Only child birth is harder
November 25, 2009
I thought I appreciated what boot packers and Highlands Ski Patrol do to make it possible for us to ski Highlands’ Deep Temerity and Bowl, until I tried a day of book packing.
I reported to the base at 7:30 a.m. Some 40 or so others were busy duct-taping the bottom of their ski pants to their boots, to keep the snow out. We put on our beacons, harnesses and loaded packs, and uploaded to the top of Loge. We hiked/skinned up the Bowl, and got to ski for all of five turns. We popped off our skis, shouldered them and fell in line, walking down the G zones. With each step, I would sink up to my waist. Getting the back leg out and swinging it forward was hard work, all while dragging skis, poles and carrying my pack.
I was exhausted when we reached the spot halfway down where we dropped our packs and skis. A quick snack, and then we were right back out there, hiking up and down every inch of the runs, compacting the snow. I had to admit to the guy ahead of me that the only thing harder on my body than what we were doing was childbirth. After a lunch break, we stomped some more snow. It was relentless, hard work. I could barely keep up. The crew was nonstop, and the pace was impressive.
At 3 p.m., after six hours in the Bowl, we hiked up to the old traverse and rode the catwalk out to the top of the Exhibition lift to be downloaded. Harnesses turned in by 4:15, and everyone headed home.
Now, I happened to get a sunny bluebird day, but these guys (and some very impressive women) bootpack in inclement weather, too. Many of them do it for 15 days to earn their pass. I can’t imagine. I did it for one day, to gain a keener appreciation for what is done for us (those of us who love to ski those areas), to be a better-educated Highlands ambassador when guests ask me how those areas are maintained, and to meet the amazing men and women who have what it takes to do that work.
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So when you see a Highlands Ski Patrol or someone with duct tape on their boots, be sure to thank them. For those who survive childbirth, there is Mother’s Day. I propose a Ski Patrol/Bootpacker Appreciation Day.