Marolt: When the crows nest gets doused with water
I parked the car and went around to the back to suit up for another day on the hill. The boots are always the hardest part. I put all my weight on the foot trying to wriggle it down and I grunt or hold my breath, I’m not sure which always, waiting for something to give. It’s not just a little painful. I can’t help but feel a sense of relief when my heel finally makes it past the sticking point and suddenly slips down to the foot-bed where it belongs.
Buckling them up seems like child’s play after that, even though I still need to use two hands to get the top one as tight as I like. It’s an awkward, cross-over move with one hand reaching around the back to leverage the one in front that requires some core strength and concentration to manage. I’ll tell you more about it some other time, maybe during the next drought when there are no powder days or face shots to discuss.
I get both boots on and tightened up just the way I like them, pull the skis and poles out of the back of the car and lean them on the bumper while I zip my coat. I grab my gloves and squeeze them between my knees while I plop my helmet on the old bean.
Just like that, water is running down my face. It is literally like somebody dumped a small bucket of water over my head. It’s not sweat.
Then I remember. At the end of the previous day I was dumb enough to be enticed by Corkscrew Gully at the bottom of Ajax, not because I thought it would be any good — I knew better than that — but because they had just opened it for the first time all season. The water on my forehead now was snow yesterday afternoon, packed into the nooks of my brain bucket.
Yeah, it’s one of those bad snow years where you get sick of skiing the same old semi-covered runs that are open until you are ready to risk life and limb to try something different.
It was different all right. The top part of Corkscrew Gully is steep and that’s where you would expect trouble. It wasn’t so bad. I’m not going to tell you it was pristine or lovely, much less use the word “awesome”, which skiers seem to like more than any other word, but a few nicks and scratches in a season like this are the price to pay for something I will call “as good as it gets” this year.
Yes, I got through the upper section in good shape, the long tendrils of exposed brush poking up from the thin whitish cover, thwacking against my snow pants in a weirdly satisfying sensation I am growing accustomed to, if not enjoying, banking turns back and forth from one crest of the gully and back up to the other in a chain of soft S’s at just less than moderate speed.
I was comfortable, until I hit it. Like the hull of a running schooner thumping the humped back of a large whale just under the surface of glassy sea, the plank on my right foot caught the ragged ridge of a small boulder and my anchor was knocked loose to drag through the coral reef below.
It spun me around and momentum caused me to lurch upward, hurtling stern-first toward the shallows. I kept my wits, preparing the best I could for the impact. I landed with a hard splash, but it was only a splash and the vessel which is my body remained fully intact.
To right her again, I turned my head and discovered the thin margin between me and disaster. The back of my head had landed no more than half a foot from another barley exposed smallish boulder slightly below the surface. The winds of fortune had gusted enough to keep my head or my back or legs, ribs and hip from being smashed against this granite-guarded shoreline.
It is a funny season. The storms we are getting are only enough to replace the snow that is melting and yet, because of our impatience, we are eager for more terrain to open. It is our hunt for buried treasure. We migrate from the old rock patches and into the new ones, digging beneath X’s. It’s our sense of adventure and obsession with the great fluffy white keeping us interested. Just remember to keep a sharp lookout.
Roger Marolt hopes none of us end up with a wooden leg (or an artificial knee) after all of this. Email at email@example.com.
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If you know where to look, you can discover a plethora of art installations both on and off the mountain in Snowmass.