Archive for June, 2012

As the Worm Turns

Posted: June 12, 2012 by bcbuzzards in Skiing

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.”
– Michelangelo Buonarroti, Renaissance artist

A view from the top

Goals, objectives, measurements, insanity. This season I seemed to be driven by all of them. Sunday, the 10th of June, just over 9 months after my season began, about 2/3rds of the way up my 3rd lap, I reached my season long quest. Two-Hundred-and-Fifty-Thousand feet. 1/4 of a million feet of vertical self-propelled.

In and of itself, not a huge undertaking. Really, I mean that. It is not a crazy high number. I’ve only been touring for 4-5 years, and I’m not the most physically gifted guy in the world. That and I love lift service, to the tune of 840k worth of it skied this season. Really all it takes is a bit of drive, a Suunto Core watch, a few pairs of skis, and the tenacity God gave the common sheep dog. Conditions, blah, you can ski garbage snow, and pick your way through low angle trees during those high Ava-danger days that junk seasons bring with them.

I’d like to say Sunday was a glorious day to be out, and that it was the beautifle culmination of a season’s, and life’s journey. But as neither is over (ski season or life) it is fitting that this day fade into the recess of one’s mind as being un-memorable. Really, I thought my season, and possibly life, might be over about 2 turns into my first run of the day. Bullet-porrof hard pack and slide-for-life conditions do not do much in encourage multiple laps. Still, I stuck around, and goal slid to within my grasp (see, dog like tenacity).

Alone, it seemed for good reason, a few brave soles did make it up often hiking 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up before tucking tail and slinking away. Still, the winds blowing the dust on crust were my best company. The snow-hoodoos whirled around my head. The sharp 50 mph gusts blasted my backside, shepherding me uphill while simultaneously trying to knock me on my face. Winds seem to hold a special power over me. I love to hear the pines soughing as they sway, to feel the winds ripping of a ridge as you clamor onto it. The winds seem to add a sense of emergency to the otherwise peaceful and placid conditions outdoors, while other times, they amplify the stillness of the world.

The high water mark…that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back

I felt those winds on my face when I stopped when I crested the 3,500 ft mark for the day. Knowing it was done, that a seasons goal had been accomplished. So many 4-5am (dawn patrol) wakeups, far more dusk patrols where I didn’t beat the sun down to the car, and skied down enveloped by the cloak of the Wasatch night. Almost every Friday of the second semester of school I left class at 2:30pm, walked home, threw my gear in the car, and left to go touring. Often my roommate would be returning from his day at Solitude as I did so. Many, many laps in the cold, dark, windy, occasionally snowy confines of the Wasatch dusk I rode solo.

Still there were the companions, with-out whom I would have lacked much motivation many of these days. Fellow Buzzards Arthur and Tris. Co-worker at Wally as well. Perhaps the deepest powder day of the season came under Big Sky’s sky, with Craig (Craig II as he is affectionately known) in December outside Red Lodge. Then there is the support that came simply from family, friends, classmates, and coworkers who kept asking the totals, and offering their encouragement. Really as cliché as it sounds, this season is a great microcosmic of life. Expectations were often too high, goals for the day, often unmet. Still we pushed on. Things didn’t work out how we would like, stuff (gear, people, attitudes) broke down on us. Pain, anguish, heartache, all swaddled in joy, commitment, and love. Still the snowy mountains called to us, me especially. It’s not what you get in life that matters, it’s what you make of it. Or, as Victor Frankl once said: He who has a strong enough why, can live through any how.

Yesterday’s Snow, Today’s Ice, Tomorrows Drinking Water

Time and time again I returned, searching, seeking, and often finding. Goals like this one helped push me for sure. They become a physical manifestation of an abstract idea. A season, a journey, a goal, and a life all start to blend together. In the mountains I find the stillness I often lack when outside them. On the high peaks, breathing the rarified, thin air, my attention is focused. Backcountry skiing to me is the ultimate true-ism of this statement. When I push myself, when I truly challenge myself up there everything else slips away. I focus on the next right move, the next step, the next hand-hold, the next kick-turn, and the next pole plant. The line up, and the line down disappear, and the next right move becomes my world.

A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident…

For 250,000 feet this season I was able to leave much of what burdens me behind. In doing so I was able to see what really matters to me again. I was able to put much of my life, and my journey into perspective. Often, I have heard it noted that I have a really great attitude, that I don’t let things weigh me down, that I am always smiling. Well, I think that’s because I have at least 250,000 reasons to do so…

And that’s not counting the lift service!


Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile…