Today, I revisited the site of my Most Harrowing Ski Experience Ever. The one from last spring, where I ripped up the slushy mountain on my super-rockered powder skis and decided to branch out onto unfamiliar black diamonds.
For those non-skiers out there, ski runs come in a few flavors, or, really, colors. There are Greens, suitable for beginners and novices. These runs have the most gentle slopes on the hill, and frequently travel laterally (cruisers) for great distances in pursuit of a nice gentle ride. There are Blues, suitable for Intermediate skiers – these runs typically feature more pitch, or a few moderately intense drops, or are a bit more narrow than the Greens. Then there are Blacks, for Advanced skiers. These runs can feature Holy Shit! pitches, and may also be narrow, and may include features like chutes and hair-raising drops. Then there are Double Blacks, for the Experts. Take all of the terrifying features of the Black and add bumps (moguls), or rock cliffs, or couloirs, or cornices.
I stick mainly to Blues but will hit the Blacks if the conditions are good (i.e., there is actual loose but not piled-up snow on the surface of the run, and there is no fog, sleet, snow, clouds, or other precipitation degrading the visibility). A mountain covered with masses of spring slush on a clear day is a pretty good condition, so it made total sense that I’d use that opportunity to check out the blacks at this hill.
Only, at this hill, you can’t actually see the black runs until you’re already on them, and the designers of these slopes weren’t big on traverses and cut-throughs, which means that once you’re on it, you are on it. No way out but down.
And last spring, I got out on the hill and discovered that, unlike the rest of the mountain, this run was a massive, endless sheet of ice with tiny little piles of slush scattered here and there. And me on my big fat rockered powder skis, worst possible equipment for the conditions.
Read all about that experience, and the five years it took off my life, and the 500 new gray hairs it caused my head to sprout, here.
Today was the first time we went out to that ski resort since that opportunity. This time, I had my ice skis. This time, we were there in the morning. This time, there was snow on those black diamonds, not ice.
This time, it was going to be Different.
And so it was. My strong urge was to go back and kick the ass of that icy run from last spring, but it was closed for race training. So I had to pick another. I saw a Ski Patroller wafting down the traverse at the top of the hill, and I said to myself “Guess what. We’re skiing with HIM. He takes a black, we take a black.”
For some reason, and I don’t totally understand this, it is much easier to ski with someone else than it is to ski alone. Especially on challenging terrain. So I didn’t care if Mr. Ski Patrol knew he and I were Skiing Together…it was enough for me to annex myself to him. He bypassed the big black highways right down the front face, and I nearly lost hope that we were going to take a black after all. But at the last minute, he hared off into one of the more remote blacks, and I followed him right in.
Probably the front face runs would have been easier. This run was so narrow there wasn’t even a white stripe on the trail map to mark it. Just a thin spot in the trees with some writing over it. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Or, in the words of my latest Ski Goddess, some anonymous 10 year old girl, “Here…goes…something…”
There were a couple of things I noticed right as I dropped in with my unwitting Ski Buddy.
1. This run was narrow.
Here are a couple of guys ripping the easier part of the slope:
2. This run was steep.
It had a Holy Shit! pitch. A Holy Shit! pitch is when you realize that the run is so steep that you can’t even see down it. I realized this right away when my Ski Buddy disappeared completely from view after taking one turn. The horizon on the run was, maybe, 20 feet away at any given time.
3. Do, or do not. There is no try. And I can totally do this.
I had a very quick chat with myself when I dropped in on the run. It started off with “DO NOT LOOK DOWN. DO NOT LOOK OUT AND DO NOT LOOK UP. BUT MOSTLY, DO NOT LOOK DOWN. REALLY. DON’T DO IT.”
Excellent advice, really.
Then I gave myself some more really excellent advice.
Take this run one turn at a time. This run is not a whole bunch of turns. It is especially not a whole bunch of turns on a pitch that feels like it might just launch me into orbit. It is one turn. And then it is one turn. And then it is one turn.
So far, so good.
And more advice:
toes up. shins forward. weight over the ski tips. keep the feet together. do not get sprawled out on this slope, it’s too steep. there is no safety to be had in the direction of the hill. lean away from the hill. stay loose. BREATHE.
I took a nice leisurely mellow turn, and then another, and then another. I was so mellow that I hardly even noticed when the run took a hard right turn right in the middle of the pitch, or when it took a hard left turn right after that. Mellow, mellow, mellow. I was in the ZONE. The Force was with me, and I was skiing like Yoda.
I skied that sucker like it was a great big green cruiser. I did it at half the speed the guys in the video did it. It’s harder to ski slow on steeps than it is to go fast…which means…
…I ROCKED that run. I didn’t just ski it. I OWNED it. That run? It’s MINE.
Here…goes…something. Here…I…COME! WOOOOOOO!