Powder skiing: it’s a dog-eat-dog world
No friends on a powder day. The rule is time-honored, geographically inclusive, and even malleable. It reflects a frenzy-of people jumping out of their skins to ski new snow, before it gets tracked out.No friends on a powder day explains why buddies don’t wait for someone who is five minutes late. (One friend has even gained a nickname: Can’t-Wait Nate.)The phrase can be expanded, amended, or abbreviated. The first application I ever saw was when seven of us headed to Snowmass on a powder day. One friend, who had just moved to the area, joined us at the last minute. She would need to rent skis, she said.She was the sister of one man in our group, the housemate of another. We three other women stuck around the rental shop to help, figuring the guys were at the ski lift above.Imagine our amazement, then, to find them absolutely vanished. Gone. It later transpired, as they told us with little real rue, that they had looked at each other and amended the line, to: No girlfriends on a powder day. (I married one of those guys, can you believe that?)Recently our area had a glorious, crazy glut of powder. For the first run on a stormy Saturday, Mike and I set off on Snyder’s Ridge at Aspen Highlands. Trying to make tight turns on the ridge proper, I blew a turn, and a ski. I continued, upright, for 25 feet, then gazed morosely at a horrific wallow back up for my ski. I tried sidestepping with my one ski on, but dragged and fell, and left it sticking up, then pawed and kicked slowly up.With every moment, the powder on the mountain was being skied off.An acquaintance approached.”Hey,” I yelled, “you could save me a huge wallow if you’d get my ski.” He skied over, looked around for three to four seconds, and then said, over his shoulder, “I can’t see it so I don’t know where to look.” No acquaintances on a powder day. I shouted down to Mike that I’d lost a ski. Mike said he’d go down, take the Loge Lift back up and return.Another skier emerged in the blowing snow, and kindly shouted, “Are you OK?””I’m fine,” I said glumly. “I’ve just lost a ski. It’s OK, you don’t have to stay.””I’ll help,” he said, before even realizing he knew me. Jack, a local orthodontist, helped me for at least 10 minutes, swiping and stabbing with our ski poles. Finally, only after I reminded him that Mike would be back soon, he skied down to call ski patrol.A friend stopped on a powder day: I was an eyewitness.Back came Mike, and edged below. The ski had submarined, and five minutes later, he found it. (I skied down, and phoned patrol.)On a more recent weekend, we and three friends, one skiing with his young son, stood amid an excited mob at the gate to the above-lifts Highlands Bowl, waiting for patrol to open the untracked North Woods.Hiking up, I am generally slow relative to my nut-case friends. As we waited, my spouse asked, “Want me to wait for you at the top”-adding hopefully, “or the bottom?” Nice try. My friends Lori and Kim, unbidden, amazingly waited on the ridge top too.At the top, where I personally like to rest a few minutes, I’ve certainly seen friends arrive, slap down their skis, and then notice someone is missing.”Where’s Joe? Look down,” they say. “If we see him on the last part, we wait. If not, no friends.”We glanced back for our buddy, hiking up with his son. “He’ll understand,” one among us, parents all, said. Friends with their kids don’t expect us to wait when we don’t have ours.And then we were gone, and the skiing was heaven.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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