In the first week of last November, Ethan and I went hiking. It was a beautiful, 70-degree day, and we worked up a good sweat. Two days later, it was snowing. Such is the state of affairs in Colorado.
This year, the first storm hit two weeks earlier. Monday’s high was 78. I wore short sleeves to work. When the sun set on Tuesday night, the temperature dropped to nearly freezing and a persistent rain fell. By 11:00 p.m., it turned to snow.
The storm hit the entire state. Given that Loveland had just opened its third run, we weren’t going to go skiing. Yes, there was the promise of fresh powder. But none of the bowls would be open. Since we already had quite a bit going on Wednesday afternoon, we were content in the knowledge that this was only a foretaste of epic gnar-shredding to come.
Then Wednesday morning arrived. Snow piled up outside our window. I checked the snow report on my phone. Loveland had ten inches. Even one to two inches is enough to invoke what my father and uncle call Powder Rules during the regular season (back before we had the kind of skis that were made to handle powder, my cousin and I couldn’t understand why it was worth getting up at 6 to hit the first chair). I turned to Ethan, who was solidly asleep.
“So, I know Loveland’s still only got three runs open, but ten inches!”
He groaned, trying to shake me off. When I continued poking him, he gave a wicked grin and said, “You can stay right here and have ten inches.”
I looked at him wide-eyed. “Really? With who?”
“Touche,” he sighed. He blinked at the ceiling for a few minutes. “I thought you had tutoring today?”
“I could call in with powder flu.”
He blinked some more. “You really want to go, don’t you?”
I nodded, waiting for him to talk me out of it.
“Okay. Let’s go.” He threw off the covers and started pulling on his long underwear. I got dressed and checked CDOT’s road information site.
“Huh,” I said as Ethan brushed his teeth. “‘Eastbound I-70 closed at Idaho Springs due to overturned vehicle and numerous accidents.’ That sounds great.”
“What about westbound?”
We looked outside. It was still snowing gleefully here in Denver, and cars were honking and sliding in our flatter-than-a-pancake part of town. We’d be idiotic to push ourselves up multiple miles of 6% grades when we didn’t need to.
Ethan finished brushing his teeth. I got our gear into the car.
Predictably, the ride was miserable. We bumped over a highway in which at least one lane was little more than ice with occasional gravel thrown in for a wonderful paint-scratching combination. Cars got angry with my cautious driving and shot past me, only to wind up overturned on either side of the highway a few miles later. After a while, I stopped clenching the wheel white-knuckled.
“This is getting to be kind of fun,” I mused to Ethan as we passed a truck that didn’t look so much jackknifed–rather, it appeared to have gone to another dimension and been spit back out as barely assembled components.
Finally, we got to Loveland and geared up. I went to take the skis off the rack. I’d locked them in while we went to get breakfast, but now, I couldn’t get them unlocked. The locks had frozen.
“Shit,” I murmured as I tried each lock three times. I was already sweating, and we hadn’t even hit the runs yet. I looked at Ethan. “You got a lighter?” I asked, though I knew neither one of us smoked.
He didn’t dignify my question with a response, but he did go over to two other guys who’d just pulled up and asked them the same question. Seems everyone with a ski pass except us smokes something, and he soon returned triumphant. A few seconds of holding the lighter up to the ski rack as though we were trying to commit arson, and the skis were free.
So to summarize: a grand total of three available runs, an unpleasant drive, frozen ski locks, and temperatures that were genital-retreatingly cold. Was it worth it? you must doubtlessly be asking.
The answer: Hell yes! It was the first time I’d been able to ski anything that soft and technically challenging in months. The feeling of deep snow beneath skis is a tough one to explain to all but the most devoted pow-hounds, but it’s like what I imagine gliding through champagne froth would feel like.
We got in seven runs before succumbing to screaming quads–turning in deep snow makes for one hell of a workout. We got back to the car, where I’d left the ski rack open. I unlocked the car so we could put our gear in the trunk. The trunk, however, wouldn’t open.
Both Ethan and I pulled and pulled and pulled. We brushed snow away from the edges, figuring they must have frozen. Finally, I gave up and decided to go in through the backseat. But that door wouldn’t open, either.
No way in hell all the doors froze, I reasoned to myself. Then I had a thought. I walked around the back, past Ethan, who was was gasping for breath after struggling valiantly to open the trunk. I reached the driver’s door, which was already open, and hit the unlock button.
“Try it now,” I told him. He fixed me with the most incredulous stare he could manage, then burst into maniacal laughter.
We loaded up the trunk and started back down to Denver. The roads, after all morning and the better part of an afternoon being plowed, were considerably better than they had been the other direction. And though I do not look forward to future drives over packed-down ice, yesterday did get me completely fired up (more so than my ski rack was, even) over the prospect of epic powder days to come.