I am a cautious person. Too cautious according to people who know me well. Not as skilled at inventing failing scenarios as my mom, but perfectly capable of spoiling a good adventure by warning all involved about the possibility of road closures, beer shortage, inclement weather and 997 other minor cataclysms that can (and will) happen.
When we were driving to Colorado I was - silently - mortified about the possible problems we may encounter. First of all, snow was persistently missing. It was sort of expected since we took a southern route with an explicit purpose of avoiding winter weather. But 2 days before arriving in Keystone we were still in Texas, hiking in balmy 60 degrees and I started to panic. The perspective of moving all the way to Colorado only to be left at the mercy of man made substitute was beyond ironic.
Quite illogically I was also afraid of the opposite: what if there is too much snow? I am a happy owner of two pairs of skis. My German-made AC3 Völkls can power through anything, including gravel (not that I’ve tried yet). My K2 Kung Fujas are destined for softer stuff, which guaranteed they stayed on the ski rack most of the time in Vermont. Their width notwithstanding, none of the skis seemed to provide enough surface to support me in vast quantities of promised fluff. I had visions of myself covered to my waist in snow trying to find skis, direction and the purpose of life.
Of course none of my fears proved real. Rockies greeted us with a snow storm that started right after our arrival sparing us 5 miles per hour crawl along I-70 well-known to weekend skiers from Denver. Local ski areas offer a wide assortment of blue and green trails, which makes me sorry that I am no longer a beginner. There is just way too much easy terrain to ski on. It’s all perfectly groomed and ready for your carving enjoyment. Thankfully there are also trees and soft bumps and trails named Devil’s Crotch to graduate to when perfect turns start to induce yawning.
It’s true that most folks sport skis wider than my double tips K2s but I don’t actually sink as easily as I feared. My Völkls proved their worth cutting through crud and frozen surface that develops when it does not snow for a week. And I finally have ample opportunity to actually use my powder skis. From time to time I do find myself in too much powder situation but in such cases I just let myself fall gently and before I start digging out I spend some time observing magical white covered trees on the background provided by unusually blue sky.
So all is good.
Well - not exactly. The list of my fears is now topped by dropping into snowy bowls. Wind usually builds a neat platform overhanging the ski-able slope. I have to switch part of my worrying brain off to jump onto a nearly vertical wall. Natalia tried perfecting a technique that involves commencing the decent by gently gliding off on her behind. Alas, this is an option topologically unavailable to most skiers. And it just does not look dignified. Especially if you are not able to break the slide before your bottom reaches, well, bottom.
Also, I did not envision hiking. Sure they have lifts everywhere but often to get to the really good stuff you do need to walk a bit. And a bit can be as long as a mile or two. Uphill. And let me tell you: skiing boots are not made for walking, skis are not made for carrying, and humans are definitely not made for heavy exercise at the altitude of 12000 feet and above.
Then again. Once you actually get there, spend some time recovering and notice the emptiness, the grandness, the sheer impossibility of fresh untouched white surface all your fears disappear. You click into your bindings, take a deep breath and let yourself go. For a casual observer it probably looks less graceful than intended, but hey, I’ve earned my fresh tracks rights hauling myself up here. At some point I may get good at it. For now I am enjoying the process.