiing then I have had in
a long time
being decent on alpine skis. By the end of my lesson I hadn't
better, but I cared not. I finally discovered the winter sport
that I truly
wanted to do, my place was found. And this, was one of my most
days on the slopes.
Cover | Site Map | News
Page | Talk
Forum | Legal