Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of The Odds Are Good, a semi-regular column by Heather Hansman about real life stories in the ski world and things like beards, living in shacks, and getting into Canada.
T.S. Elliot said that April is the cruelest month. With all due respect, that guy had it wrong. April surprises you in a good way, with secret storm days and occasional on-hill nudity. It’s November that’s a real son-of-a-bitch. Each snowfall adds up, but it will still be a while before the getting is good.
We should know better, because it always goes like this, slow and unsteady. Resorts are eking open acreage. Every storm followed by a clear night builds a sketchy striation of early season snowpack. Last week, two naturally triggered avalanches kicked off on Mount Baldy at Alta and slid to the ground. And a group of skiers in Jackson triggered an early season slide that injured one. More early season slides and accidents are coming. If you haven’t already, get hooked in to the workings of your local avalanche center. Some, like the Bridger-Teton, even send out daily emails. Nothing bad can come from signing up for it. We should all have the phrase “faceted weak layer” burned into our brains by now.
November tests your patience. It sticks its finger an inch from your face and says, “I’m not touching you.” And there is nothing you can do about it.
Maybe you’re a super patient person. Maybe you are good at grocery lines and shavasana; you can look at the high and dry weather radar and let it go. I am not like that, and neither is anyone I know. November is hard.
These days, I am so impatient that I check Instagram at stoplights because the reds take too long. This is a terrible idea for two reasons. A: You’re not looking at the road. And B: Seeing how much snow fell on Cody Townsend’s pumpkin in Squaw, or how deep it looks in Utah doesn’t do anything positive for the snow situation at Crystal. Or my attitude, for that matter. The interwebs give us a false sense of how rad other people’s live are, but there’s nothing you can do to skip the track to storm skiing.
So you have a couple of options for how to spend your November:
You can froth: Keep refreshing the NOAA web page. Go to all of the movie premieres to get in shape for drinking and bro bonding. Post inanimate pictures of your ski outfit on Newschoolers and see what the response is like (not recommended).
You can go outside and stretch your muscles: Call it ski season light. Skin something low-angle and stable so that your hip flexors remember what it feels like to move uphill. Session the early season white ribbon of death and mini park. Tell yourself—like you do every November—that this is the year you’re actually going to get good at skiing said mini park. (Just don’t mess up your knee while practicing that switch 180, OK?)
You can be patient. Good luck.
November comes with a false sense of entitlement. It starts snowing and we feel like we should be able to flip the switch to deep winter. But (attention, teenage boys), a build up can be a good thing. November is Christmas Eve, you just have to make it through the night. Let the layers settle and the snow keep falling. At this point there is a 100 percent chance that this will be the best winter ever. You haven’t been shut down yet by a sketchy snowpack, or closed passes, or that friend who always forgets their goddamn goggles on a powder day. Your ACLs are the strongest they’re going to be and nothing hurts. Go do some wall sits. Memorize the phone number for avie center’s phone updates. Watch Teddybear Crisis for the zillionteenth time. Check the ‘grams. Or don’t. It’ll come.