We sang loudly and laughed as we drove the short distance from Red
Quill to the lifts. It was a bluebird sky at Saddleback for our first day of skiing, and with skis slung over our shoulders we eagerly headed out of the parking lot to the slopes.
At the top of Casablanca Glades we peered into the woods, testing each other with our eyes. Who was going to drop in first? Was that really powder, or were there some stumps and rocks hiding under there waiting to scratch our skis? I took the plunge and turned hard, testing the snow. It was fantastic. No rocks, no ice, just powder. The five of us lapped the glades all day until my legs burned even when I was standing still. On the last run of the day I fell over in the snow above the glades, giddy at our good fortune and punchy from exhaustion. We lay at the top of the run and soaked in the warm sunshine and marveled at the snow conditions and the view.
On Day Two Michael’s van, “Homer,” chugged up the access hill to Saddleback Mountain through the cloudy morning. As we drove through the slippery snow, I was surprised to see that the flags at the Nordic Center were violently whipping around their tether. I pointed to them and the van fell silent. As we rolled into the parking lot I peered out the windshield and announced, “there are no lifts running.” Without hesitation everyone started digging through their bags for their skins. The mountain was on wind hold but it wasn’t going to stop us. My legs burned from our day of skiing yesterday, and I heard a few other groans as people got out of the van. But the powder was too good to pass up, and we were going to have it all to ourselves today.
A few men trudged into the parking lot from the lodge, carrying their skis and telling us, “Don’t even bother, the lifts aren’t going to run today…too windy.” We smiled, turned our music up, and told them we didn’t need lifts. We could ski uphill with skins, and nothing was going to stop us from shredding the powder in the glades.
The wind was blowing straight into our faces as we skinned up the trail. I had to stop a few times brace myself so I wouldn’t get knocked backward. When I turned to hide my face from the onslaught of wind I could see the others behind me doing the same. The gusts scoured the open trails and swirled snow around us like a twister. Through the slits in my eyes I could see the untouched powder sheltered by the trees and continued up.
As soon as we were able to duck into the woods I felt the relief of their shelter. I was able to get a grip in the snow and not be blow backward. I could think about things other than moving forward and people became more talkative. The snow inside the trees was soft and easy to move through. We started laughing and playing in its softness and the shelter of the trees. My legs tingled with anticipation as I pulled my skins off and put my helmet on. We had the woods to ourselves with fresh new snow! I dropped a knee to tele-turn and felt my edges arc effortlessly through the snow like a butter knife in soft butter. I turned, threading the needle though tight trees, whooping and hollering to my friends, who were spread through the woods around me, puffs of powder flying from their skis with each turn.