High-fives for Blue Skies

For a skier there may not be a greater feeling than carving through deep, untracked powder (well, that and taking your ski boots off). Like the perfect wave or the pull of a giant chrome steelie, powder is the skier’s drug of choice. Unlike other ski areas in the west, the storm-sun cycle is pretty rare and the best snow storms are often followed by more storms or cold stormy weather. There are some that say a day on the slopes is better than a day at the office and generally I would agree with that statement. The last few seasons though I’ve also had a lot of days where I found myself standing on the ridge wishing my goggles had windshield wipers and questioning the lifties decision to continue to run the chair turned tilt awhirl. It is in those moments that my mind wanders nostalgic to those spring days where chair rides are for soaking up goggle tans and rather than how best to shield yourself from sideways graupel. That is why for me almost as glorious as a deep powder day is a warm blue-bird spring ski day. 

Like powder skiing, I first experienced the glory of spring skiing while living in Lake Tahoe. Many a spring days did I spend with friends cruising the sun softened slopes, hero snow as they say, capped off with a beer (or two) sitting around the grill and telling stories in the Kirkwood parking lot. Almost like a victory lap at the racetrack, there is a relaxed satisfaction that comes with spring skiing. The energy and stoke that is spent all season getting after storm days and untracked lines gives way to cruising laps and enjoying the scenery. And in a town like Tahoe or (insert most Colorado resorts) those victory spring laps can stretch for a month or more.

For the past several years, the kind folks at Inland Northwest Toyota Dealers have offered free ski days at several resorts, including one of my favorites Brundage Mountain. I was already excited at the prospects of ditching the office for the slopes when I checked the weather forecast on Monday. Doth my eyes deceive me? Friday’s forecast called for clear skies, sun, and mid 40 degrees up on the mountain. Normally I wouldn’t condone such mild weather at the end of February, but I welcomed a brief reprieve from windy days and low visibility. I told Dana with metered excitement as I knew that anything outside of an hour forecast is subject to pure falsehood and disappointment. I rechecked the forecast constantly throughout the week and each day offered the same prediction – sunny high in the mid-40s. We decided to take extra precautions not to jinx what was lining up to be a great day. I left my cloudy lenses in my goggles, we left food shopping to the last minute, packed extra layers, and left the grill to the very last thing I packed in the truck. My hopes were riding high and I wanted to make sure they didn’t come tumbling down.

Friday morning as we drove up to the mountain low clouds laid along the valley floor with frost covered trees lining the road, not signs we were hoping to see. But as we drove through town I could see the mountain rising above the cover, keeping my hopes alive. To my surprise as we pulled into the parking lot there were very few cars. Did I have the wrong day? Did Toyota change its mind? Are we the only ones who like spring skiing? Locating the Toyota crew, I rolled down the window to greet the rep and was surprised to find the temperatures to be surprisingly warm for ten in the morning. I (somewhat) jokingly offered up a toy-Yoda in return for a second free ticket. They accepted and what was already lining up to be a good day got even better. Sun, warmth, free skiing, and empty slopes equaled answered prayers. 

Getting ready we shed layers and switched goggle lens excited at the prospect of riding the chair without having to huddle down into our jackets. With so few people on the mountain, the lifties seemed share in our spring skiing attitude leaving us to figure out the loading line on our own. Buckled down and strapped in Jake, Dana, and I headed down for our first of many relaxed wide-open runs. We stuck to the south facing slopes in the morning where the sun had softened up the snow to an enjoyable condition. We stopped frequently to enjoy the views, chat, and snap a few photos. The lack of crowds meant quick turn arounds and lots of laps. 

After about two hours it was time for lunch. On a good snow day lunch usually looks like a Formula 1 pit stop – restroom, quick drink, granola bar, and back out on the slopes. On this day though the lunch break was half the reason we were there. With the tailgate down and brats on the grill we soaked up the noon-time sun. The Tennessee muscle relaxer was uncorked, and we decided that after lunch it might be best to ride the long slow triple chair for a little siesta. Overhead a few clouds threatened to roll in, but they’d be hard pressed to ruin our mood.  

Bellies full and libations finished we headed back out for a few more hours before our legs tapped out. The clouds seemed to have gotten the hint that this day was for the sun and they obliged to roll along. After another hour or so, satisfied that we squeezed the most out of our free day of skiing we decided to call it a day. Back at the trucks we happily shed boots and unnecessary jackets. After a few last high-fives we parted ways and headed back home, our faces a little burned and our smiles a little bigger. Now, I’m certainly not ready to call this ski season done. Heck its only the beginning of March after all and I wouldn’t mind a few more storms. That said, the days are getting longer, and I wouldn’t mind a few more victory laps to wrap up another great ski season. 


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