Memories of skiing in the powder

Reading the Powder Magazine story, referenced below about skiing in the powder reminded me of the lengths that friends and I would go through to get the first tracks down the mountain. The feelings those untracked runs generated and the sheer addiction that we all had for gliding through the snow. There is a reason that those of us who have skied in the powder, still remember those top few days skiing down the mountain in silence with the snow flying into our faces and over our heads. 

As a ski instructor during my college winter quarters, I was lucky as during those 11 weeks, my purpose was to teach skiing and to ski as much as possible. Early on, when it came to powder skiing, there was a painful and often very frustrating learning curve. Thus, when finally achieving mastery, it made the experience all the better.

Back in the days, prior to the wide powder skis we all learned to ski powder on skinny skis that sunk far down into the snow. It took hours of thigh burning practice and many falls to find and maintain the right position over your skis to keep them moving and turning.  Then there was the inevitable lost ski and the sometimes massive effort it took to find a buried ski that may have slid 10’ through the snow, below your fall or was stuck someplace above where you landed. 

In the early days of ski brakes, we wondered if, in fact, it was best to still wear safety straps and risk injury due to a ski getting stuck on a submerged tree or hit in the head from a windmilling ski. Or was it better to risk losing a ski and potentially spending hours looking for that ski.

Searching for skis in bottomless powder was no fun, especially when every step that you took resulted in sinking up to your waist.  In fact, it was even dangerous.  As we earned our powder skiing stripes and the runs became steeper and the powder deeper falling was no longer an option. 

Once we earned those powder skiing stripes, no alarm clock went off too early if it meant being the first person on the chairlifts. As a ski instructor and employee of the mountain, there was the extra benefit of joining the ski patrol as they cleared the mountain for avalanches. As the runs were cleared and hours before the lifts were open to the general public we were making our tracks.

There was a feeling of accomplishment and pride when looking back up the mountain and seeing your flawless tracks through the middle of an otherwise pristine section of powder. I still remember the first time I experienced the type of powder made famous in Utah.  I remember pushing from the top of the chairlift to the run just beneath the chairlift and going from packed powder to waist deep snow and hoping that I would be able to turn. There is a big difference between boot top powder and powder up to your waist.

As I started to make that first run and my skis were miraculously turning, there was another unexpected problem, I could not breathe. The snow was so light that during the middle of every turn it was flying into my face and filling my mouth such that I had to spit it out or just keep my mouth closed. I had heard about people in Utah using snorkels and at that moment, I knew why.

While, I have had many great days of skiing with friends my memories of powder skiing revolve around the experience alone and the feelings of floating, the silence and the connection with my surroundings. You really felt like part of the environment. 

[There’s a Reason You Can’t Stop Thinking About Skiing | POWDER](

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