Opening day. For some of us it's more of a gut feeling then a quantifiable event. It's the final release of a storm of pent up stoke that has been building for what seems like forever. For a few months during the summer opening day almost seems like an unattainable dream, a mythical event. We lose hope so easily as the dog days drag on and then winter leaps out at us and we jump back into the cycle. For me opening day came a week earlier than I anticipated, above average snowpack and several early storms pushed it forward, accelerating my gratification. Summer jokes about trying for first chair come back to haunt me as I pack my gear. Two and a half hours separate me from the mountains but sleep is for old people and gapers. I don't need an alarm to get me out of bed after a few hours of restless sleep, I am too nervous and stoked to eat anything so I quickly throw my gear in the car and take off. The roads are clear and I make good time blasting NPR and watching the sun rise.
Taking photos while I drive
When I arrive the mountain looks almost deserted, just a few employees around and a group of crazy high-school kids who decided to get in line sometime around 2:30am the night before. The only thing between me and the lift line is the season pass office.
Our pass photos turned out well...
My pass in hand I make my way to the quickly growing lift line. A lone man on an AT setup skins past us, up a groomer. We stand and wait eagerly, some chatter excitedly, others stand silently stretching weak summer muscles in anticipation of future soreness.
Lunch in the lodge, Got Leverage?
Finally the bell rings and we start to load. As we ride up we pass the tracks of early season poachers and ski patrollers, the snow looks good but the word is that it is crusty from recent rain. At the top months of dreaming become reality as we make our first turns of the season. Unused muscles start to scream and old techniques come back subconsciously. Run after run stream by, I take some laps off piste, charging crusty bumps and wishing for rock skis. The park has a good setup for how early in the season it is and the crews are out in force, riding in groups and stoping at each feature to hit it one by one. I stop and shoot photos for a while, watching tricks get stomped and egos get flattened. Progression is alive and well here, even on day one.
The runs start to blend together into one foggy mass of leg pain. I am out of shape and my form falls apart as my muscles burn out. I make it to the last chair and ski patrol has to chase me off the mountain. Down in the parking lot I set up my car and grab my dinner, free wifi and central heating call me up to the lodge as the crowds disperse and the resort empties out. After dinner I talk the hours away with the night shift guy at the hotel, exchanging my company for a warm place to wait before I go to my car. We talk for hours, discussing everything from the morality of gay marriage to bar fights between bikers and wake boarders in Tahoe. Finally his shift is over and it is time for me to retreat to my car. In the morning everything is dripping with my condensed breath as I wake up to the sound of groomers heading out. The cold night spent in my ski sock smelling Subaru becomes completely worthwhile as I watch the sun rise over the lake. A few hours of less then comfortable sleep are a small price to pay for views like this.
Breakfast of champions
My second day is filled with filming and photography as I wait in the park, shooting each successive wave of riders. My own legs are too tired to let me charge too many runs so I channel my skiing stoke into creativity, capturing the experiences of others. Finally it is time to head home but I know that in a few short days I will be back, living the cycle again. Ski season is here and all is right with the world for now.
On my way home I finally stopped at Wolf People. I have driven past this place every time I have gone skiing for years and never stopped. It was definitely worth it. It is run by a lady who has twenty-five wolves at home and if you ask nicely she will let you feed them hotdogs. Only in north Idaho... She also has a great selection of wolf shirts and socks for sale, check it out!
Thanks for your time, hopefully you enjoyed the read, let me know what you though in the comments. Have a great season!