As previously discussed in “The Sicky Sick Gnar Gnar Vocab of J-Hole”, most anything specialized come with its own unique vocabulary terms, and skiing is no exception. We skiers often employ the term “making turns” to denote that we are skiing, because turns is really what the sport is about. As many a nine-year-old in Michigan can attest, going straight on skis isn’t hugely difficult. Although there is some amount of strength and balance involved, straight lining an entire run is typically a fair helping of stupidity coupled with disillusions of invisibility. Straight lining anything in the Rockies is ill-advised as one usually ends up careening off a mountain rather than hitting a car in the parking lot (my sister was just the nine-year-old who would forgo turns in favor of stopping via impact with cars/buildings/adults). So in my desperation to do something, ANYTHING in the off-season I decided to make some turns. Two, to be exact.
The ‘off-season’ in Jackson (fall and spring) forces residents to become increasingly creative with their outdoor endeavors and I attribute the first day of my 09-10 ski season directly to this fact. The snow line was high enough to make Teton Pass, at 8,431 feet, marginally acceptable. We parked the car at the top with another dozen wishful thinkers and started skinning south. For those of you who don’t backcountry ski (and I wouldn’t recommend it without avalanche safety classes and a good group of backcountry friends), “skinning” involves attaching synthetic skins to backcountry skis to make purchase when going uphill. Along the ascent, we passed bowl after beautiful bowl. Like a siren call, these sections tempted me with their illusions of white, fluffy coverage, but a thorough love of my intact knees and face told me to wait until those logs were buried under a solid snow pack. But not everyone up there thought the same.
Another couple had veered off the skin track and were waiting, contemplating a partial downhill descent. Wishing them luck, we wondered if we weren’t being overly cautious but quickly dismissed it as wisdom and experience. On the way back, however, we stopped and chatted with them skinning back for lap two. “There’s a good 10 inches of faceted snow off the ground and a nice light fluffy layer off of that. It’s pretty good!” was the report. It was enough to make me seriously consider following them, but I wondered how much sheer luck was involved with their line. So feeling wiser than lucky, we removed our skins and glided back towards the car. I only made two turns in the skin track on the way back, but man did they feel good.
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