I used to think that my ultimate lap, my purest experience on skis would be something monumental, something epic. Something that stood out in its grandeur above every other run I’ve taken. Maybe I would be in Alaska, stepping off a helicopter, clicking into my skis before I charged 5000’ of stable, perfect snow, arcing each turn with more aggression than the last until I aired the final bergschrund and straight-lined into the sunset. Or maybe it would be some human-powered adventure, riding my bike for a week, then hiking into a remote wilderness, hauling gear for days to catch a glimpse of something that had never been skied before.
Perhaps it would just be the perfect last lap of a sunny closing day, party training with friends, charging the wiggle, lazy spins through the terrain park as the crew gets ready to ‘boo off the lips for the last time. I don’t know, I used to imagine a lot of things. I used to imagine more opportunities and deeper snow and inflated skiing ability and a whole host of other factors that went into my “purest laps.”
And then two weeks ago I woke up to my wife’s alarm beeping gently. We geared up, and walked the block to the shuttle stop in our boots. The only other people on the bus were resort employees. We skinned the cat track as the sun lit up the valley, painting our neighborhood far below in a radiant mauve. David Bowie in the headphones:
“We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?”
Making good time uphill next to my favorite person. Wave to the mountain ops guy as he comes down on the sled. The cat track is gravely, it’s early season and we’re skinning on rocks.
We top out with 15 minutes to spare before the lifts start spinning. Another beacon check, scan the avy report one more time as we leave the gate. Not much snow on the ground, and the snow that is there seems stuck down pretty well.
Skin along the rope line for a moment before we’re at the entrance. Minimal wind loading. Someone else has already poached the main gut, ducking the rope and skiing poorly. Judging by the tracks, they sideslipped the sections that they didn’t tomahawk. No real turns to be seen anywhere throughout. That’s ok though, the tighter right entrance is still prime. Transition, run through the plan one more time, fist bump, drop. Three perfect turns, crystals waving over my shoulders, then I’m back in the gut where those hacks tore up the slope. The snow is firm and inconsistent and I try to straightline across it to a pocket of untouched pow. Instead I’m upside down, bouncing into one of the holes made by previous tomahawks. Stand up, wiggle pow down the apron, giggling.
My partner skis it clean, doesn’t go down, arcs perfect turns down to the plateau. Then we’re skinning back around, bootpacking for a brief moment, and we’re back through the gate. Transition, a few shockingly good turns up top, and then rock dodging all the way down the cat track. Skis off, thumbs out, hitchike down with an oldtimer, back into our house by 10:30, ready to start the work day.
This was far from the biggest line we've skied, far from the best snow, far from the softest turns or most epic setting or challenging journey. And that combination is why it surpassed any fantasies of perfect lines that ski films have seeded in my mind.
Increasingly I find myself drawn to the mundane. After years of fantasizing about exotic and dangerous ski objectives, that fire burns a little less bright. It’s still there, I’m sure I’ll be out on a wild goose chase soon enough. But that purest run, that lap that sums up everything that makes me love skiing the most? That one starts at the bus stop in ski boots. It involves taking the time to appreciate places that have shaped me as a skier and a person. It includes recreating with the person I love the most. It’s average, it’s something anyone with touring bindings can do any morning that our hill is open to uphill traffic. I don’t have to drive, don’t have to buy a lift ticket, don’t have to stand in line. It’s simple, pedestrian, and there’s very little real risk or traditional skiing reward. But it’s perfect for me, where I am right now. It fills every need that skiing fuels with very little of the baggage that sours the whole experience.
I’ve spent most of my life as a skier waiting for some sort of revelation, a ski day that would eclipse all ski days and redefine my notion of what I’m looking for from a day in the hills. And instead I’ve found that my purest ski day isn’t the biggest, or the most exciting, or most extreme. Instead it’s the one that makes me feel the most at peace with my existence as a skier.