For those to whom downhill skiing is either an unknown joy, or a fearful journey into the cold and wet – this particular blog entry is not for you. But do read on if you ski – or have always wondered why people would wake up early, strap their feet onto long boards and plunge down mountainsides.
I’m not going to be discussing how to keep your feet warm (although that is very important), how to pick a ski hill, or even how to decide what skis to wear.
Nope – I’m just going to describe a day on the Mountain – Deer Valley in Park City Utah to be exact – and try to explain why I had such a perfect ski day.
I’m a pretty good skier for my age and lack of ski days. I wasn’t a racer when I was young, I didn’t do a few years as a ski bum after college, and I actually only saw snow after I turned 21. So – yes I’ve had 46 years of skiing experience on paper – but starting late and missing a few years and having 3 kids – adds up to my being a pretty good skier, not a great skier.
But I love the feeling of standing in a field of trees and snow – with nary a track of another skier to be seen. I love the smell of the crisp air at a ski slope – generally located, once you are past the main area – in a building free zone of white snow, frosted trees, and complete quiet.
And I love my ability to swerve between trees – moving down thru the silence, snow, and trees eventually ending – as all downhill ski trails end – at a chair lift.
So – on to my perfect day!
As I said – I’m staying in Park City, Utah – and it’s Sundance. That means that the hotels are full of people who are not skiing – they are all going to the movies. So the ski hills are seriously empty. No lines, no waiting, no seeing other people among the trees.
This is good – but not why my day was perfect.
Nope – perfection comes from all of the above – plus a base depth of over 60″ – and over 8″ of fresh powder. Followed 3 days later by another 5″. Add it up – and if you know where to ski – you will find billowing mounds of white powder – just crying out for someone – anyone – to create curved tracks thru all that snow.
Something I’m so very happy to do!
I started the morning off on the far western side of the resort – on groomed runs that had been covered by snow overnight. That creates a carpet of smooth snow – no bumps, no lumps, no tracks! It was amazingly fun to glide down the carpet – not another skier in sight.
Eventually of course other skiers appeared – and the trails became cut up – not terrible you understand, but not that perfect untracked perfection.
So time to switch to the woods. Many skiers won’t go into the woods – fear of hitting a tree, fear of getting lost, fear of the unknown. I’m not sure why folks don’t love the trees like I do – but I know they don’t. Which is fine by me – since often that means that I can ski into the woods even 2 days after a snow fall – and still find powder puffs to call my own.
We started in Triangle Trees – a large wooded area that stretches between 2 runs – and most importantly – between 2 lifts. Effectively we are sking a ridge line, and eventually must choose to go left or right to get to one of the two lifts. We almost always choose to go right – the ridge faces north at this point and the snow skis much better on North facing slopes. It gets colder – and feels dryer and ‘fluffier’. And it was perfect.
I stop once to admire the woods – and am reminded of the Robert Frost poem – “Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening”. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”. I’ve read critisim of this poem that implies that it is simplistic, trite, and even laughable. But my thought is that those critics have never stood in a snow covered woodside – alone, listening hard to the endless silence.
There is a curious truth about skiing in the woods – even if only 2 turns seperate you from your buddy – you can’t see or hear them. Trees absorb sound – and so of course does powder snow. There is a silence in the snowy woods that is unmatched elsewhere. Deep, profound, and beautiful.
Our next stop – the Black Forest – also an area between two lifts – and while not as large from side to side – it makes up for that in steepness and darkness. The trees are more pine than aspen – and pine trees create a dark envirnoment. They also lose branches easily – so a bit more care is needed to avoid having your skis get entangled. But proper powder skis that ‘float’ on the snow, and sufficient snow depth takes care of most issues – and an eye out for the occasional log pile means the skiing is safe and untimately beautiful.
22 Runs, 18,741 Vertical feet, 21.7 miles of skiing – as the Deer Valley Host quipped – was I driving a car… – it was an incredible day of skiing.
Best day ever.
Ok – Maybe it’s safer to say – Best day so far…
Signing off to ski some more off-piste powder…
The Soup Lady