The first ski tour of the year always surprises with crispness. There is a sharpness to it all – the cold air, the white snow, the blue sky, the first strides. The mountain ahead rises, rolling and stark. Yet for its starkness, this mountain is an old friend. So many days here, and the truth is, we kind of own it. It's our mountain, and I want to grab it and possess it all for myself.
We skin through the woods. A wide open view to the west, the mountains golden with the sunrise, the divide, the beyond. Across the stream, barely frozen, as winter finally wrestles control of the water from the grips of summer. Up the gradual section, feeling the stride, finding that rhythm, keeping the skis flat, not lifting too much.
We pop out on the bottom of the slope. "Well, let's see what we can find," I tell Elaine. I'm feeling surprisingly good, so take the lead and break trail through 18 inches of powder on top of zero base. The key is to hug the trees. Up here, skier's right is the side of choice. The wind will deposit close to two feet of snow in some places off of just five inches of fresh snow (usually on skier's right), and leave it scoured bare in other places.
Damn this feels good. The oxygen filling the body so full, the lungs getting a slight burn, the legs working. I feel alive, more alive than ever, and genuinely happy. Strange. I feel good. Much better than any day last year. That's a shock to be honest, and it's a testament to the work of summer paying off. It's going to be a good fucking year.
We reach a bowl, a place where the krummholz takes over, a dancing meadow of flowers and butterflies in the summer, and magical deposit of powder snow and giant smiles in the winter. Surprise, surprise…there is some skiing to be had. Not much, three turns here, seven there, and then scoot, scoot, scoot past bare sections, but it's definitely skiing.
A climb, hard breathing, spirits blasting, we reach the top. Huge grins and a longs hug. The first skinned summit of the year is a cause for celebration. Skin rip and tentative turns down. At first, it feels slow. And then, a patch of magic. One turn, two, three and more, floating through powder, not a rock nearby, freedom restored.
We wind through old woods, friends and nooks, through more slopes of early season bliss. Even deeper down here, in the trees. We whoop and smile – a surprise powder day in early-November. We live a lucky life.
Back to the road, gliding, double poling, avoiding rocks. We look back on the slope, see our tracks, and feel a joy and satisfaction that hasn't been felt in a long time.
It's ski season, the best season of them all, and I feel happy.