Jess Kunzer, between brunch and art class. PHOTO: Owen Boyer

Words: Heather Hansman

We knew when we went to bed that night it was going to be good the next day. It was dumping fill-up-your-footprints flakes as we walked home from dinner, wine-ed up and giggling in one of those overplayed girl stereotypes.

I almost never get to ski with just girls, but this trip was different. We'd flown in to Salt Lake from Colorado and Jackson and Seattle, respectively, specifically to gang ski. Sundance was the first stop, because Robert Redford should be a part of every chick trip.

It was still pounding when we got on the lift in the morning and nothing had been skied. It was a weekday, but I think most days there are that quiet. People go to Sundance to take art classes and wear cowboy hats, so if you want to ski, you get empty chairs and untouched steep shots. At least, that's what we got. We traced the edges of the trees to give us contrast in the flat light. We skied fast, pushing snow so deep I forgot to breathe.

This season hurt. It felt heavy and ragged even before avalanches killed people I cared about, and a long fall put one of my best friends in the hospital for the long run. Before I headed to Sundance, I'd had one fluke October deep day in Colorado, and a few half decent ones in the Cottonwoods. I had a niggling "do I even really like skiing?" feeling after weeks of scratchy resort days and long tours to 20-degree pitches.

Turns out I still like skiing. It's easy to remember when you're lacing through perfectly spaced trees, leaning into thigh-deep snow. It helps when you do it with people you love. We dropped off rocks, threw spreaders, and sang on the lift rides. We pushed back lunch three times. We came in soggy and bushed, with stringy hair and soaked jackets. We looked good.

Perfect days are algebra. You need the right parts in the right proportions: People and snow and something else, a feeling that you happened to be in the right place at the right time, that things aligned and you got lucky.

By the time we took our boots off, the skies had cleared, it was getting warmer, and the snow near the bottom of the mountain had turned wet and gluey. The storm was passing and it was obvious that the next day wouldn't be as good.

(This summer, we’re looking back at our best days of the winter. Read about night skiing at Mount Hood, PNW deep and light, and opening day at Killington.)