First turns of the season

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My alarm was set for 7:00 a.m., but I woke at 6:59.

It was the first day of ski season.

I had made the two and half hour drive to Revelstoke the night before, peering through the rain-soaked windshield into the dark, giving room to the barreling semis. Thoughts of speed-addled drivers, their hands gripping the wheel in a manic frenzy, danced through my head.

But against all odds, I made it to backcountry skiing’s Mecca, and was waking on a partly sunny Sunday morning.

I did my best to shake the Fat Tug cobwebs out of my skull and we were off to the mountains.img_4088

It was green in town, mid-November is always optimistic for skiing. But we were confident there was snow above.

Thirty kilometres down a bumpy forestry road, and 1200 metres of elevation, and the car was parked. A yellow-brick road of snow lay before us.

Boots on. Skins on. Beacon on. Pack on. We’re off.

The climb was a comfortable couple of hours, with views of the towering peaks across Upper Arrow Lake. While the visibility was good for much of the climb, it didn’t last. But with clouds, came snow.

We stopped after reaching 2200 metres, just above treeline, and practiced crevasse rescue for an upcoming glacier trip. By the time we had finished, five centimetres had covered our gear. It was time to ski.

img_4103The first couple turns of the season are always something special. You’ve spent months fantasizing about dropping into a slope and cutting into new snow. You start to question whether the actual act could possibly live up to your expectations. And it’s always as good as you remember.

The snow kept falling hard, the wind picked up, and the clouds socked the whole area in. We lapped the area a couple times, keeping things mellow while I discovered all sorts of muscles that hadn’t been used in six months.

When light began to fade, we headed back to the car, which showed off a new coat of fresh snow.

An exhausted drive down the now slippery forestry road, and we were home.

A beer and a shower have never felt so good.

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I was up the next morning, a little earlier, but much sorer.

While the thought of propelling my battered body up and down more mountains seemed like a silly idea while I lay under the covers, a quick check of the night’s events showed some serious snowfall.

I’m up.

We piled the still-soggy gear into the car and once again risked suspension and undercarriage for another 30 kilometres, eagerly anticipating the snowline. Finally it came, 300 meters lower than the previous day.img_4090

While too much snow is not something one complains about, parking the car and hiking for an extra hour had its challenges.

One step at a time.

Sunny skies had followed the snow from the night prior, and the surrounding mountains glistened in the morning sun, their own peaks freshly coated.

img_4099The forest had undergone a transformation from the previous day. Yesterday’s fallen trees were now bumps to launch off, deadly rocks now hidden from sight.

By the time we got to 2200 metres, visibility had turned to pea soup, but it was puking snow.

And we skied. And it was good. So good.

My tired legs and aching back melted away in the snow, as waves of powder shot out from all sides, whoops of joy bursting out of me involuntarily.

Thoughts of the past, of the future, of anything other than when to choose your next turn disappear. Only the here and the now make sense when you’re flying down mountains.

Flow.

 

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