We arrive at the parking lot just as the sky begins to darken and realize we will have to move quickly. Our skinning buddies are already there, skis resting against their car as they make last minute checks to their gear. We bump into another friend, just starting up with his snowboard for some après-work turns with his two dogs. Laughing as I watch them frolic in snow up to their bellies, I pull out my gear, drop my skis down in the snow and sling my pack onto my back. It’s a long, slow climb up the mountain to greatness, but as I breathe in the fresh, cold air nothing seems to matter anymore and my skis slide forward.
The track starts with a direct shot up the trail for a while before we break right through a narrow opening into the forest. Meandering upward through the woods, we follow the well-worn skin track left behind by those who didn’t have to work today.
Evergreen trees, weighed heavy from the freshly fallen snow, create a thick canopy and protection from the wind. The winter stillness is such that you could hear the rabbit hopping along on the surface on the snow, if it wasn’t for that one squeak in my old touring boots. I’m so caught up in all the nature, that I trip on my own skis and teeter sideways, my pole diving deep into the snow off the skin track and I turn around to face my companions with glee – the snow is DEEP!!
Another chunk of time passes, and we finally top out with the Green Mountains stretching behind us. The beautiful and bold colors of the setting winter sun stop us in our tracks, and we pause to soak it all in. At this elevation, the snow is wind-blown, making the skin track almost impossible to find. Instead, we search for a protected spot to make the transition: skins off, folded and placed in our packs; boots switched from tour to ski mode; warm jackets and mittens replaced our thin skinning clothes; and a quick whiskey toast to the snow gods for the greatness we were about to receive. We were ready … but what would we truly find around the corner?
There is no better moment than standing at the top of a field of untracked powder after a long uphill tour. We look at each other, in that quiet awkwardness of deciding who shall go first, when we realize – it totally doesn’t matter. The grins begin to grow as we realize that there are no skiers or riders in sight and plenty of room for each of us to make our own tracks.
This powder is ours.
Taking our time, one after the other, we drop into the white greatness and are lost in the schuss. Floating, bouncing, soaring, laughing, whooping – all the emotions rolled into one great and amazing run that just keeps going and going and going …
It isn’t until the bottom that we notice one of our group seemed just absolutely stunned. She had been so quiet on the descent. I looked inquisitively over at her and, if it was possible, her grin got even bigger and her eyes twinkled.
“That was my first time skiing powder,” she shyly admitted. “I’m so glad to live here. That was my dream come true.”