Well, it happened. It finally snowed. Last week, we pled: “Dear Winter, Please Show Up.” We snow-loving mountain dwellers had simply had our fill of gloriously sunny and unseasonably warm days. We couldn’t take it any longer. Cries issued forth. Widespread wailing was heard. Bargains were struck with deities. And of course, the gnashing of teeth; always the gnashing of teeth. Hindsight is 20/20, and reveals the snow gods to be fans of folk, blues, and outlaw country. Like Pan’s flute, the dulcet tones of the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot‚ Winter Welcome Show‚ saved us.
The light breeze felt atop local mountain ridges Tuesday morning was no doubt the local ski resorts breathing a collective sigh of relief. As the season’s first real snow storm took leave of the region it left behind a generous helping of deep, dry snow and frigid temps. Instant winter. The snow gods gaveth. Praise be the snow gods.
The first big snow brings the first tour of the season; the first tour that doesn’t involve unpleasantries such as hiking uphill through mud or skiing into buried stumps and rocks. It’s the first ‘real’ tour, the first chance to strap on backcountry skis, skin up to the top of a favorite backcountry stash, and ski alllllllll…. the way back to the car.
For me, it’s this tour that creates an opportunity unlike any other for the rest of the ski season. It’s the one best time to find out which crucial piece of gear will be left behind.
This is my chance to set the seasonal tone with a careful sabotage; one that won’t completely ruin the tour, but make it a marginally sufferable dog-and-pony show. I’ve come to rely on this first tour and the inevitable screw-up that will make it memorable. As a matter of fact, I don’t even refer to it as the “first tour” anymore. With my tendency to turn this annual outing into a rolling carnival, it was time to staring calling it what it was, the Circus Tour. *queue Big Top music*
One year, the forgotten item was water. No biggie. Drinking’s nice during exercise, but overrated. Some Ayurvedic traditions highly recommend ritual dehydration. “It’ll be good for chakras or something” I thought. That ski tour lasted all day. Since then, I always remember the water.
Then it was ski poles. Ski poles are more important than one might think. Sure, they’re handy for going downhill, but an improvised lurk will do. It’s during the UP hill part that the poles fulfill their most noble service. I was not aware of this before that tour.
Another season, one of the BMOCs was visiting from HQ and brought with him an instant ski season–the mountains picked up 4 feet of snow the night he arrived. He wanted to go skiing. The storm had cleared and the crystalline sky was filled with a full moon. I drove. We arrived. He put on his gear. I put on mine. Except for my boots. They were still in my apartment. Nice and warm. I learned that sometimes sheer will is not enough; one cannot improvise boots.
I have yet to forget my skis; perhaps in the fullness of time. But this year’s subconscious selection was interesting–my climbing skins. Like trying to drive up an icy street in a car with bald tires, you just can’t ski up a decent hill without your skins. And since the snow in the Sierra Nevada is often too deep to walk through, they are pretty critical for getting into the backcountry. That extra float provided by a ski under foot makes all the difference.
So, leaving the skins at home is bad. But driving to the top of a mountain just so you can exit the car, smack yourself on the forehead, shout terrible things, and promptly leave isn’t always a great time.The snow is “often” too deep to walk through. Driving to the top of a mountain for no other reason than to realize one is a forgetful imbecile is often an unpleasant waste of time. What could I do? The only thing more foolish than accepting my advancing senility would be attempting to salvage my pride. Of course I chose that. Two or more feet of snow is often too deep to walk through. But not today. Not this time.
The turns were among the best I’ve earned.
Oddly enough, the BMOC from HQ arrived on a plane last night. He wants to go skiing tomorrow. My skins are already in the car.