I lost my mantra in Hanging Valley
Now that the skiing conditions are getting good, I’ll be busting out my rock skis.
It’s out of necessity, not choice.
I lost one of my Volkl Mantra skis in Hanging Valley at Snowmass on Saturday. I was having a great day — four runs in the trees before heading up the High Alpine lift and taking the short hike to access the Hanging Valley Headwall. I was ecstatic after traversing the bench after the Headwall and picking my way through the trees to the expansive terrain on the lower steep section. I picked a fine line where Big Spruce separates from Valley Valley and plowed through boot-high powder. Much of the powder was cut up but soft, and decent patches of untracked snow could still be found. I made a turn to skier’s left, nothing drastic, when I experienced every skier’s nightmare by stepping out of a binding. I kept careening forward on my left ski and fell forward on a steep pitch.
Thereafter, I became that poor sap you occasionally see floundering in the powder for a lost ski. I planted my other ski where I landed, then searched an area roughly 4 feet wide and 10 feet upslope, probing the entire time with my poles. I sunk beyond my boots and sometimes well up my thighs in the bottomless snow.
Many people were nice. Maybe 20 stopped to see if I was hurt and about 10 helped search and offered encouragement for a short time. But the skiing was unreal, and I instantly encouraged the Good Samaritans to go have fun.
I searched in vain for two hours. Sometime into the second hour, I called the ski patrol to inquire about options for getting out. The dispatcher said they keep loaners for just that occasion. The patrol responded to a medical emergency a short time later, so I kept searching. A very nice veteran patrolman by the name of Rob showed up when I hit the two-hour mark of the search. By that time I’d given up on my mantra of “I’ll find it. I’ll find it.”
It felt almost like I was abandoning my dog. I love those skis, but by that time I figured I was somehow off track with my search or had compacted the snow and buried the ski.
Rob, unfortunately, had bad news. They had no loaner skis available. He babysat me while I zigzagged out of the Hanging Valley terrain on one ski. Usually when you leave that terrain you hit the boring flat of the Elk Camp trails way too soon. On this occasion, I couldn’t have been happier to reach Sandy Park.
Skiing the groomer on one leg was actually sort of fun and produced a satisfying deep quad burn. Rob and I made it to the upper Elk Camp Gondola terminal with no problems. He took my contact information and description of the lost ski and said it will likely show up in the spring. A skier will encounter it and place it upright for the patrol to harvest.
If so, good deal. If not, I’m already planning my hiking scavenger hunt once the snow melts.
And never again will I snicker at the dork searching for a lost ski.
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American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.