Your alarm goes off. Waking up at 6:30 a.m. has never been easier. You jump out bed, open the blinds, and feast your eyes on fresh snow. Yes, enough to break out the pow skis. Your favorite forecast blog was right after all. Everyone’s got one, and everyone thinks their’s is the best.
You crack some eggs and they simmer while you gather all your ski clothes. They’re in every knook and cranny of the room. Almost like you tried to hide them from yourself yesterday. Yes, it’s okay to wear those ski socks for the fourth day in a row.
Eggs are ready. Sportscenter’s on. Your team lost but whatever, you have bigger fish to fry.
All the cold weather. All the warming your car up, scraping snow off its windshield, losing control of it on the back roads.
All the limitations of living in a small town.
All of the teaser pow days with two-inches of new snow that just lead to banged up equipment.
It’s all worth it today.
You drive past semi-trucks on the side of the highway. The drivers, sporting shorts and t-shirts because they come from some warmer land, are chaining up their tires. You know the snowstorm is for real when the roster of trucks lined up in the break down lane is endless.
Arriving at the mountain, you find the cheapest parking and join the swarms of people gathered behind the back hatches of their cars. The buckling of ski boots is audible in every direction. Someone’s blasting music, the self-appointed DJ of the parking lot.
Skis are over your shoulder. You’re doing your best to power walk in ski boots without slipping and falling. It’s the art of getting by on the least amount of traction.
Walking through a quaint little ski village, you cruise past people uncomfortably carrying their skis, while more experienced athletes b-line past you. Maybe there’s a correlation between how fast you walk to the lift on a powder day and how crazy you are on the mountain. Who knows.
You finally arrive. The line is even bigger than you expected. It turns out there are diehards out there a lot more diehard than you. Whatever. You just get in the back of the line and hope it moves quickly.
And move quickly it does. The lifties are firing on all cylinders.
“Dude I heard it was ten inches” – is a line you’re likely to hear on that first chairlift ride. Everyone’s stoke is so palpable on that first ride. There’s the talker, who won’t stop declaring what part of the mountain is going to have the best snow. The music listener, who’s just getting in the zone and definitely not sharing his secret spot. And maybe an old-timer, who’s been enjoying powder days at this mountain since the Reagan Administration still rocking skinny skis.
The four people on that quad are so bonded, yet so separate for that eight-minute ride. Everyone structures his life so that when a powder day comes, he can drop everything and be on that first chair. “This is why we live out here, man” a snowboarder once proposed to me. Almost like we’re in some unspoken fraternity. But as soon as the ride is over, it’s every man for himself. You probably won’t cross paths again.
During that first run your legs aren’t warmed up yet but you ignore the stiffness. Powder calls are audible from above and below you. The guys who beat you to the lift are already enjoying the goods.
While it may have been a power walking race to the lift, everyone’s on the same team. We’re all out here to experience the joy and adrenaline rushes offered by powder days. Problems at work, home, or with our favorite sports teams disappear during those few hours on the mountain. Those snowy mornings and afternoons are some of nature’s strongest anti-depressants.
With all of the snow falling around the country (you too, East Coast), it’s good to take a moment and notice the finer points of a powder day. Maybe it’s the semi-trucks in the break down lane, the self-appointed DJ in the parking lot, or the stoked conversation on the chairlift. But there’s a lot more to a powder day than just the riding.