PHOTO: David Reddick
PHOTO: David Reddick

The Simple Truth

A bittersweet powder day at Alta reminds us of one simple truth

PHOTO: David Reddick

This is the intro, from the editor, for the September issue of POWDER, which is on newsstands now. Can’t find it? Subscribe here for just $15.

When Ben and I skated up to the chair after another laughably good run, we saw Siri in the lift line. I recognized her thick brown ponytail and baby-blue jacket. She had deeply tan cheeks that, this time of year, only mountain people have. She greeted us with her big, warm smile and kind eyes and joined us.

On the chairlift, while holding back tears, Siri explained why it was a difficult week at Alta. A patroller—whom Siri knew well—had died by suicide. Making matters even more devastating, the patroller's avalanche dog, now fixer-less, seemed heartbroken. But this was a beautiful day—and the world, despite the tragedy, felt anew. It was 17 degrees at the base and fat, fluffy flakes were hammering Alta relentlessly. After weeks of warm temps, the storm dropped 26 inches in 24 hours. In windward areas, the snow was waist deep.

Siri got a tip that ski patrol was about to open Keyhole, a steep 1,000-foot-long prize from the shoulder of Alta into Snowbird. On the wonderfully paced Wildcat chair, we chatted about her energy healing business. She often works with her former Alta School classmate, Angel Collinson, with therapy that helps the professional skier remain calm, focused, and balanced while on the road chasing mind-blowing ski descents all winter.

At the top, we followed a ski patroller past the gate as he broke trail and traversed to the far edge of the ski area boundary. The snowfall seemed to pause for a minute, and the sun pierced the clouds and turned an untouched, fall-away slope golden. The patroller dropped in without hesitation or a word. Siri turned to us, told us to have fun, and followed. I entered a tunnel—the great white abyss. Nothing mattered but my next turn. Snow thwapped me in the chest and face. I saw snow billow up and over the head of Ben, who is six feet tall, and I saw Siri.

During her freshmen year of college, Siri had a horrible ski racing accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. She had to relearn how to walk and how to ski. She suffered bouts of depression and anger—all things that were difficult to imagine watching her ski now. Siri linked flawless turns on an untouched flank. Rising and falling and reaching for more with her downhill arm with every turn. She skied with intention, every movement tight and efficient. Her turns were all substance, no flash.

When I pulled up to her at the bottom I was speechless and breathless, but I muttered something about how lucky we were to be skiers. Siri looked at me with her big, beautiful smile, snow covering her head to toe, and said: "We are the gods and goddesses of the planet."

This story originally appeared in the September 2017 (46.1) issue of POWDER. To have great stories delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.