Roger Marolt: Call a day ‘epic’ and kiss it goodbye
There are some powder days I love and some I don’t. Most are in the middle.
The ones I don’t care for come with a warning and you don’t have to be some sort of shaman, fortune teller or even a weather-watcher to read it. This is good for planning. I know I will get a lot of work done on these days.
The warning is found on your smartphone. It is issued by the National Weather Service. It goes something like this: Winter Storm Warning! Periods of heavy snow! Twelve to 18 inches of new accumulation by morning!
Control your excitement. When this warning is issued and they advise you to stay home, comply. If not, you will end up in the lift line an hour before opening to find about 200 people already there. Don’t be overly disappointed. Being the first person in a lift line on a day like this is a game nobody wins.
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Even if you are the first person in line, you can’t possibly sustain your enthusiasm from the time you arrived, usually before sunrise, until they crank the ski lifts. Certainly you will be psyched when you get there in the pitch black to claim the prize you are seeking, but by 8:30 a.m. the adrenaline will subside, the caffeine will have your legs feeling like string beans left over from yesterday’s buffet, and the cold will stiffen your back like the icicles hanging from your nose so that you will barely be able to smile; not that you will feel like it anyway. The only thing you will be looking forward to now is a nap.
The intensity of these feelings will diminish progressively from each person behind you to the next until it is fully dissipated in the people in the middle of the line to the end who are instead growing increasingly grumpy as they realize all the powder will be gone by the time they get to the top. The one thing everyone in line will experience together is the rehearsed hoots and hollers supporting posturing of powder hounds trying to establish superiority of manufactured enthusiasm.
On these days when the forecast called for 12 to 18 inches, you can’t help being disappointed when the truth turns out to be just 8; a dump of powder that would, in any other circumstance, lead to unbridled ecstasy.
There is no need, however, to dwell on these, the worst of all powder days. The more common powder days when the forecast calls for a much more modest sprinkling of, say, 6 to 8 inches are bad, but, since the expectations are lower, they are far less dispiriting.
If you are like most, you will go ahead and sleep in, arriving at the slopes around 10 on mornings ushered in with this type of milquetoast prediction. You will then be amazed by how many other skiers thought the same as you did. The lift lines might even be longer than on the aforementioned big powder day. The skiing will be good, no doubt, but the euphoria of skiing crud that was formerly 7 inches of powder at 9 a.m. will soon be quashed by the realization that you could have gotten to the slopes as late as noon, finding no lift lines, and the skiing would have been approximately the same.
Do not lose hope, though. There really are great powder days. Pine for those not predicted. The forecast calls for a trace overnight with cloudy skies all the next day. While most are piecing together alternative plans appropriate for a blah Tuesday, like taking the dry cleaning in, finally skimming the fourth quarter productivity reports at the office or getting the oil changed, take a chance and wax your skis. The morning dawns as predicted — a low-lying gray-scudded sky. Rats. The forecast was correct. Yet, you head out after lunch anyway, because the mountains have been socked in enough to make you think a couple inches of fresh snow may have fallen up high.
On way to the lifts, the snow begins falling with purpose. By the time you get to the top of the first lift, an inch of new powder rests gently in your lap. Your first run is 4 inches deep. The next is closer to 5. By 1:30 it seems there is at least 7, and it’s still coming down hard! You finish the day with face-shots every turn and poling across the tops of blue runs, giggling involuntarily as you approach the steeps. When the day comes to a close, you return to the car, which is now wearing a white top hat 10-inches tall.
Now, pinch yourself!
Roger Marolt has been around long enough to know that you can’t plan a great powder day. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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