On occasions it was difficult to decide which way was up as I attempted my first day of powder skiing of the season. It had snowed a bit during the night and much harder early in the morning. I spent a couple of hours clearing around guests cars and a path across the terrace before breakfast, my earlier efforts almost completely refilled by the time I stopped. Now I am attempting to rediscover the joys of fresh snow, it is more challenging than I remember.
The light is flat and visibility is minimal through the driving snow, I recall that scary whiteout day last year and promise myself that I will head in before it gets too bad and continue with my efforts. The snow is knee deep even on the ‘bashed’ runs, increasing in places to nearly waist deep in places. No chance of watching your skis when it’s like this, just head down hill slowly, leaning back in the vane hope of lifting the front of the skis high enough to ride the powder whilst changing direction as gently as possible to minimise spillages.
Fallen over again, completely immersed in snow, not quite sure what I am doing wrong but face planting in such deep snow doesn’t hurt, it’s just a struggle to get back up again, as everything gives. You can’t push yourself up as its all too soft, the trick, I guess, is to maneuver yourself over your skis before standing straight up onto them again, reaching deep down into the snow with a pole until it hits harder ground below. It’d be nigh on impossible to find a ski if you lost one in conditions like these. I hope that I don’t.
Further down the slope I join a more used part of the piste which is all churned up but much easier to ski. Previously used techniques work better on the more solid surface although it is proving challenging for many people and there are more people on the ground than normal. Amazingly there is an atmosphere of fun, I can hear people laughing and shouting out to each other, obviously enjoying the challenge, visibility is a bit better too, good enough to see folk moving at all speeds through the snow, some tumbling and falling, arms, legs and skis at all angles, quickly getting up again, full of smiles, ready to go again. I stop for a few moments to watch a group drop gracefully down the opposite side of the valley hoping to learn a trick or two, before heading on down to the lift again.
Unlike other days, it is a joy to sit down and rest on the way back up the mountain, usually the runs are over so fast and effortlessly the ride back up is a bit of a drag. Not today, I am not as fit as I like to imagine and am using different muscles in my legs to normal. It’s good to take a break. Surprisingly, sat on a chairlift in the driving snow I am as warm as toast, the effort is contributing well and the two extra layers are almost unnecessary, the balaclava, however is worth its weight in gold, keeping the snow from going down my neck and my chin and nose warm. On the way up I hope that my estate agent is well again soon and hope that things will start to proceed with my house soon. I try planning how to install the hot water system but it's not even worth considering today, it's skiing and snow and that is all that is important when you seize the day.
Here we go again, I keep trying to get to another run, but each time I get to the top I have a huge urge to return to the same slope. Eventually it’ll work like a dream, so I try again. I must remember how those people were skiing when I watched them earlier. Over the edge, looking into the distance, putting more weight on the back of the skis than I thought possible and wow. It works, I gain speed and transfer my weight to turn, gently, gently, so as not to cause too much disturbance and around I go, level up and back the other way, gently yet firmly, I turn the other way, catch the rythm and bounce down the slope. Thats the feeling, thats how it needs to be done. I gather speed, snow sprays up from time to time, stinging my face as I carve a deep serpenting line down the slope. It’s dark again. I did something and am now stationary and buried in snow. Light filters through so I can tell which way is up, I move my legs to check that all is intact and I still have both my skis, all present and correct. I struggle to get the right way up against the soft giving snow, resting for a minute or two to get my breath before continuing, exhilaration, wonder, amazement. The clouds clear and I glance up the mountain to see my traces in the snow, I have covered a decent distance and my tracks look great.
Back on my feet and moving again, I’ve rediscovered the magic that is powder skiing, it’s such a different sensation to regular skiing, almost silent and perhaps in slow motion, it’s difficult to explain but wonderful to do. I recall how the mountain falls away below me and head for another area where I know there’ll be deep powder, I cross a major thoroughfare, adjusting my technique for the differing terrain, keeping a lookout through the murky air for other skiers and off down a side track. To the left there is a steep drop that will take me back to the lift, I tip over the edge, fairly slowly and choose my path, the snow is still falling yet I can see further than I have done in a while, choosing my route down a pristine slope to the left, slowly, to the right, slowly, no sudden movements, be definite and flowing, there, what a sensation, that’s what it’s all about and on, and on, tracks ahead, I make a mistake and think about what’ll happen when I cross them, too late, I’m over again, deep in the snow. well wrapped up, the only part of me exposed is my nose, which gets more of a chill, though, as I reach upright again, a large chill slides down into the back of my trousers, coming to rest right where I’ll rediscover it later as I sit on the lift. For the moment it melts a bit then seems to stay away, leaving me to continue downhill, ignoring tracks and managing to stay upright. This is energetic skiing and I am loving every minute of it.
And out onto the relative flat of the piste and relax. Not too much at its bumpy as ever, with plenty of other skiers adjusting to the new conditions. I continue down to the lift and spot the outline of a figure I know. Its Andy, I ski alongside him on his board and he turns to see who is so close, grinning from ear to ear, I know he has had the time of his life this morning too, just by his expression. We stop by the lifts and exchange stories, I was right, he’s used the mountain to the max and is loving every moment of this new snow that we’ve waited for for so long. He helps in the chalet too and grew up near the mountains of California, so is well accustomed to such conditions. I can only imagine where he’s been, and the scrapes on the bottom of his board show that it’s probably been a more hairy ride than mine has so far. We part company, aiming to meet back at the chalet for lunch and continue with the mornings entertainment. Is there too much of a good thing? I hope not.