(Inspired by my humbling experience of floundering in 17 cms of fresh powder at Marmot Basin last March.)Have you ever been up on a mountain top, when the air was crisp and clear, And the new fallen deep snow lay as a blanket below, yet you felt that tingle of fear? Though the chair up the hill was a scenic thrill, fast and smooth and relaxing, The trip back down from that wintery crown was sure to be slow and painful and taxing. “Eight inches of powder!” the experts cry, as giddy as with loving caresses. With lightness and ease, and snow to their knees, they float into graceful big esses. Through the trees, over lumps, around hillocks and bumps, their turns are fluid and curvical. But when faced with a trace over top of the groom I flounder and fight to stay vertical. As I howl out my woe to the bottomless snow, coordination and stamina failing, I wonder why, as the experts fly by, I can’t do this without lurching and flailing. I’m not that unique in my lack of technique, judging by others’ vexation, Yard sales abound and the prominent sounds are the curses from sudden prostration! The quads start to burn after but a few turns and the effort is making me queasy. But there go the “pros” putting on their great shows, making it all look so easy! What did they do to get so proficient? How did they learn this great skill? Well, it seems that ability, grace and stability, comes from time spent on the hill. The evolution of ski hills, or the slopes in particular, has a bearing on my problem at hand. For to encourage more people to use their facilities, the hills had to greatly expand. At first was the time when the slopes were ungroomed and all the snow was off-piste. How and where the snow fell was how it remained until flattened by long skinny skis. Aficionados grunted and skinned their way up the hills to enjoy their powdery dance. Pisten Bullys and Sno Cats did not venture forth to pack down that fluffy expanse. In capricious deep snow, with only one place to go, skiers learned how to adapt. Adjusting balance and stance they pursued their romance until legs and energy sapped. Eventually rope tow or teebar or detachable chair became the conveyance of preference. And groomers packed snow into corduroy rows to provide a less toilsome experience. Requiring less effort and skill, skiers flocked to the hill to take up this wonderful sport. Now everyone could share in this wintery affair and enjoy a snow-filled cavort. I have to admit, when it comes down to it, that I spend way too much time on the cruisers. Carving into the hill, as long as I don’t spill, I find more fun than moguley bruises. But to take full advantage, and deter future damage, I need to expand my repertoire. With some practice on bumps, as well as deep snowy clumps, I may even raise my technical bar! A slave to good judgement I never have been and this resolution will be no exception. But if I take enough time on bumps more sublime, and off-piste with prudence and caution, Then slowly but surely, if at first poorly, my expertise should gradually grow. And, with luck on my side, I’ll someday soon ride with confidence in the deep snow.
April 6, 2012