WORDS: John Clary Davies
I wasn't planning on skiing that day, but as I drove over Mount Hood on a Tuesday afternoon in March on my way to visit a girl named Christina in Bend, it was snowing so hard I had to blink a lot as I climbed the mountain road.
Veering into the Ski Bowl parking lot wasn't even a conscious decision, just the natural thing to do at the time. I had all my gear with me, because I was thinking about skiing Bachelor the next day, so I stripped to my Hanes in the parking lot and put my uniform on.
As I approached the Upper Bowl chair, I realized nobody was there. It was 3:45; I didn't get it. I asked the stoned liftie what the deal was. He told me the chairs don't open until 3:30 midweek. Oh. I loaded the lift, and as I ascended, I realized the entire bowl was untracked. There were five other skiers on the old double.
I used to ski by myself a lot as a kid. I didn't want to be associated with my parents, and we lived a couple hours from the hill, so I didn't know anybody in my hometown that skied like we did. I rarely do it now, but there's a lot of value in skiing solo. The solitude, the time for introspection, the freedom to ski wherever the hell you want and not wait for anybody.
I went straight to all my favorite lines. Then I repeated them, because I was the only one skiing there. I skied really fast, through trees and off the cliff bands underneath the chairlift. I made big slashes to dump speed and refresh my face with blower snow. I hiked up to my favorite line, wading up to my waist for 20 minutes, then pointing it. As I rode the chairlift back up, skiers were freaking out—hollering, shrieking, yelling, "This is the best day of my life!" to nobody in particular as they exploded into the white.
I stopped in to the historic mid-mountain hut for dinner. I had a sausage. By the time I came back out, the 9 to 5ers from Portland had caught on, the liftline now about a dozen people long. I took a few more laps under the glow of the lights, then packed up and completed my drive to Bend. I got to town late and went straight to the Bend Brewing Company where Christina was waiting with friends. They didn't really understand why I was still wearing my bibs, or why I couldn't stop smiling. But it didn't really matter.