On skiing all the time

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Storms, avalanches, and graduate school interviews are my excuses for not writing much. Since the new year, we’ve had a prolonged spell of high pressure that reduced avalanche danger to almost nil and threatened to expose grass on south-facing and lower elevation slopes, an historic storm that dropped well north of 100 inches in 10 days and prompted an historic avalanche cycle, and now, some odd mix of both.

Through it all, I’ve skied every day, but with a shifting set of expectations and goals, and with a shifting definition of what skiing — what good skiing — should itself be. Though this trend of thought began when I moved to Oregon and couldn’t afford lift tickets for mediocre resorts, it’s reached what feels like a final destination of sorts this winter, with flotation mandatory for any trip away from my door.

Put simply, skiing has become both more utilitarian and more liberating. I’ve had my share of perfect powder and cranked turns down steep faces this year, but mostly, I’ve skiied to cover ground in the winter woods. To commute, as a substitute for running, as a tool for backpacking, and just to slide through aspen groves in rolling foothills, crossing the tracks of ptarmigans and snowshoe hair and ermine.

It’s a huge spectrum, but dividing the sport into endless subdisciplines doesn’t appeal to me much, however preocupying its techniques and gear can be. As the ski poet puts it: JFS. Just fuckin’ ski.
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The steep and cliffy walls of the Copper Creek drainage.
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Glades off Red Rock Mountain in its winter coat.
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One of those perfect clearings you leave far too soon.
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This morning I skiied the ridge to the right, then down the chute off the saddle. Sheltered from the wind, the snow was beautiful and the heterogenous terrain allowed for a conservative but fun line.
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Last month, during our long streak of clear skis and stable snow, Kate and I skiied Red Lady (12392′), Crested Butte’s second-most iconic peak, and site of an ongoing debate over a molybdenum mine.
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Wind sweeping a sea of peaks in the Elk Range.
The road from my cabin to town at dawn after almost every avalanche path on Snodgrass Mountain shed its load, most running far enough to cover the trail deep with debris and destroy numerous aspen.

Ski safe out there.


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