A New President, A New Season

On opening day at Mammoth, some much needed perspective

POWDER Editor John Clary Davies gains some perspective after election week during Mammoth Mountain's opening day. PHOTO: David Reddick
POWDER Editor John Clary Davies gains some perspective after election week during Mammoth Mountain’s opening day. PHOTO: David Reddick

On Thursday I stood atop Mammoth Mountain, watching my friends drop into a couloir one by one. It didn’t hold any lingering rocks, just buffed out, smooth snow. The type you can sink your edges into with trust. I let it take me, floating past an icy section, then taking speed into a patch of untouched chalk, throwing some snow into my face with a slash, before making long turns to catch up with my friends below.

After a morning of announcements and toasts and DJs and general hoopla and long lines for the first chairs of California’s ski season, the place had cleared out. We had a group of eight—the POWDER staff and several longtime contributors—and we walked right on the gondola, lap after lap after lap. And the skiing was good. Open from the top. The seven available runs all filled in, smooth, soft. Dave’s and Climax—sporty lines off the top of the mountain—were both skiing great. Not bad for opening day. Given everything that happened last week, it was more than just the start of a new season.

Tuesday was intense. The staff scrambled to finish the January issue before our deadline that night. As I sat with our art director, Tyler Hartlage, checking page numbers while listening to Bruce Springsteen songs, it was hard not to be distracted by the election results that began trickling in. Like a lot of people in the country, we had been consumed by it, and knew what was on the line. By the time the staff and I left the office, around 7 pm, I still didn’t believe Hillary Clinton was going to lose the election—how could a Trump presidency be a real thing?—but we all knew it was going to be close.

After leaving the office, associate editor Julie Brown and I went out to dinner and watched newscasters continue to announce results. By the time we finished our food, the election was, for all intents and purposes, over. America decided that Donald Trump should be the next president. Once home, I went for a long walk around my neighborhood. I was appalled at the amount of hate and apathy among white people in this country, and scared for the world. I called my girlfriend and my mom—we were angry and frightened. We cried together.

Wednesday felt like a day of mourning—for decency? For progress? For democracy? The POWDER staff and I spent the day in the car headed toward Mammoth in a state of bewildered sorrow. I couldn’t help but scroll through the reactions of my friends and followers and read the stories about what a Trump presidency was going to look like. I felt sick.

We rolled into Mammoth late that night—the stars bright. The next morning held promise. I boarded the first lift of our season—Mammoth’s gondola—with seven friends. We toasted Tecates and played soul music and didn’t check Facebook and felt at ease knowing one simple thing: We were going skiing again. The first turns felt odd at first, but soon the muscle memory came back.

We skied through the tight rocks on Climax and a wide open, wind-buffed Dave’s. Chris Benchetler, Tim Durtschi, and David Reddick gave our editorial fellow, Sam, a mullet, simply because it seemed like a good thing to do. We had lunch on the deck. The crowds thinned as the party grew there, but we kept going. We skied long after the front side of the mountain turned shady. Around 3, we headed down to the parking lot and stood around the car drinking “Black Birds” and eating Doritos. We talked about how good the snow was and our plans for the coming season.

After an election that felt so anomalous, so unrepresentative of who we are and what we believe, skiing put us back in a familiar place. Those motions, that community, were beautifully normal.

I won’t pretend the day meant more than it did—it was just a single day of skiing. I know that we cannot retreat into the mountains and distance ourselves from the realities of our country. After a few dizzying days, it was fantastic for my mental health and a natural reminder of the wonderful community I’ve found myself in, of the control I have over my life—even if it’s just in how I make a turn on skis down a mountainside—and of who and what I hold dearest, and need to continue to advocate for.

On Friday, we got back in the car, and as we headed home, we talked about how we felt compelled to leverage the POWDER community. We know to be grateful for days like the one we just had, to never take them for granted. We also know that now, more than ever, we’ll have to fight with everything we have to protect our ability to have them—to be proponents for clean air, healthy water, and snowy mountains. I don’t know what exactly that looks like, but as we returned to the world, one thing above all else was abundantly clear: We had a lot of work to do.

John Clary Davies is the editor of POWDER.