Why We Ski
December 6, 2016.
It’s 6:30 am and my alarm goes off at full volume about 10 inches from my ear. Now, to be clear, I’m one of those people with the preset alarms on their phone- “7:40 Time for the Gym!” “8:30 Good Morning!” “10:00 Ok, I get that you’re tired but it’s time to get up”. Alarm sound of choice: Strum (a gentle bluegrass-esque banjo tune). But last night, I set a new one “6:30 First Glory Lap of the season!!” Unintentionally selected alarm sound that wakes me up: Summit (a not-so-gentle blaring that resembles a mix between birds chirping and the opening horn segment at a soccer game). As you can imagine, I all but hurled my phone across the room to make the noise stop.
It’s still dark outside, but the pre-ski morning ritual begins.
- Drag somewhat lifeless body out of bed
- Brush teeth/wash face
- Put on ski clothes
- Pack- beacon, shovel, probe, snacks (lots
- Load up and drive to the pass!
- Turn around because you forgot your skis and you’ll probably need those
- Repeat step 6
Anybody who lives in Jackson and also skis has most likely made this drive from town to the top of the pass and can relate when I say that this is truly the time when one actually wakes up. Side note: If you have been reading thus far and are thinking to yourself, “Huh, that doesn’t sound like me at all,” it’s because you are a superhuman; probably one of those people who wakes up with the rising of the sun, has never needed caffeine to survive, has 4 kids, 2 jobs, 7 chia pets, and still manages to read 3 chapters in your book at the end of the day. If that rings a bell, I suggest you stop reading now because you won’t relate and you’ll probably think I’m crazy.
By the time I reach the top of the pass, the sun is starting to nudge its way above the horizon and the purple sky is flecked with hints of yellow and orange. Per usual, Laci and Beau have beaten me there and are expectantly waiting with boots and packs on; bundled up in preparation for the -20 degree hour long hike we have ahead of us (I’m sure some of you are laughing at that because it takes you 25 minutes. Well good for you, nice job, you’re a superhuman). Ten minutes later, I’ve geared up, squeezed my feet into plastic boots that begin- almost immediately- to suck all warmth from my toes, and start the trek up the boot pack. Quite fortuitously, we are not the first to hike this morning and the boot pack is already set for us (and it is a great boot pack! Clearly set by someone with a normal stride and not a 6’5 giant that puts 4 feet between each foot, which is bound to happen from time to time).
Now, I’ve hiked up Glory more times than I can count in the five years that I’ve lived here, but for some reason, the first one of the season is always the most brutal. This year- this day- is no exception. But in between the slow steps and the intake of breath that rattles its way down into your lungs, you look around and remember in that moment why you’re here; why you’re doing this. The sun rises over Jackson, the trees sparkle with frozen ice, and alpenglow paints the untouched snow around you shades of pink and gold and magenta. And it’s quiet. The most perfect form of silence there is. That part of your brain that forced you to wake up this morning and get outside turns to the other part that was screaming “Stoppp, sleep innnn, we’ll do it tomorrowwww” and says, “See? I told you so.” Even though our feet are frozen ice blocks and our cheeks are red with cold, we keep hiking up because our inner child is giddy with anticipation. Anticipation for the ski down; for the feeling of floating on clouds through open fields of untracked powder.
And on this morning, that is exactly what we receive. We laugh and slash and surf our way down and back to the car, at which point I realize my feet are in fact frozen and my laugh turns into more of a strangled moan/cry. We crank the heat in the car, chug a thermos of coffee (which Laci has wisely anticipated I would be in desperate need of), and laugh as I struggle my way through the de-thawing of my toes. Side note: If you have purchased new ski boots, maybe wait to try them out for the first time on a day that is not -20 degrees. Meanwhile, Beau is helping the poor soul in the truck next to us get out of his boots, because he physically can’t do it by himself (let’s be real, people, we’ve all been there). The first Glory lap of the season is done and while it, perhaps, was not the quickest or the warmest trip up I’ve ever made, it was worth it.
If you ask any person who skis, I’m sure they would tell you the same thing: some days SUCK. It was cold, your legs burned so bad you could barely walk the next day, your binding broke skiing out of Granite and you had to posthole/sidestep/monoski your way back to the car. But, like all crazy people pursuing their passion, you wake up the next day and do it all over again. You squeeze in that sunrise Glory Lap before your 9-5 or rush to get last tram after being in nursing class for 6 hours straight- just to get a few turns in that day; just to feel that high of being strapped to your skis, going fast downhill. I guess I’m not really sure why we do it; why we ski. I think everyone has their own reasons and when you know, you don’t really need to have it explained to you.
As I sit here writing this (in my favorite grey sweat suit, after what was perhaps one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever had at the gym- courtesy of Max Martin), I can’t help but feel the little inklings of excitement creeping in for skiing tomorrow. My to-do list is two pages long, the only groceries I have currently are freeze dried hash browns and peanut butter (interesting combo, but I don’t suggest trying it unless truly desperate), and I could really stand to do about four loads of laundry. Instead, though, I think I’ll just go SKI.
Happy pow hunting my friends,