Riding a pair of new skis for the first time is a rare treat. The Fischer Misfits were as clean as fresh powder when I took them out of the box. Black-and-white bottoms were serene. Not a single scratch. Not a sign of rust. They were a creation so beautiful that I was afraid to ride them through anything but the deepest line. After last week’s pineapple express there weren’t many mountains with pure bases left. But it snowed heavy and got cold on Tuesday. And Baker gets dumps in a drought. The first ferry left at 630am.
Besides a day of hiking and sliding in the soft powder at Hurricane Ridge, Joss hadn’t skied yet this season. It was his first day at a resort. His first day swooshing 20,000 vertical feet. His first day riding the lifts back up. He clamped the Black Diamond Factor to his feet. Not a brand new boot, but new to him. It was his first day skiing them. He already liked the feel.
Typical Baker clouds, like freezer-burned meat defrosting, hovered in the air above the resort. Mount Shuksan was somewhere behind the veil. A looming cyclops suffering from a bad case of cataracts. The skunky smell of baking marijuana drifted around the parking lot. Shrieks of delight reverberated from the soft runs that already yielded freshies to the earliest risers among us. I clunked to the ticket booth and paid the venal attendant much too much money for a square of sticky paper. I was now one of the many.
The first lift up was cold. College kids regaled in slovenly attire ate snow in fistfuls. They left divots in the corduroy after landing awkward half-spins on their tails. Onlookers cheered from the chairs. A crash garners respect. It shows balls. I wondered what I looked like from above. Probably like the slightly front-heavy onesie-wearer that pointed downhill and barely turned. Holding on for dear life.
The first run was a means to an end. The path to Chair 6 and perhaps something untouched. At the top we bumped off our skis and hiked for a bit to Chicken Ridge. Others had the same idea. The snow was already cut. Skiers and boarders were spread out along the ridge. Furtive glances glided from behind iridescent goggles. Had anyone found a fresh line? Not us. But the chop was soft and the face was steep and my skis felt like they wouldn’t stop turning. All day.
We got our backpacks after lunch and hiked beyond the cords. Five fresh turns were worth every single step. And they were fresh. My track broke a steep slab but it was small and the slide ended in a clump above me. Good thing too because I leaned too far into the slope and sat. Sat there and would have been covered. And probably wouldn’t have cared. Would have been buried with a deep smile.
On another side of the mountain I got going a little too fast. Visibility was nil and I didn’t see the hole. It was the first time I have done a complete front flip on skis. But my skis were left behind. My body dug a crater like the nostril of the man on the moon. At least I knew the bindings were set right. Joss waited below while I swam through the soft stuff. The holes in my helmet were packed full enough to keep my head warm all day. They only melted out when we were back in the car.
We picked up a hitchhiker on the way down. A boarder. Joss and I figured it was good karma. We are headed to Canada for Christmas. The Rockies need more precipitation. Maybe the hitchhiker will help.
I heard myself telling a friend today that I’m turning into a powderwhore. It’s the first time I’ve used that word. It must be true.
Tomorrow is Hurricane again and I can’t fall asleep. I can’t stop thinking of knee-deep turns that are heavy to push. And every push feels like a first.