As the ski season of 2013 comes to a close, I’m left with a sinking, hollow feeling. All of those days up on the hill, all of those turns, all of the conversations on the chairlift, and the invigorating days in the sun and storm, what does it all amount to?
The end of a ski season is a particularly anti-climactic experience. I’m struck with conflicting emotions. Should I be glad that it’s all over, or left wanting more? My body is in dire need of some serious restoration. I’m so happy right now I could cry.
I can’t help but remember all of the horrible things that happened up on the hill this season, particularly death. When it comes to this year’s ski season, those events will be permanently lodged into my frontal lobe. Without going into specifics, let’s agree that this year has been filled with carnage. It’s going to be hard to forget. Conversely, all of the things people say after tragedy are largely lip service. The lessons, if any, are almost instantly forgotten.
The other day I was cleaning out one of my closets and I came across my beacon, shovel and probe. I recalled the backcountry adventures that should’ve killed me instantly. I savored those decision making processes. I came quickly to the conclusion that those so-called safety devices were right where they belonged — in the closet — out of sight and mind. At this point all I can do now is get into the shower and try to wash the stupid off.
I’ve always wanted to ski the Maroon Bowl, in a bad way. This year I thought would be the spring to do it. In my fantasy I drop in at the top, slash five or six turns down the face, hitting the run-out with speed. Then ski down, cross the river, hoof it out of there and go get a sandwich in town. If only it was that simple.
So, you can only imagine the look on my face when I saw that it slid all by itself, without anyone’s help. That’s the biggest snow slide I’ve ever seen. It’s for that reason I’ll be avoiding the backcountry like the plague this spring.
I’d be willing to bet good money that somebody showed up that Tuesday morning with the sole intent of skiing the Maroon Bowl, for all the masses to see. They may have been semi-willing to dig a snow pit first, all the way down to the sugar snow layer at the bottom. I bet they even checked the avalanche report and had all of the best body recovery devices money could buy.
I’ve never taken an avalanche course. I don’t have any desire to. I’d like to think that I have an intuitive sense about snow conditions. From what I understand, the more you “know” about avalanches, the more likely you are to die in one. I do know that there’s another word for a turn you make in the backcountry — it’s “trigger,” and the more of them you make, the higher the probability that your name will end up on a park bench in town.
For some reason I get a great deal of amusement and unease from people who talk about snowpack depth in metric terms. It sounds so silly to me. Do these same people go to the gas station and buy liters of gas, or go to the Butchers Block and ask for a kilogram of ground round?
I also get suspicious when I hear people talk about compass aspects, exposures and different types of snow facets. I do better directionally when the reference points are Mexico, Glenwood, Red Mountain and Independence Pass. If I hear someone talk about how many meters a crown was, I slowly start walking backwards, trying to sneak away unnoticed. Is euro-ness truly next to godliness?
The words and catch phrases like “snow safety” and “avalanche forecast” all ring oxymoronic to me. When it comes to knowledge of the snowpack, not only is ignorance bliss, it’s an endless lease on life.
As far as the ski season goes this year, I think I’m done. I’ve donated enough skin to the God-forsaken bowl to resurface a couch. My toenails are black and blue. My legs can’t possibly take any more. It hurts to bend over. I should be in peak physical shape from all of the skiing, but ironically I feel beat up from the street up. Nature’s got a funny way of telling you what not to do. All you have to do is pay the slightest bit of attention. Sometimes it’s subtle; sometimes it’s as blatant as the sun-burned nose on your face.
To reach Lorenzo, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org