With El Nino forecast to even decrement our normally less than snowy PNW January and augment the Southwest Rockies, it seemed like a good time for the annual spin down to Silverton.
It's been 16 years in a row that I've done this, sometimes in February to dovetail with kids school vacations, sometimes in April. But now, with a progeny so geared on academic perfection that he deferred to go skiing in lieu of his own developing vectors, I was encouraged by my wonderful wife to go. "If you don't go, you'll be an unbearable asshole". Per usual, she was likely right. It still felt funny to leave that tradition behind and try to forge a new one.
So I packed the sled, a 2006 Audi S4 Avant with a manual and 340 horses under the hood just waiting to be tamed, and, after dropping progeny #1 at the bus, pointed it Southeast.
The drive was eerily easy with none of the raging snow or winds that had been the norm for this continental traverse. Lots of light fog and overcast but the usual summits of Snoqualmie, Umtanum, Cabbage Hill/Emigrant/Deadmans and the Burnt River Bench as the Interstate renumbered from 90 to 82 t0 84 were devoid of storm.
A stop in Umatilla:
And so, after 12 hours of a hard fought semblance of wakefulness and flagons of shitty truck stop coffee, I pulled into Ogden and rendezvoused with the warmth of the extended meats clan for Chinese food and catching up.
Next day emerged with high overcast and laps of styrofoam chalk at Snow Basin, blasting rager laps of high speed groimers and a few chops down the steeper stuff. The meats clan is the best.
I wanted to ski with skifishbum and so rolled on down to Sandy way and landed there. Next day, sfb had commitments, but the word was iceman was en route, so I farted around on Solitude on chalk and empty chairs as a storm brewed.
Skiing was again mostly chalky pack with some soft stashes out in Honeycomb and the There Be Dragons variants. Greybird and quiet. I edged up to take in Wolverine:
That night iceman showed up so we ate and imbibed and yakked the night away. It was snowing hard.
Next day dawned dumping with 11+" new, so our trio of miscreants lapped the various frontsides with stops in Bobs Trees. Honeycomb remained closed. It was icemans return to pow after last years hip wreck. Just so good to lope around in knee deep blower with good buds.
Fun was had, but by early afternoon, the siren call and threat of storm encouraged my carcass back into the sled and up over Soldier Summit, past the Book Ends and finally Red Mountain Pass just as a howler storm closed in.
Soldier Summit can be a bitch as many of you road warriors know, but this time, the snow storm, while consistent, didn't really reduce to whiteout whiteknuckle. And so I rolled up and over, through Price and the notorious speed trap of Wellington and stretched out along the Book Ends past Greenriver as night darked. Once at Grand Junction, I arced off I70 onto 50/550 South through Delta, Montrose, Ridgeway and Ouray.
Red Mountain Pass loomed above in snow, but again, it was just a consistent light snow but with sharper winds rocking the boat. I wound with care up the loops and around bends and coasted down into Silverton in storm with plans to ski in the morning. It was cold, even for Silverton with temperature lurking down in the subzero teens.
Silverton Mountain and Camp Brill Weight Loss and Powder Plan is crazy. Just so crazy. There is nothing else like it in the world. As with anything unique, it has it's adherents and detractors. I love the place and have nothing but respect and admiration for the l00ny vision, the work and the smart and reticent love that drives the place and infuses the team.
So morning 1 is bitching cold, sub zero with a scathing North wind threatening to shut the chair. It's pow pillow scoping, trying to figure out where the wind has left deposits. One thing I learned was that as long as the wind is below 30 mph or so, the snow will load somewhere. Higher than that and it sublimates, ending up as clouds scudding where the winds go. With winds in the 50s at zero F, we had to scour and find we did.
Morning 2 also dawned cold but the wind had abated and it had really laid down the dope. Storm accumulation at mid mountain was at 47". At the top, 36" had been laid down just overnight. It was scary deep and super super light with the big flakes lying on top exposing dendrites of 1/2" or more. BaBaBaBlowerrr snow. I skied with Kim who led us over to the Four Snags, skiers left above the Colorado. It was ridiculous, shuffling through belly deep snow down the ridge to perch over a draw of pillows and trees that I will remember on my death bed. Down in the white room choking, spitting, grabbing a quick scan of the terrain before submerging again. In my 59 years or so of skiing, this was ALLTIME TRENCHTOWN.
am slow on the ups. Really slow. It seems that no matter how hard I train in summer on the ellipticycle, the stairs, biking, and other h00haw, I just can't get my wind. Altitude does nothing for my flatlung. And so in the morning groupings as a lone solo, I opt for the slow to medium groups. The "fast" groups can have too many aggros and I hate slowing people down and dealing with the overt or passive aggressive vibe.
Normally that worked, but I had a few groups this year who were just fucking stupid, didn't listen to the guide and were generally clueless. I was starting to get pissed with one group when I realized that being able to understand and follow directions were ingredients not in their kitchen, tools not in their shed. Getting peeved with a dog that can't do algebra is just a waste of time. So my head moved on. Peace, love and twirly kozmik dancing and all that.
With a Mountain Collective in the holster and Telluride sulking off that pass this year, I decided to visit Aspen. Scouring around on the innert00bs I managed to find a studio downtown for $165/night, a sweet song in the well heeled cacophony of Aspen lodging. So Sunday after the 4th amazing day of bluebee pow and good times at Silverton Mountain all week, in the gloaming I sledded North on 550 to Delta and up over McClure Pass to the RFV and Aspen.
shredhead had blindly offered to meet me at 1a on Aspen Mountain. It had only been 46 years since I last laid ski to Ajax, so I made a plan to meet. 1" had been forecast, but on emerging from the studio, it already seems like more and it was dadadadadumping. Props to him for taking a chance on my age addled ass.
I met shred and off we went on the blazetour of Ajax and goddamn that man rips and rages. I trailed he and his buddies around the labyrinth of groimers, bumps, traverses and trees in the cold howlfest. Massive props for waiting for me and keeping in touch in a baler snowstorm. I had a fucking blast.
As Baba Ram Skibum says:
Ski Here Now:
Vestiges of the 70s remain:
I snortled around Aspen, had a beer at the Red Onion, checked out the shops and furbearing shoppers and kept amused by the lunacy of Aspen. Found a relatively inexpensive bowl of oyakadon with a luscious glass of Flowers Pinot for an almost reasonable bill. Then I just went and passed out.
It was still dumping.
shred had suggested Snowmass possibly for Tuesday and with the ongoing dump and the surprise 1-3" turning into 11+, I rallied to meet up over there. We got on the lift early and rather than following the hoards, bent off perpendicular to that flow and ripped up 2000+ vertical of absolutely virgin thigh deep blower.
Did I mention it was cold?
shred knows the folds and flows of the place so we mined the stashes and eventually followed the crowds up high but as schedules tightened, we skipped riding the high poma and instead rolled back to the base. shredhead suggested I stop at Tiehack on the way back, a lift system unknown to me and so I did, slicing up the choice morsels of pow the beginners feared.
Maroon Bells from Tiehack with Pink Flamingos:
After a restful sleep, I rolled back over McClure to Silverton:
After a wrap and beer at the Avalanche, I napped out to wake Thursday to more bluebird pow with the weeks accumulation up in the mere 20 inches or so. So it was more raging mad honking blower pow turns:
Hot Carl on the upper left sun/shadow, meatball/hot pastrami upper right:
Zone 7 ramp:
Zone 7 shadows:
Weimenuche wilderness peaks:
Just ridiculously good powder skiing, fantastic people.
The most dangerous run on the mountain, avec toupee' de neige:
When the kids were teensy, we'd take turns doing laps up @Silvertonmtn or taking the kids to Kendall and playing in the snow, doing beacon searches in the @silvertonmtn parking lot and eventually runs up @silvertonmtn with the kids as they grew. I loved it, savored it.
So now more solo, I return to more adult activities, dinners, drinks but the shadows remain. Isolation is a funny thing but just another wrinkle to master and work to look forward. I'm finally getting a handle on it. I wobbled around up on Molas a little, close to the road, solo, because it's something I need to work on, because I don't want to be a drag on people and because I'm tired of doing the invites. I'm drinking in life while I can, loping with a little more ease.
“No one ever said that you would live to see the repercussions of everything you do, or that you have guarantees, or that you are not obliged to wander in the dark, or that everything will be proved to you and neatly verified like something in science. Nothing is: at least nothing that is worthwhile. I didn't bring you up only to move across sure ground. I didn't teach you to think that everything must be within our control or understanding. Did I? For, if I did, I was wrong. I fyou won't take a chance, then the powers you refuse because you cannot explain them, will, as they say, make a monkey out of you.”
― Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale
I did hook up with some locals and had fun scraping around at Purgatory while a North wind raked the hill and my face. Then Wednesday rolled around after taking a day off and the Silverton periodicity was about to scoop up again.
The next couple of days, the wind grew and blasted more exposed areas into windboard, so seeking the soft was trickier.
A couple of days of that and it started to snow again:
The third and final dumpfest was on, bookending my interval at Silverton.
Finally, it was Sunday, the last day in the land over the White Wall and I spent the day mining pow with Kim again and a great group of rippers:
“Every action and every scene has its purpose. And the less power one has, the closer he is to the great waves that sweep through all things, patiently preparing them for the approach of a future signified not by simple human equity (a child could think of that), but by luminous and surprising connections that we have not imagined, by illustrations terrifying and benevolent -- a golden age that will show not what we wish, but some bare awkward truth upon which rests everything that ever was and everything that ever will be. There is justice in the world, Peter Lake, but it cannot be had without mystery.” (From Helprin's "Winters Tale")
Then it was time to point the sled west and home again. With a few stops of course.
Back in the sled, I tried to escape the snow, but it followed me up through the rolling hills of Snowville, turning East on I84 through the bovine scented flats of Jerome, past Mountain Home before the visuals got to me and I bailed for a hotel in Boise. And a little stop at a nice wine store there. Yes, nice wine store in I.Duh.Ho. Shower, fude, b33r, nap and I was rolling West again early. In the fucking snow. Again.
Got to North Powder in a snowstorm. What choice lyrics for old ski bums, a perfect prose for a resting spot, North Powder. So I turned off the Interstate and wound my way up the blinding whiteout access road to:
where they had had 10+ inches and it dumped blinding white 10F dendrites all day.
Ramped and raged up there, hitting frontsides and lots of weird side stashes off their complex of ridges and rocks. 20 person lift lines, y0y0 skiing mad laps.
But I was wanting home after being roadborn for 26 days, skiing 23 of them. So at 3 I hopped back in the car hoping to make it home in 6 or 7 hours, a normal drive.
But oh no. Ma Nature gathered up her bile and spewed it in snow all over Northern Oregon and Washington. It took almost 3 hours to get to Umatilla where the Interstates closed. I was stuck and got a motel:
Yes, that's snow on the floor:
And a welcoming ambience from the management:
So a fitfull sleep was attempted with dreams of bedbugs, c00ties and rabid dyspeptic truckers.
I rose early to be blocked at the interstate again.
Drum, drum, drum....wait, wait , wait. By 9:00 all freeways closed so I lit out West on a state highway, picking up I84 at Boardman and slithering in whiteout wakes of massive semis to Biggs/The Dalles where I gassed up, got a snack and climbed up 97 to Satus Pass.
More whiteout, trucks, clouds, snow, sun finally winding down into Yakima in around 5 hours from Umatilla. The storm finally began to abate.
I wanted to go rip around with some k00ks at Mission, but I was out of juice. Alpental didn't have the draw for me by 4:00 when I finally crested Snoqualmie. I rolled in home at dark and got the hugs I'd missed.
A great trip, a fantastic time and I kept thinking what an incredibly lucky fucker I am.
Thanks to the Meats Brothers and Clan, sfb and iceman, The Whole Silverton Mountain Crew (Jen, Aaron, Shockley, Kim, Yanko, Calvin, Courtney, Rob, Emma, Sean, Sierra, Skyler, Keely, Grady, Bill, Charlie, Tyler, Coulter, Stillwell, Troy, Cameron, Tom, Caleb, Fabio, Krista, Munch, Josh and that HeliGogglist Mark88 and whoever I've spaced just now ), shredhead and pals and Cosmic Suncloud and family.
*message edited by Chester_Tartsnatcher op 12 Feb 2019 00:48