The Definition Of Late Season
By brodyleven | September 20th, 2012
Photo by Brody Leven.
Desperation breeds misery for committed skiers. The gaps in dark clouds close, though vaguely guised by a grey backdrop of those hiding higher. Snow falls unexpectedly and intermittently, a precursor to nothing. Only warm weather looms, and the friends flanking me share a mutual understanding that any of these hikes may be our season’s last. No one else is skiing. We know that and accept it. Familiarity with terrain and snowpack lends us our ability to be skiing long after Utah has hung its skis in the garage.
Today will be good because we don’t know what to wear — hiking shoes or ski boots. Within minutes we are covered in mud, a reminder that it’s summer. Ski tips, waving high above our backpacks, snag branches and knock us backward, our legs’ inertia making us buckle at the knees and our hips engage, preventing a backward tumble. Following the leader is dubiously futile. Are his footsteps packing the mud down and solidifying it, or are they creating small bathtubs of dirt and boot-seeping grime? It doesn’t matter, so we walk adjacent to one another simply to facilitate talking, a fundamental principle of our days in the mountains.
The tails of our skis hit the back of our legs, a familiar sensation that never grows beyond tolerable. The three of us skin for short distances before realizing that there is yet another patch of grass, rocks, or dirt ahead. Some times we shoulder skis, other times we drag them; rarely do we return them to our backpacks.
We glance down an enticing North-facing shot off the summit, knowing that the few exposed rocks have friends nearby. By our culture’s standards the skiing is horrendous. By our personal standards it’s amazing. We are hysterical—jumping over rock patches only to land halfway and sit-ski across exposed grass. The clouds don’t reopen, leaving a wintery feeling everywhere but beneath our skis. Most rocks harm nothing, but when they do, we know it. We feel the drag as a strip of our base hangs onto the rock longer than the rest, trailing itself behind its previous molding.
Drops over bushes become drops into bushes. I take my shirt off for a few turns because it’s summer—even if it is snowing—and that’s what you do in the summer. We laugh and talk. The cuffs of our snowpants are filthy and tattered; the sweat inside our jackets sticks the fabric to our skin. Cotton t-shirts and waterproof shells proved barely sufficient because it’s cold, it’s snowing, it’s summer, we’re skiing. The river we cross is a non-obstacle. Already soaked, we trudge through the shin-deep water. Who cares? I’m waterproof.
The only person at the trailhead is a hiker, boots and gaiters are her gear of choice. Snowshoes are visible in her trunk, though were obviously deemed unnecessary. She smiles and shrugs us off, understanding what today means to a group of friends. Maybe it’s raining at the car or maybe it’s still snowing. It doesn’t matter. But even a skier who’s hung them up for the year understands the feeling we’re sharing.
Photo by Jason Eichhorst.
In this post: Brody Leven Location: Utah Alta UT Snowbird UT Keywords: Featured Ski Feature Stories Backcountry Features Trip Report Features Google News