I have been struggling with what to write about lately, so I decided to finally delve into my favorite subject of all; skiing...
I feel like I have had a unique and lucky story. I was born through two avid skiers in the lovely little town of Steamboat Springs otherwise known as Ski Town USA. My mom was a ski instructor by trade so I have literally been skiing since I could stand up straight (THANKS MOM). I'm very grateful for this because the feeling of skiing has become instinctual for me, and it's one of the few things in life that I am innately good at.
Now, I wasn't the ski town baby that you'd typically picture. My first few years were in the trailer court and at the ripe age of three I ended up in the Central Valley of California. Being there kept me dreaming of Steamboat and that crazy cold white awesomeness that would fall from the sky there. In grade school I itched for those once in a blue moon Saturdays when my mom would be able and willing to wake up before the dawn cracked to drive us three whole hours into the Sierras to what was then called Sierra Summit. It was a tiny ski resort that didn't always get a ton of snow but did get it's fair share of traffic. At that point, it was the most amazing thing in my world.
The best times at Sierra Summit were when my sister (2 years older) had finally gotten her license and she and I would drive up there with her friends from high school and listen to an old cassette tape of the band the Presidents of the United States of America, cause it was the only decent cassette tape we had at the time.
"Millions of peaches, peaches for free..."
We had a bit of a rough childhood (like everyone else out there), so being on skis became a sincere happy place in my world. Through high school, life was too crazy and there were no funds to ski so I wound up in college in Denver when I was just 17. A year and a half in, I was exhausted from trying to work two jobs while keeping up with full time credit hours in classes of which I was too strained to have focus for and wound up getting sold on a cross country sales program. This was even more intense than trying to balance school and work. I broke even, learned and experienced more than you can imagine, and decided it was simply time to follow my heart and come back to Steamboat so I could ski.
It took me a lot of years and a lot of jobs, but eventually I ended up in my own place with a new pair of skis and a job that provided me a pass. This was an evening job and I had everyday to ski my heart out...
I started skiing with mobs of friends that where all really good skiers, boarders, and telemark skiers. The more I was able to group up the better I got at skiing. That initial fear of falling, or getting "clothes-lined" by a down tree hidden under the fresh glistening crystals, or realizing mid-air that you launched yourself off of a hidden drop you would never have seen coming subsides into something you can conquer because you've already done that and been there. Just like everything else in life, you get better every time you're out there.
When you get good enough at skiing that you feel free to ski wherever and whenever you want, it becomes a passion. It truly and simply is a way of life. Snow is not just something that falls from the sky. It's a gift from mother nature; a true blessing. My best year on snow was the year that I had a solid restaurant job that started at 4pm. One of my favorite friends lived in the condos facing the gondola building and let me keep my skis at her place. I outright bought my own pass so I had no employee ties to the mountain. I, as they say in Steamboat, "Pressed glass" every morning even when there wasn't all that much snow. It really didn't matter what the conditions were I was up there. That was the year I called the snow report every morning just so that I'd know what to wear.
Oftentimes my dad would come and pick me up and let me go and get my gear on and proceed to drive me all the way up to the Thunderhead lift where I would skip the lines at the base and get fresh lines all morning long.
If this makes it to an audience that has never gotten the opportunity to ski fresh powder before, then picture this:
You wake up at 7am, you check the temperature and dress appropriately. The snow report stated 8 inches overnight at mid-mountain and 12 at the top. Winds are at 0-5 mph. You warm up and brush off your car and head up to the mountain. Since you know the best turns are the first ones you know that your gonna get prime parking too. You stop into your locker get your nice toasty boots on, and head toward the gondola. You stop in and grab a coffee and a breakfast bagel, and go get your spot in line.
Here's where the "pressed glass" expression came in. It's the act of getting there early and getting the best lines you can by pressing up against the glass gondola doors waiting for them to open. This meant a lot more in the years before the first tracks program. Now it's a much longer wait.
Finally, the doors open and you watch, one by one, each gondola car get loaded with 8 people. You shuffle into yours and it's weird and clammy in the gondola car, you can't see out the windows because of the condensation of breath lining the inside of the glass and the remnants of snow still stuck on the outside of the glass. There's you, one of your favorite shredder friends and a bunch of other people you don't know. Sometimes there's conversation, and sometimes there's just silence for nine minutes.
Your car swings into the gondola bay and slows. The doors pop open and one by one you file out. You're a little bit anxious but mostly insanely excited as you're about to get some of the best turns you've ever had. You click in with a 110 under foot, full rocker Armada VJJ big powder skis and head straight through a grove of aspens. It feels like a dance in a yard full of powdered sugar sailing at least 20 - 30 mph. Straight ahead you see nothing but a field undisturbed snow and you can go any way you want through it.
It's about 15 degrees out and it's still overcast and snowing. You are the perfect temperature as your blood is now pumping and everything around you is truly gorgeous. The adrenaline of being one with nature and doing something very dangerous with so much grace has you really wanting more. You get some utterly stellar lines through the first snow field and meet your friend at the next lift.
After a seemingly long and somewhat chilly lift ride, you've wound up in a cloud on the top of a mountain named Storm Peak. The wind is calm but the snow just keeps falling. You can barely see a thing, but your ski tips are sticking right out so you know where you are aimed. Without much thought, you enter the tree grove on your left as your friend follows. Turn after turn you glide through what feels like pillows under your feet and you cannot help but let out a holler of sheer joy!
As the morning goes on, you wind up finding less and less fresh snow. It's time to head back up to the peak and hike up and ski the three pitches back to the base. Steamboat has very little side-country skiing, but the terrain it does offer is super fun and not that hard to get to.
You get off of Steamboat's highest lift and hike up a little hill. Here you find the No Names, East Face and Gate D. This is the extreme terrain at Steamboat. You don't go up here until you are a stable and confident rider, and even then you don't go up there unless you go with people who know where they're going. You go too far the wrong way and you can end up "cliffed out" in Fish Creek Canyon.
As you ski the first pitch it's a fairly open field with a few rock drops and a few evergreen trees. On a day like today, where you can hardly see anything and it's still snowing out, there's no one out there but you and the friends you shred with. At the bottom of the first pitch you can ski back into the Flying Z field, or you can ski out a gate to the second pitch.
Today you and your friend go up the little knoll to face the second pitch. At the top you take a little rest, maybe enjoy some party favors or munch on a granola bar while soaking in the glory of the serenity and peacefulness of your surroundings. You're the only ones out there and your lines are as fresh as they can be. Each turn feels a little bit like you're slicing a giant pool of "I can't believe it's not butter."
After hucking it off of some giant boulders you make it to the bottom of the Second pitch. The stoke level is at it's maximum and you feel like you're floating. Well, you kind of are in that much powder. All of a sudden you're at the top of the "Key Hole" about to send down a large field of giant boulders; Drrooopping.
You land on a narrow track just above Fish Creek and start your long traverse hard left. You end up with a few more turns in an aspen gully and a slide-like chute up to the trail that lands you back on the BC Ski Way cat track that takes you back to the base of the mountain.
After that traverse, you need some more energy so you stop at your favorite mountain hub for some grub. With a full belly and if it's your day off a little liquid courage and you head back toward the gondola and do it all over again. Maybe even a few more times. When two o'clock comes around you peel yourself off the mountain, and change and freshen up for work.
Ski, work, eat, sleep, ski, work, eat, sleep...
I am grateful for skiing because it has given me a way to heighten the joy of my existence in this life. It's given me a way of obtaining euphoria on my own and while of clear mind and soul. It has added purpose to my existence and offered many great relationships with all different kinds of kindred spirits from a variety of different places and backgrounds. Skiing is certainly one of my life's greatest gifts!
Thank you for reading and keep on shredding!
-Photos are from as far back as 2010 all are original images by Christina Uhl