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March 11. 2011

By April 15, 2011 No Comments

Monday, April 11

Today is the first day beyond winter.

I wake in the half-light of dawn to rain pelting my windows. Clouds cut the mountains half way to the ridges and snow draws a hard line between the clouds and the valley floor. Pulling the pillows up, I lean against them at the head of the bed, watching the weather, I think,

I am done with skiing. Done for the year.

The ski area closed yesterday. Well, not really. The mountain re-opens Wednesday for staff. As always, I plan on skiing staff day. The Elk runs early and then the Bear runs from 11 to 3:30. I’ll swing up once the snow softens and make a few token runs. After, the area hosts a dinner and such at the Griz. That’s far more appealing than the skiing.

Then there’s the RCR Fernie “Bonus Weekend” April 16 and 17th. The old side opens for one last shot at the year. Trooper will play a fee concert in the plaza at the base of the mountain. It’s more a gathering than a weekend of skiing. Take a couple runs. Sit in the sun. Drink a beer and enjoy the music, the day with friends. There will be skiing, but skiing will not be the point of going up.

This year closes in an unusual fashion. No morning pools of half frozen slush at the bottom of the mountain. Just snow. Fourteen and a half feet of compacted base. We close with perhaps twice the deepest base of anytime in last two years. We’re skiing an exceptional combination of mid-winter conditions and spring corn.

Every night the mountain freezes hard. The lows are 7 or 8 C below each night. Starting each morning on east facing slopes that collect the first sun so soften. As the sun warms the snow, I ski aspects and by noon move to the northern facing slopes, slopes the sun never touches and remain soft and unaffected for weeks after a storm.

And then I head down. Once the snow softens beyond an inch or two of corn, I bail.

Mid-day today, the weather turns nasty. A harsh wind sweeps into the valley. Gropple, mixed with real hail, occasionally turning to snow rushes across the streets and hides the mountains completely. Walking down to Mug Shots, the fresh snow drives into my cheeks with needle like intensity.

Yes, I am done with skiing for the year.

Late in the day, as the sun drops toward the ridges on the western edge of the valley, the wind dies, clouds break and the skies clear, leaving only remnants of weather stuck on the sharp peaks. The reflection of the setting sun on the cloud bottoms creates a gold glow the first alpen glow of the season. The peaks are lit and then dark. And cold again.

In the sunset, I start my spring summer habit of evening walks. Ambles, I walk to the river looking for ducks. None. No geese either. And walk back home composing this little epistle.

And I am really done with skiing this year. It’s all good. I’m balanced on my skis. Balanced on my feet. Climbing beckons. It’s time to head into another venue.