Roger Marolt: A slower shutter speed to capture a picture-perfect powder day
It was one of those ski mornings I don’t look forward to, which is to say most of them, but particularly this one. It was a shadow power day, those kinds that appear like the real thing, yet when you try to touch it and feel little, you look up to see the real thing standing on the horizon between you and the setting sun and realize it passed yesterday where you stand now.
The overnight layer of new snow is thin, the tracks turned crud below it are thick. It’s the uncomfortable withdrawal from hype.
I don’t like morning skiing; not because I am not a morning person. I rise before the temperature starts to on most winter days because I enjoy a cup of coffee steaming into the soft light of the kitchen while reading about the world in the newspaper as it lurks completely in the dark outside the window over my right shoulder, begging to come in.
I write in the mornings, too. I oftentimes wax poetic in nonsensical sentences that I later correct after the sun rises and shines practicality into my thinking and I don’t resent it. I like to start my day believing anything is possible and then walk my mind backward slowly into drawing up plans about things I might possibly be able to accomplish with a little discipline and luck.
Setting a schedule and starting a timer to go out to “have some fun,” as they say, doesn’t light my fire. Hurrying to have a good time is paradoxical to me. I view pleasure as a transitory gift that I can make stick around longer by not being too eager. Scurrying about to get into it more quickly makes it feel like work or a sales pitch disguised as a party.
Last Saturday morning was all of this. I had skied Friday afternoon when the snow was falling in earnest, so I knew full well that the dream of skiing fresh powder was already gone. The news of 8 inches in The Bowl was old; what they measured at 6 in this morning had been settling on the measuring platform since the previous afternoon. It was day-old doughnuts at a fresh dozen price.
Let’s get up there! We have four so we can get free parking! I’ll load the skis and boots! It’s already 7:30! No time for breakfast; here’s a bar! Do I have time to brush my teeth? I guess so, but won’t a stick of gum do? And !, and !, and ! it went all that caffeine-compressed morning.
At the mountain, it did not get better. The parking lot was full so we had to park in the cave called a “garage.” Skis and poles and people were everywhere, especially in places they shouldn’t be, like in the driving lanes through the parking grotto where they could barely be seen in the fluorescent lighting with its energy-saving hallucinatory effect.
There were shouts and general rambunctiousness in the lift line, along with growled admonitions over the pecking order disrupted by cutters catching up with friends and just plain sneaks. I did not see any physical skirmishes on this particular morn, but I knew that was a tenuous state of affairs. Nerves were frayed. Adrenaline levels spiked. While tensions could have been worse, the anticipation of that made the present bad enough.
Contrary to local lore, there is no such thing as a powder hound on a day like this. We become where-wolves. Where is the next powder stash? Where can we get first tracks? Powder hounds nibble, where-wolves gorge. While powder hounds play, where-wolves compete. Where-wolves disappear at noon.
I did not think I enjoyed this day too much. I thought I resented the pack of where-wolves lining the ridge of The Bowl ready to pounce. It seemed like contrived tension in motion.
Yet, a funny thing happened that evening at the office party at the bowling alley. I won a raffle prize and it reiterated my belief that there is no such thing as a coincidence. The prize was a magnificent photo by a local artist named Guadalupe Laiz. It is a shot of the ridge of Highland Bowl on a powder day. There is a line of skiers hiking in the lifting clouds, casting their shadows to the Maroon Creek side away from their own eager gazes.
The photo is so beautiful that it extracts the viewer’s desire to be a part of what he is looking at and places it in his heart. It casts an incredible perspective. The chaos of my powder day was an illusion. The reality was actually glorious.
Roger Marolt still prefers to putter on a powder day. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a recent September Saturday morning, I awoke with an intense yearning to lose myself in the mountains, disconnect from cell service, and rediscover why I decided to call Aspen home in the first place. Standing there, at the Cathedral Lake trailhead, I knew I was right where I needed to be.