We all sat transfixed at our computers, televisions, iPhones or other preferred winter weather feed with jaws agape for three long days last week. Productivity was down. Stoke was conservatively up. Over of 48″ of snow was predicted in the coming 72 hours; something you just don’t expect the first day of December. A meteorological phenomena best described with a non-scientific term, a “Pineapple Express”, was headed our way; an atmospheric river picking up tropical moisture was on the perfect trajectory to unleash the kind of storm that makes even your mom an amateur weatherman overnight. Sun Valley is first and foremost a ski town. Mood swings around here undulate like weather patterns depending on the snow conditions and it looked like we were going to get a massive dose of Prozac. The coffee shops, bars, and ski tuning rooms were electric, you could feel the suspense in the air as everyone wondered and prayed and then chastised bold prognosticators not to not “jinx it” with their unbridled optimism. A massive plume of moisture in the Pacific was getting pumped into the Northwest. Infrared images robbed from NOAA and Weather Underground showing massive clumps of yellows, oranges, and reds danced across everyone’s interweb. And then it happened. Overnight, those brightly lit dots on the map brought the freshness of winter.
When it did arrive, it was like divine intervention. You couldn’t help but look up and believe in God, Ullr, Santa Clause. Heavy, wet flakes fell like chicken feathers and the slush on the ground exploded as I hastily slopped my way through the lot to meet up with friends gripped with the same sense of urgency.
Something about knowing that the lift will start spinning at 9:00 am whether you are in line or not always adrenalizes the morning after a big storm. Predictable paranoid dreams of forgetting one ski boot, or showing up in line naked rocked the last hours of my sleep. I frantically assembled myself, mainlined coffee, and sped down the narrow country road to town fearing my worst nightmare: arriving last in a massive line up. The funny thing about this storm was its timing. Being so early in the year, town is still in deep slack and it was only locals throwing high fives in line. We had our own private powder country club waiting to be teed off on. It’s why we live here, the uncertainty of “when” with out the worry of “if”.
It was a heavy, wet, and windy kind of cold. The kind that causes you to huddle behind a cocoon sanctuary of fabric, bury your face in your collar and watch as melting snow turns to ice on your legs and freezes your butt to the chair. Looking behind, nearly obscured in the flakes and fog, enveloped in a blanket of silence, you see passengers lost in winter meditation, their voices muffled, sentences truncated.
Derived by and reliant on nature, fueled by adrenaline and innovation, refined by a deep sense of humanity and camaraderie, that indescribable satisfaction which only comes from sliding on snow lapped over me in chunks of heavy powder. Sun Valley had delivered the goods yet again and we were together as we had been at the end of last season, flowing effortlessly through the massive forests, glades, and avy gullies on Baldy.
Something comes over you when you strap wood, metal, fiberglass, and ptex to your feet. It sounds cliche unless you have experienced it. You are instantly transported to a different time and place in life, the ADHD kid inside leaps out and pours sugar into the part of the lizard brain which requires less responsibility and more freedom.
We rode until the guy at the bottom said, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” I looked at my watch and wondered where time went realizing the need to find a warm place to thaw out and dry off that served cold beer and greasy fries. And so we retreated to the warmth of fire and glow of Apre’.
More is in the forecast, but the roulette wheel of being a skier will only tease you with the notion it will come. The suspense of the next big storm heightens our sense of being. Sun Valley can be fickle but it never fails to deliver. Winter has embraced us with that contrast of cold and comfortable from which we derive crackling fires, hot spiked drinks, and more anticipation watching the weather develop tirelessly.
Photos: Tal Roberts