I held out a long time, but the temptation (in the form of years of blog posts, photos and videos) was too much. Today I lost my back country skiing virginity.
dug's last ski post was the last straw and he graciously offered to take me up and let me use his gear. The location was Days Draw in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
I took my best stab at clothing but overdressed and it was warmer than I expected. Didn't take long up the skin track before I was sweating. And that was the flat part. When we hit the steep part of the climb I had sweat running down my face.
I was surprised how much work it is to climb in big boy skis. My heart rate was way up, breathing heavy. My quads seemed to be OK, but the hip flexors were complaining from sliding the skis up. dug summed it up: you're climbing a mountain.
dug showed me the kick turn. The idea is simple, my execution needs some work. I think I was getting better toward the end.
Seeing my labored progress, dug offered me three choices to start down. I went one more traverse past the first option. The view was grand.
dug talked me through taking off the skins and getting set to ski down. It felt weird to go from grippy to slippery skis.
Off the ridge was pretty steep. I get tentative on the steeps. I survival skied my way down, tipping over a few times. dug, on the other hand, made effortless turns. The snow was deep and amazingly fluffy.
(these photos are from dug, thanks man.)
The next pitch was less steep and more open. I did OK here and loved the feel of skiing such soft powder. And here's where I found my quads had not escaped the climb unscathed. I would go few hundred feet and have to stop to catch my breath and let the legs rest. The powder may be light but it still takes work to ski.
After three or four stops I was back down to the skin track. It's like skiing down a ditch. I did OK but stopped a few more times to rest the legs. Most of it was easy going, a few ups and a few spots negotiating terrain.
The boots fit pretty good but they squeezed the sides of my feet a bit. I was glad to take them off, that's a good feeling.
My sincere thanks to dug for supplying the gear and showing me the ropes. He had to wait for me many times and I appreciate his patience.
I can see why people love skiing the back country. It's all wide open, so many places to ski, and the snow quality is exceptional. And the mountains are gorgeous in Winter. But it comes with a price, a high one - it's no little jaunt. Those turns are truly earned, I realize that now. My hat's off to all of you back country skiers, you work hard for that snow.
What now? I'm not sure. I'm confident my fitness and skiing would improve if I BC skied with some regularity. As a side effect, I now more appreciate the convenience of the resorts. But you don't get powder like I experienced today at the resorts, only rarely. I'll probably keep my eyes out for good deals and used gear and put together an alpine touring setup. I'll also take an avalanche safety class - that's good info regardless. That's what I'm thinking right now.
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