Cold smoke returns

There is something quite satisfying about getting in a morning ski and then coming home, starting a fire in the woodburning stove and watching the temperature rise inside as it plummets outside. A Canadian cold front has moved into the Rocky Mountains. It was 28° at 9 am, and it's 19° now. It's supposed to get chillier still as the day progresses, sub-zero tonight. Elaine has a bit of a cold so it's a perfect day to burn wood, watch movies, play board games, read and relax, while watching the snow drop down.

Cold smoke has returned to Colorado. The last storm we had was bizarre – wet snow from California, the famous Sierra Cement that we almost never get here. It's fun to ski simply because of sheer quantity, but it's not as much fun as the light and effortless Colorado typical snow, dried by deserts and 1,500 miles of inland travel. Our snow poofs when you ski it, you float, and it leaves a plume behind you as you slash and dash through it. Hence the name "cold smoke."

I've been going out on my Ski Trabs a bit. A racing set-up ski made deep in the Alps in Bormio, Italy that I use primarily for spring ski mountaineering adventures. Today I was reminded why. They go up fast – usually – but the skins are a bit skinny and I was sliding all over the place today. It was a challening 2,500 vertical up today as a result. The light snow on top of windcrust provided little traction. And then on the downhill, well, it's just nice to have something more there. They are, in effect, almost too light. It was the wrong ski in the quivver for the day. But it was still just fine. More and more I've come to realize that backcountry skiing is a nature experience more than a turn experience. Actually I think I've always known that – for me the adventure aspect trumps the perfect turn every single time – but it's been driven home more lately. The soft snowfall in the woods, the silence, the stark valleys, the howling winds. If you get in good turns, well, that's a bonus. But if you don't, you still have the time out there, working your muscles and lungs, the peace, the soul. Give me a good adventure, a howling ridgeline, a dramatic peak, a hefty bushwack over the perfect turn anyday. It's simply a matter of wanting to feel alive.

At the shop I work at, I notice we sell a lot of heavier gear. And I assume this is mostly for folks who enjoy the down. I find it a bit ironic, because 95% of the time backcountry skiing is spent going up. But then I thought about it more…maybe these folks are just the ultimate zen person, they've mastered letting go completely. They don't care how long it takes to go uphill. In the big scheme of things, does it matter if it takes an hour or an hour-fifteen? Nope, and actually the latter person gets to spend less time in the office or indoors and more time skiing. It's not about how long it takes to get there…it's about actually being there.

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