Skibowl by night. PHOTO: JOHN CLARY DAVIES

WORDS: John Clary Davies

I wasn't planning on skiing that day, but as I drove over Mount Hood on a Tuesday afternoon in March on my way to visit a girl named Christina in Bend, it was snowing so hard I had to blink a lot as I climbed the mountain road.

Veering into the Ski Bowl parking lot wasn't even a conscious decision, just the natural thing to do at the time. I had all my gear with me, because I was thinking about skiing Bachelor the next day, so I stripped to my Hanes in the parking lot and put my uniform on.

As I approached the Upper Bowl chair, I realized nobody was there. It was 3:45; I didn't get it. I asked the stoned liftie what the deal was. He told me the chairs don't open until 3:30 midweek. Oh. I loaded the lift, and as I ascended, I realized the entire bowl was untracked. There were five other skiers on the old double.

I used to ski by myself a lot as a kid. I didn't want to be associated with my parents, and we lived a couple hours from the hill, so I didn't know anybody in my hometown that skied like we did. I rarely do it now, but there's a lot of value in skiing solo. The solitude, the time for introspection, the freedom to ski wherever the hell you want and not wait for anybody.

I went straight to all my favorite lines. Then I repeated them, because I was the only one skiing there. I skied really fast, through trees and off the cliff bands underneath the chairlift. I made big slashes to dump speed and refresh my face with blower snow. I hiked up to my favorite line, wading up to my waist for 20 minutes, then pointing it. As I rode the chairlift back up, skiers were freaking out—hollering, shrieking, yelling, "This is the best day of my life!" to nobody in particular as they exploded into the white.

I stopped in to the historic mid-mountain hut for dinner. I had a sausage. By the time I came back out, the 9 to 5ers from Portland had caught on, the liftline now about a dozen people long. I took a few more laps under the glow of the lights, then packed up and completed my drive to Bend. I got to town late and went straight to the Bend Brewing Company where Christina was waiting with friends. They didn't really understand why I was still wearing my bibs, or why I couldn't stop smiling. But it didn't really matter.

(This summer, we're looking back at our best days of the winter. Read about opening day at Killington, PNW deep and light, and gang skiing at Sundance.)