Memories they hope they'll never forget

Memories they hope they'll never forget

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Waist Deep by Sheesh

There are few things in life better than riding up the lifts of Snowbird with Dad. Particularly if it’s the day after a huge snowstorm and you are anticipating fresh tracks in the feathery-light powder. As you sit and watch other skiers float down the mountain and whoop it up, you drool for your chance to feel the soft snow fly past your face. On more than one occasion Dad and I admired from the lift our freshly-made tracks on the slopes. While most of those tracks were usually quickly ruined by some other skier’s tracks, etched in my memory are two sets of untouched powder tracks in Little Cloud bowl, beginning just below the treacherous rock cliffs of the East Twin Peak and running far above the traverse trail, and for all skiers everywhere to take notice. We were the greatest skiers on earth that day.

It started as a promising day. Dad and I headed up to the Bird two days after a humongous snowstorm had dumped several feet of new snow in Little Cottonwood. Reports were that Little Cloud had not yet opened. After stashing Cokes in the snow—our frozen liquid reward for a good day of skiing—we headed to the slopes. As we boarded Mid-Gad, we saw the snow report: Little Could was open, but Little Cloud bowl was closed. We decided to head to Gad 2 to start. From there we could monitor the bowls above while taking in the deep white stuff of Gadzooks.

After two runs on Gadzooks—both unbelievably good runs, although not completely fresh powder—we noticed a line forming at the top of Little Cloud, right where the traverse started. We headed straight to the bottom of Little Cloud. As we were riding up, the line at the top broke, and suddenly you could hear whoops and hollers echoing off the cliff walls and around the Little Cloud cirque as what looked like ants started dropping off the traverse and into the fresh powder. Our adrenaline shot up as we realized the magnitude of what was happening—first tracks for the rest of the day in deep fresh powder, and the possibility of the greatest day of skiing ever. Dad looked at me, pulled out of his pocket a frozen Snickers for each of us, and smiled. “You ready for this?” he asked. I just nodded and looked up the slope, smiling.

As we neared the top, we choked down our Snickers, tightened our boots, and gathered our poles. It was go time. We slid off the lift, made a right turn, and were off toward the traverse. We headed slowly down the traverse, looking for the best drop off. Honestly, there wasn’t a bad place anywhere to go, but to get the very first tracks, we headed further across. Then we dropped in. At first I was surprised at how slow I was going. Little Cloud is very steep, and I was hardly moving. Then I realized that I was further than knee-deep in this powder. I was waist deep. Making turns required jumping and pulling your feet up toward your chin, and it was a lot of work. However, along with the work came the greatest feeling of powder skiing, and the point at which you realize that you are in deep powder: when the snow crystals are gliding over your goggles, and if you breathe in at the right moment, you are actually breathing snow. Perfect.

After five or so runs like this, we headed to the lodge for some lunch and to rest for a few minutes. Each run had been just as magnificent as the first. The only thing that was not cool about the day so far was that there were other people at Snowbird that day. And most of them were having the same experience we were. So much so that by the time we made it back up after lunch, most of the bowl had been tracked out. Although the skiing was still ridiculously awesome, we were no longer making our own tracks.

While riding up the lift after enduring two more runs of pretty perfect skiing in others’ tracks, Dad pointed to the area of untouched snow directly above the traverse line. “We can make our mark there”. I smiled and said, “I’m in”, as I realized this was going to be an epic run.

We got off the lift and headed down the traverse, heading to the area which Dad had pointed to. We arrived at the spot, and looked up. We were now directly below the East Twin peak of the Little Cloud bowl, a couple of hundred yards below where the rocky cliffs led to the peak itself. I was surprised at how steep it was, and wondered if we would make it very far up. We took our skis off, coupled them together, and took the first few steps up. Each step I sank in nearly to my waist, and I quickly realized why it is worth every penny to ride a lift. We labored up the slope for over half an hour, taking short breaks to catch our breath and take in the view. We must’ve gone up about 150 yards or so before we were directly below the rocky cliffs. We stopped, sat down, and once again took in the view as we chatted about what was about to transpire. “Don’t mess up” Dad said to me as I pushed my boots into my bindings. We both knew that our tracks would be inscribed in the mountain for everyone to see, and what could be worse than an inscription of three perfect turns and then a huge hole, where the skier had fallen!

I don’t remember who went first, or if we went together at the same time, but neither of us fell. The powder was just as deep as anywhere else, but it was steeper, so the work was not as hard. And it was as smooth and light as gliding on perfect glass at Lake Powell. We were both in heaven! When we reached the traverse, we had to stop, look up, and admire our work: two perfect untouched tracks in the powder, side by side, etched into the mountainside. And etched into our memories forever.
As we rode up the lift again, we again admired our work. Although we did not repeat the hike, we did have to ride up the lift one more time, just to see our lone tracks above the traverse from the perspective that all other skiers would be admiring it for many days to come. A week and a half later, while riding up Little Cloud with friends, I proudly pointed to our tracks, which were still there. It was, I think, the greatest 150 yards of skiing in my life.

While that was the best day of skiing with anyone, every day skiing at Snowbird with Dad was the best day of my life. Thanks Dad for popping for season passes and taking the time to enjoy the Bird with me!

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