PHOTO: Garrett Grove
PHOTO: Garrett Grove

Nothing Compares to the First Powder Day of Winter

Essays that capture why we ski, part two

These six essays originally appeared as the intros to the six issues of our 45th volume. To receive future intros in their original print, sign up here.

PHOTO: Garrett Grove

II: Here We Go

The morning was silent. I looked outside the cabin: the muted navy blue of dawn and a coat of overflowing white. It was the first powder day of the season. But I don't like to be in a hurry. I fried an egg. I pressed coffee. I slowly put on my ski pants, my jacket, my snowboots. I grabbed my pack, my gloves, my Langes, and closed the front door behind me.

The trail to the car was untouched, the road through the forest was untouched, the edges of the ski hill were untouched.

The storm persisted. On the chairlift, with an old ski friend—someone I see throughout the winter, but rarely any other time—the snow came in horizontally, the wind spitting little white flecks. The only exposed part of my face, the space from my lips to my nostrils, burned. The ancient lift groaned its way up the mountain. We just laughed. Riding this slow chair, getting pounded by winter—this is the most comfortable place we know.

There are days when you worry. About rocks, avalanches, tree wells, aging joints, the immeasurable expenses of this lifestyle. This was not one of those days. This was a homecoming. The mountain was nothing but welcoming. Winter had just started. The snow was here. We had everything to look forward to.

We lapped that lift a dozen times. We took turns following one another—through tight trees, off rocks, across open meadows. We took hilarious spills and made turns that we'd remember when trying to fall asleep that night.

Once, I pushed down a ridge, farther than normal. I've skied this mountain my entire life. My parents have skied here their entire lives. Still, surprises. I stood atop a couloir I had never seen before, off the backside. It was steep and narrow. Beautiful. Frightening. I admired it, then turned around and sped through a sprawling bowl filled with fresh snow, trying to catch my friend.

It came time for a break. We pushed open the heavy door with the steel latch to the hut. The stone fireplace was blazing. I tore off layers. My face was dripping, thawing. The thick wooden tables were full of soups, beers, and familiar faces. I realized I had missed even the ones whose names I didn't know.

Read Part I: Welcome Back
Read Part III: Just Go
Read Part IV: In Deep
Read Part V: Our Own Sense of Time
Read Part VI: The Good Life

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