Powder Daze

    ’16 inches’ says the Snow Goddess. 

Did I hear that right?  I call the WPR snow hotline again.  It’s

usually a busy signal for a solid ½ hour after a 6-inch storm, yet here

sounds that familiar ring.  Press 1, ’16 inches’ she cackles, mocking

my foggy cerebrum and the necessity to call twice.

    I hit the

door running, but everyone else has already extricated themselves from

various positions; couch, recliners, there was even a guy sleeping

under the stairs on a dog’s bed.

    “16 INCHES!!” I yell at the top

of my lungs as I take the steps down 3 at a time.  I sound like the

poor soul calling “bring out your dead” in the days of the Bubonic

Plague, yet we are galaxies away from the 14th century Black Death,

staring at the beginnings of what may very well be the best ski day of

the winter.

    The emotions in the living room somehow ratchet up a

notch as I check the Colorado snow report.  Vile Vail ends up with the

angry inch.  Loveland is closest at 11 inches.  Nobody else comes

within 10.  Finally a winter, which had us all waiting, had delivered

in a big way.

    We must have done something right; the Snow Gods

finally had our back with this storm – a Monday (sorry weekend

warriors), and completely missed by meteorologists (wish I could keep

my job with a below 50% success rate).  The icing on the cake? 

Berthoud Pass was closed, leaving ½ million skiers and riders stuck in

the Front Range metropolis.

    No time to think about what went

right in the karma universe.  Time to fuel up, gear up, and get after

it.  First lap, ‘Do or Die Trees’, it’s the best it’s been all year and

nobody is here.  Rock drop number 1 – soft and stomped.

    We catch

the Super Gauge lift up from the base of Mary Jane.  It stalls,

stranding us 5 lift towers from the top.  10 minutes pass, 15 minutes

pass.  ‘What the heck is going on’ we all wonder?  Clouds sock in the

upper portion of the mountain.  The powder below remains unperturbed

with nobody unloading the 6-person lift.  The serenity is enchanting,

but the grumbling from 2 chairs ahead and behind now speaks volumes of

the rapidly deteriorating powder day vibe.

    I can’t take it

anymore, so I slip off the chairlift without as much as a goodbye.  The

15-foot drop into the powder below leaves me grinning from ear to ear. 

My partner in crime follows suit, yet doesn’t heed my advice about not

landing in my bomb hole.  No worries, fat skis are reattached and we

ride off while all others sit, mouths agape.  Bitter perhaps?

   The next 6 hours are a blur of face shots and rock drops.  We tag

everything in bounds with gusto.  I meet up with a local snowboarder

who rides with poles and a backcountry pack, generally a good sign.  We

take double stagers 1 at a time in the Rock Garden, cheering each other


    There’s time for one more bus ride back from the Mary

Jane entrance / Highway 40 trees.  It’s ½ full of tired riders and

skiers.  It’s too late for a lift ride up the Super Gauge.  There lies

a decision to make – take the easy green run down back to the Winter

Park base, or the challenging semi secret pillow drop line to the same

place.  It’s not really a decision at all.  There are only a few good

lines down really, certainly not enough for ½ a bus load of people. 

The old ruse is employed – ‘driver, can you drop us off at my car right

here’, throwing the bro brahs off our scent.  A few steps in the wrong

direction, a quick 180 and the uphill boot pack begins.  The

aforementioned snowboarder with poles and I hit pillow after pillow

down the guts.  Enormous chunks of snow fall off each as we land.  He

stomps a 20-foot technical drop into little more than a 6x6 foot powder

landing to close out our epic day, and I get a photo just as he drops

in.  It may very well be the only physical evidence that we gripped and

it ripped it on Monday, March 1st.  “In like a lion” indeed.