The sky was clear when I woke up. Red streaks burning through the wispy clouds. It hasn’t snowed in a week, and for once I can see the ski hill from the back door. I imagine I can pick out the texture of moguls, the slight sheen of ice on the steeper groomers. No reason to ski today. Leisurely breakfast, sit down to draw skiing instead of doing it.

But just before lunch there’s a wind gust that shakes the house, sends the dog barking through the hall, roused from her resting place by my feet. I stand to look out the window and it’s dumping. By the time I make lunch it’s puking, stacking up, inch-an-hour, whatever heavy snow trope you prefer.

Back to the computer, Command + S, fill out a sticky note so I can be sure to pick back up where I left off. Gear on, pow skis pulled off the rack, walk the block to the corner, stick out my thumb. An old T100 stops to let me cross the street, then pulls over to pick me up. We make friends on the way up. It smells like every Toyota truck I’ve ever owned. My new friend drops me at the gate before she heads off to find parking.

A short hike, click into the skis, double check boots, point it through the short, tight chute to my favorite lift. The wind is howling, but it’s quiet just off the road, and the snow is deep and light. Straightline, one turn, the crunch of the old crust under this new snow. Another turn, this one gentler, quieter, bounce out onto the cat track.

The lift line is empty. It's Thursday, it wasn’t supposed to snow till tonight. Tomorrow the weekend crowds will arrive, drawn by inflated snow reports. But for now, the snow’s falling. 12 inch overnight totals don’t just come out of nowhere. Cinch down the hood, snug the goggles up to the brim of my helmet. Slide in headphones, double check the junction of my gloves and my cuffs. And plunder.

I’m all for friends on a powder day. I love the shared experience of deep snow and fast laps. But storm skiing is best done solo. Beacon on, hood up, collar turned, answering to no one. Ski onto the chair, only stop to synch up the music to the run.

The first run is mediocre, thick dust, but dust on crust nonetheless. But the second run is deeper, and the third even better. Sometimes we treat snow reports like static timeline markers. “I skied 9” today, all day.” But during the storm, I’m skiing deeper snow at the bottom of each lap than I was at the top. There’s no frenzy to get to your favorite stash before it’s tracked out. Instead the day ramps up, saving the best for last.

The sun is low on the horizon, my facial hair is frozen into a clammy mask. You can still find the bottom in some places if you try, but I’m not trying. That’s the point of fat skis after all. 15 minutes until patrol starts shutting down the steeper terrain, 30 until this lift closes. If I move fast I can get three more runs. Straight off the chair, carry speed up to the gate, duck through, four deep, steep turns, closeout air, hollering out the apron, pumping through the traverse to get back to the chair. Patrol is fiddling with the ‘boo as I get off. The red jacketed patroller yells at me to “Get it!” as he lifts the rope for one last lap.

Ski just outside my turns from the last lap, matching them, slightly bigger air, slightly deeper landing, milk every hump and roller back to the base, slashing, ducking low, mixing the snow from face shots with the snow falling.

The parking lot is mostly empty, the few people who were here on ski vacations quit early when the skiing was still terrible. Beacon off, hike to the entry gate, stand my skis against the plow pile, stick a thumb out. The Subaru that picks me up is driven by the father of one of the kids I used to coach. He’s playing hooky from his day job, came up with low expectations, only to have them blown away. We laugh hard, giddy with how good the skiing just was.

Tomorrow morning it will be clear out, there will be more snow on the ground, and less in the air. The crowds will line up, waiting for the rope to drop. They’ll compete for first tracks through the runs I just plundered. They’ll wait in lift lines, watching the skiing get slowly worse with every lap they take. That’s one of the founding tenets of powder skiing after all, get it before someone else can. But storm skiing flips that on its head. There’s no rush, no competition, things are only going to get better. So settle in, get comfortable, find your groove. Zip that coat all the way up, make sure your vents are closed, and thank the universe for making each run better than the last.