written by: Matthew D. LaPlante
The frosted aspen trees were glistening in the morning sun. We sailed through thigh-deep powder, slaloming through the dreamlike aspen grove.
Powder Mountain had been closed for a day and a half due to multiple avalanches on the entrance road. Three feet of powder was waiting for us on the resort’s 8,464 skiable acres. We tasted steep and deep quickies, low-angle hillsides that seemed to go on forever. Two hours in, and I was ready to call it the best ski day of my life. Again.
And then we took a hike. It was toughest for boarders in our group who found themselves in hip-deep powder. My leg injury (remember that high-speed aspen encounter?) locked up, and I could feel the metal rod in my leg tighten against the bone. I was sweating and swearing and nearly in tears as we slogged along a ridgeline called Sanctuary. When we got to the drop I lost it, took in a choking mouthful of powder, and started to hurl. On the lift ride back, I worried I might black out. The best and worst ski days of my life might have come on the very same day, separated by minutes and a bad decision to chase an epic run.
“We’ve got two more resorts today,” JJ said when we get back to the car. “Can you make it?”
Honestly, at that point, I wasn’t sure.
If there was ever a time in which we thought that we might need to fudge on our can’t-leave-until-we’ve-had-a-good-day standard, it was en route to our eighth resort of the week. We’d left Powder Mountain late, and I was a mess. We were only going to have about three hours at Solitude before it closed for the day. But as soon as Vivian Bengtson, a 30-year-old Solitude “athlete,” slid up to our group at the base of Apex Express, the whole world brightened, and I felt myself rebounding. “Where we going?” she asked. “Honeycomb,” I said wondering a little whether that question even needed to be asked. “Hell yeah, we are,” she said, restoring my faith in humanity. Off we went to the Black Forest, which bequeathed untracked runs of the sort one generally expects to find only when lifts open or lines drop. I crossed a few tracks en route the aspens at the bottom of the Navarone run, but not many. Solitude is famous for days like this. I wonder: Where is everybody? And always the answer comes back: Who the hell cares?
In three hours, we didn’t stop to so much as tighten a boot. A good day? Yes, and then some.
We arrived at the hour most resorts in Utah are closing up shop for the night. At Brighton, though, there were still nearly five hours of skiing to be had.
Our first run took us to Wren, where even in the late afternoon there were still vast pools of powder and, in the trees and boulders, plenty of fresh tracks still to be made. As night fell and the lights went on, we cruised the groomers, ducking in and out of the treeline.
At Molly Green’s pub, we raised a few glasses to the snow, which at that point had been falling, almost without stop, for four days.
“How are we getting this lucky?” Swede asked. “We’re nine resorts into this thing and haven’t had a bad experience yet.”
For a moment I worried he’d jinx it. And then, I realized: At this point, there was just no way. It was still snowing.
See more inside our 2018 Jan/Feb Issue.