I wish I were one of those go-with-the-flow, take each day as it comes kind of people. Truly I do. But staying in my comfort zone requires a plan, a goal—even when I’m skiing. In an effort to balance the yin and yang of my desire to let things evolve organically but still feel like I have a purpose, I’ve come up with a tidy solution this ski season.
Last year, my stated goal for the winter was to ski 100 days. I scanned in on closing day at 99. The planner in me was crushed, but 99 were a whole lot more days than I had ever skied before and 99 did make for good punch line. This year, I plan to ski (or at least get down the hill while wearing skis) every in-bounds run on Baldy. That means the marked and the unmarked, the gentle greens and the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding” locals’ secrets.
Sun Valley’s epic early season snowfall has encouraged this project. Normally by Christmas, I’ve buckled into my boots only a few times, attempting to recover my ski legs on the usual groomed suspects. This year, December’s early holiday gift was more than four feet of fluffy powder wrapped and tied with an evergreen bow by mid-month. Thanks to Mother Nature, I’ve already skied 20 days this season. The sublime conditions have compelled me off the groomers and onto runs I normally wouldn’t consider until January or February—if at all.
On one bluebird sun-shiny day after a big snowfall, the mountain took control of my skis. After kicking up clouds of white fluff on International, I was drawn left to play in Stylhung. Its rolling terrain and gentle powder-rich glades had me laughing out loud, hooting with delight. It was early December and I was in powder up to my thighs. Similar conditions brought me to Upper River Run, Fire Trail and Central Park at its perfect best. When nine additional crystalline, dry, gorgeous inches fell on Monday this week, I skied runs I’ve never before even attempted.
I felt like a real skier. Certain that I looked a lot more pro than I probably did, I wore out my legs completely on Lower Christmas, glade runs, the south slopes off of Lower College. So far, my fat skis are winning the day count over my carvers. Did I mention it’s still only December?
By carefully combing the official map of Baldy, I can tick off at least 40 runs I’ve already hit—most figuratively, a few literally. I posted the mountain facsimile next to my desk, both for inspiration and for keeping track. I guess I can’t really get away from that yin, yang conundrum.
I haven’t looked at a mountain map closely for years and it’s interesting to note all the improvements and changes—Adventure Trails, new marked glade areas, there are so many places to play. It made me realize how many runs and areas on the mountain I’ve been avoiding.
Most of my kids’ favorite runs, from Grandma’s House to Lightning to Scorpion, aren’t even on the map. This worries me on multiple levels, the most pressing is I might actually have to find them and ski them.
While I can control my intention to ski as many runs as possible, what is completely beyond my control is which runs are good on which days. So skiing becomes an exercise in staying in the moment and letting the day dictate the plan. By keeping my eyes open, I am letting the mountain guide me. What color is the sky? How moisture laden are the clouds? How did the last night’s wind contour the snow’s surface? Simply put, what looks good? If conditions on a run are really good, right now, it’s time to jump in. Tomorrow may not bring the same opportunity.
As the old adage goes, skiing is a dance and the mountain always leads. I am thrilled to have this graceful, demanding and inspiring partner as my own in the months to come.