No Friends on a Powder Day
Strategies for When It's Deep
If you’re like me, you live for mornings of digging out cars, of cheering when the lifties open the mountain, and of getting off the first chair of the day with excited ferocity.
And, of course, you live for mornings full of face shots. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few of these increasingly elusive days a season. You’d better make the most of them.
First Off, Get There Early
Arriving at the parking lot at ten might as well be getting there at two in the afternoon. For me, waking up ass early is only acceptable when I’m hunting something. In the autumn it’s bucks; in the winter it’s pow.
Get the coffee pot ready the night before, make sure your longjohns aren’t still in the washing machine, and get to the parking lot when it’s still dark. After you get your boots on and you’ve parked yourself at the front of a lift line, you’ve earned yourself a nap while the hoopleheads are stuck in traffic just outside the resort. Sometime in your life you may get lucky enough to be skiing Snowbird or Alta when they close the canyon to further traffic—your own private resort.
Bring the Right Friends
We’ve all heard that there are no friends on a powder day, but let me amend this statement slightly; friends on a powder day are great if they can keep up. Friends can be valuable in helping you clean up your massive tomahawk yard sale or, if you’re on a snowboard, to give a helping ski push on a flat runout. Just make sure they aren’t the kind of friends who’ll be offended when you head for the singles line.
Snacks are Essential
You should also have friends that bring snacks. Or better yet, bring your own snacks. When conditions are truly epic, you can’t afford the time to go down to your car to get lunch, much less buy food at one of the $20 hamburger resort food shacks.
Pack those pockets with fuel. Meat snacks, cheese snacks, fruit snacks, chocolate snacks. If you’re a vegetarian, get over it—or better yet, get yourself a rando setup and live your healthy life away from the resorts altogether. In my experience, the very best powder day snacks are venison jerky, candy bars, Rice Crispy treats (big ones), hunks of cheese, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and flasks of Hot Damn.
You need not share your food, though it is good karma. But at least be nice. Yeah, I get that this is a competition. But we’re all in it together, so don’t be a jerk. After all, what are we doing here? We’re playing in the snow—we’re riding gravity with a stick or two strapped to our boots.
You Should Probably Have a Plan
This is one of those situations where knowing the resort like the topsheets of your skis or board is so beneficial. The question here is quantity or quality. Do you drop in immediately and get the first freshies you can? Or do you take another lift and get to your favorite spot on the mountain?
This I can’t answer for you. I, for one, don’t have the wherewithal to get onto another chairlift while a blanket of untracked is unfurled below me. Someday I’ll have the patience to ride a few more chairs, and maybe even hike a bit, to find the absolute perfect powder run all to myself. But I doubt it’ll be this season.
Feel the Burn
Every powder day of my life I’ve always wished that I was in better shape, that I had done more (any) leg presses and squats in the off-season. My advice here is just to deal with it. That burn in the thighs lets you know you’re alive, and doctor’s orders say that a tumbler of Jim Beam fireside after the lifts close is the best medicine.
With the onslaught of global warming, you may very well tell your grandkids about this thing that used to happen called powder days. You sure won’t want to tell them that you went in early because your legs hurt.
Enjoy the Moment
My final bit of advice: put away the smartphone. Every second you spend twiddling your selfie stick is time that someone else is tracking up your snow. Your Instagram post for the day can come from the parking lot or the bar after the lifts have closed.
Of course, you need not agree with me on any of this. After all these are just my opinions, based on a couple seasons of ski bumming and every day in the present spent wondering how in the hell I landed a job where I get to spend my days looking at the mountains and writing about the sport I love. You get a finite amount of pow turns in your life. Enjoy them.