Eugene Buchanan: Into the powder swing
January 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — It's hard after nine months to get back into the powder swing. There are a lot of things to remember and nary any time to spare.
While there might not be pressure to perform on hardpack, that changes when the high pressure system leaves and is replaced by the year's first powder storm. You have to be on it, your synapses firing as fast as the falling snowflakes.
For those juggling jobs and kids, the preparation starts the day before. First, check your calendar. Oops, a meeting at 10 a.m. Time to reschedule. Next, pitch in with the kid shuttles; you'll work late the next day and won't be able to help. This means less heat from the homefront.
Next on the list: snowblowing the driveway. Hopefully, it fires up on the first pull, unless you forgot to drain the gas in the spring. And don't forget to aim the chute away from the shed door, splattering everything inside.
Then comes the shoveling. Dang, the shovel still is at the Nordic center, where you volunteered last weekend. No matter. Neighbor Dave provides a loaner that lets you shovel off the front steps, back porch and trampoline, which is somehow still up in January.
Time to think more ahead. You make a lunch so you can eat at your desk the next day, pack a set of clothes to change into back at the office, and lay your ski clothes out so dressing doesn't cut into the morning's kid-readying time.
But there's still more to do, helping with dishes, piano practice and homework, all in the name of wracking up spousal points. Only then do you pull out your fat skis for the first time of the year and load them atop the car. One less thing to remember in the morning. For them, it's go time. No more watching your rock skis get all the action.
As expected, you hear the plows outside in the morning. You dial the snow report — cold, but 11 inches at mid-mountain. You help the kids with their Froot Loops and Cheerios, peel a kiwi, and usher their lunch boxes into their backpacks. All that's left is dropping them off at school.
But then comes "The Berm." You haven't had to battle it yet this winter. The shoveling costs you a good 40 turns on the mountain. Backing out, you close the garage door only to see it stop halfway down. You push the remote again and it goes back up. Up, down, up, down. Finally, you run inside to close it manually. Another 30 turns lost.
Oops. You forgot your daughter's violin inside. That'll cost you another 20 turns.
By the time you reach Strawberry Park, the car's thermometer reads 15 below zero. You walk your daughter into school but forget her art project in the car. Another 25 turns lost — and that's if you hustle. Then you narrowly miss the yellow light on Lincoln Avenue. Your chances at untracked are unraveling.
Decision time. Where to park? T-bar? Not worth the 10 bucks. Ski Town Square? Full by now. Knoll Lot? Probably full as well, and who knows if that music tent still is up. You settle for Meadows, parking five rows back.
Then your fortunes change — the shuttle is there waiting. The frenzy inside is palpable, a season's worth of pent-up powder demand about to be unleashed. People file out quickly, like shoppers hitting Macy's on Black Friday. You do the same, but there's a glitch. Your skis fell off the rack. If you were counting missed turns before, now it's entire runs. The drivers eventually find them, but you've fumbled the ball at the goal line.
The good news is that now the gondo line is empty, the glass-pressers long since gone. Decision time again: Which run? A number of factors come into play, from crowds to the hour to what's lurking beneath. You opt for Whiteout, which proves a good choice. Skier's left still is relatively unscathed.
The Storm Peak Express maze is full, like fans lining up for a Phish concert. You blow it by not going to the far side. Up top you have another crucial decision. You opt for another old faithful, Closets, aware of the shallow base. Soon, you're floating through turns instead of hearing them, all that effort to get here finally paying off. And you have the first powder day of the season under your belt, so you'll be that much better prepared next time.
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