The Special Joys of Flying Solo

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: January 16, 2018

I’m not anti-social, but left with the choice of skiing by myself or not skiing at all, I’m going skiing.

I suppose part of me, the walled-off writer part, is happily misanthropic, but my skiing self is inherently social. The best ski days are those shared with family and friends who feel like family. But if I only have a few hours to ski, companionship is optional. I don’t mind driving up to the slopes without a partner in tow or a rendezvous ahead. I need the catharsis only skiing provides however I can manage to get my fix.

Even when I’m flying solo, I’m never alone for long, thanks to the lift system. During yesterday morning’s 3-hour sprint around Mt. Rose (Nevada), I made the acquaintance of:

  • Nancy, a good skier who loves the trees. She plans to get fat Lib Tech skis for powder as she thinks they’ll hold better on hard snow than her Armadas.
  • A local who drives by Rose on his way to work, resulting in 43 days on snow already, during a lousy year. Would be more, but for holiday congestion.
  • Two young gals rocking the ski bum lifestyle. Great attitude: “I came here to ski,” one avers, referring to her failed efforts to roust another partner on this overcast day.
  • A teenage boarder who unplugs his ear buds to inform me that if you proceed slowly, you can find great lines in the trees off Bruce’s. Further proof that, in the immortal words of Firesign Theatre, “You can never tell where it’s going to come from.”
  • A young couple on demo skis (Rossi E88 HD) who wanted to know what I worked on when, like today, I could ski my own skis instead of testing others. I think I said keeping my vision downhill when skiing in the trees, but that was only partly true.

The full truth is that when I ski solo I may work on a particular detail, like leveling my shoulders, but mostly I try not to think at all lest thought interfere with the sensation I’m trying to feel. I let the mountain’s features define my flow in the gravity stream that pours down its slopes. I don’t think about a quiet, upright upper body; it just is. I’m reduced to eyes and feet: where I look, I go.

My most joyous run of the morning wasn’t in the loose snow of the trees or even the uncut cream of the first descent, when the snow’s unblemished topskin shimmered where dappled sunlight caught it; instead, it was on relative flats, flowing from one high edge to another, the languid feel of full extension, a rhythmic tuck and sink, feeling the skis rise to an ever higher angle, the pressure on the shins relentless, the hips as quiet as a prayer.

What made that particular run resonate within was how clean it felt, every decision to change direction or radius seamlessly connected to the whole, as if the 15 or so turns I had taken were one. I don’t remember thinking anything during that run, but I remember how it felt and I bet I was smiling.

Your Editor tucked among the trees on Slide Mountain.

Whether in whole or in part, every run I took yesterday morning was special. The trees hid small pockets of soft snow that could be linked through judicious turn selection. The threatening weather held off until almost noon when the fog and drizzle drifted in. I’d had three hours of uninterrupted bliss, which I’ll take any day.

By now the Alert Reader may wonder, what’s my point? My point is, don’t find excuses not to ski, for you’ll always be able to find them if you try.   And if you are able to break the gravitational pull of the daily grind and get out to play, accept that you have to ski the mountain as you find it.

Would I have preferred to be stepping off the Snowbird tram into two feet of Wasatch white? You betcha. But for a soggy Tuesday morning, Mt. Rose was my Snowbird, and two inches of wind-affected, saturated snow was my two feet of fresh, but as the Bard wrote, “‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.”

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