No pain, no gain
December 23, 2007
ASPEN ” My ski season hasn’t officially begun until I inflict some type of bodily harm on myself.
Last year I hugged a tree (and no, it wasn’t some environmental demonstration) in the glades on Back of Bell. In 2005, there was the now infamous “Great Thumb Incident.” It my first day on the hill in Colorado, and I made quite an impression; I hit a patch of ice in the Tortilla Flats, fell, broke both my thumbs and used my face as a brake. It was classic. Trying to open a bottle of Advil in subsequent weeks was a humbling, yet slightly hilarious ordeal.
Thursday, I tasted “success” once more.
I thought I had averted disaster after negotiating the unforgiving, stray oversized speed bumps on the spine of Bell Mountain ” the kind of terrain makes me revert to my days as an eighth grader pizza-pieing my way down the bunny slope at Waterville Valley. As I idled at the top of Back of Bell #2, I thought the danger was over.
I thought wrong. I pushed off, arcing some short turns through the soft thick snow. Then it happened, as unsolicited an unexpected as a blindside punch to the face, a fender bender ” or a call from your ex.
All of sudden, I was doing my best Greg Louganis impression. My right ski tip dug into the snow, and I lunged forward. Because of the intense pressure, the ski popped off and buried; I front-flipped downhill. Mercifully, I came to rest face-down in powder a second or so later.
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It took me a few moments to ascertain that my limbs were in tact and to straggle uphill an unearth my ski. I emerged from the trees with little more than some pain in my back and half a mountain’s worth of snow spilling out of every jacket and pants pocket.
It sure is a good thing I’m such a finely-tuned athlete.
I attracted some curious stares as I made my way down Copper Bowl. Perhaps it was because of my wide, cautious turns. Maybe it was my white beard. Or maybe it was the large smile strewn across my wet face.
This season if off to an auspicious start.
Sunday’s report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center: Above treeline the avalanche danger is considerable on north, northeast, and east aspects and moderate on other aspects. Danger is an overall moderate at treeline. Below treeline danger is moderate on W-NW-N-NE-E aspects and low on other aspects. Unstable wind slabs and drifts are likely today on many steep slopes above treeline, and possible on steep slopes near treeline.
On a many aspects and elevations, two weak layers of faceted snow exist. One at the base of the snowpack from October snows, and one just under the new snow. Both of these layers will make human-triggered avalanches possible today.
Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for more information.