7:00Am. Alarm is going off. Alarm is going off. Alarm is going off. I’m awake. I roll over grab my laptop and turn it on. 20cms….20cms???…20cms!!! I’m awake. I’m awake! I’m out of bed, flustered, pacing, walking in circles. Food. I need my gear. Food. Where’s my goggles? Food. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Damn it I need some coffee! Circles. I’m running in circles and I can’t figure out where I put my goggles! Ok calm down. I’m ready. I’m ready and I’m in the garage franticly stuffing things into my always classic and forever sexy Toyota station wagon. Chug chug chug! Common baby! I promise this is the last time (Yes, sometimes I lie to my station wagon). And we’re off! The snow is still falling and I fade off into this incredible winter wonderland that I call home. I am jobless. I am broke. I am a bum and I guarantee that my life is better than your vacation. My name is Kendra and I am a ski bum. A real ski bum. Not a fake one. A real one. Seriously.
Don’t hate me too much. I haven’t always been a ski bum. I’ve put in my time over the years. I worked a whole year straight, once. I hung out with the man and drank double ceasars after work on a Tuesday. I even went to university and got a degree. I did all these things while I was trying to figure out who I was, where I was going, what I wanted out of life. To be honest I floated around life for a long time. Living here. Living there. Doing this. Doing that. Just trying to figure it out like anyone else. But I always knew I was meant for ski bum greatness. The thought of getting a career always made me nauseous and I never really enjoyed drinking ceasars with the man anyway. Eventually I stumbled upon ski bum heaven. Now, ski bum heaven is a very special place. It’s also a very secret and exclusive place. Only open to the dirtiest of ski bums. I know you really want to know where this place is. But I can’t tell you. So let’s call it Nelbar. Yes. I live in a small mountain town called Nelbar and I am living the dream.
Ok. Back to the good stuff. So I am flying up the ski hill road, running that fine line between anxiety and anticipation. The snow is pounding down on my windshield, the tunes are pumping, heads are bouncing and the wagon is vibrationg at a high frequency. We are going ski touring and we are stoked. This is going to be epic!
Now you may say, “Oh, what’s so great about ski touring? Why would you walk all the way up a mountain when you can just take a chair lift? Silly skiers!”
The answer is: P-O-W-D-E-R.
There is no better day, then a day away from the crowds, away from the chaos, away from the world. Just you, your buddies and the mountain. And the best part of all is knowing you are about to slash your fatty skis through the deepest powder completely untouched by the mobs. This is why we wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning, frantically circle our kitchens and almost blow the lids off of our beaters as we rev to 4,000 rpms up the ski hill road. There is just something incredible about floating through the bottomless pow screaming at the top of our lungs that makes us feel the most alive we have ever felt. We are free in these mountains and no one can take that away from us. These mountains give us purpose. They are where we live and they are where we will die.
The wagon screams up to the backcountry parking lot and the crew hops out. The mountain air is crisp and cool and full of anticipation. The sun in creeping over the mountains and we can feel the warmth on our backs. The frantic vibe has turned to calm as we take a deep breath and breathe in our surroundings. No one talks as we gather out gear and get ready for the hike. Different thoughts cross different minds but in the end we all want the same.
Backcountry skiing represents a sort of grassroots way of approaching the mountain. You walk up, you ski down. No machinery needed. It sounds complicated, exhausting, and dangerous and the answer is, yes it is. But with the proper gear, a good breakfast and the right attitude, you may find yourself having one of the best days of your life. I know we are.
It’s not always easy getting to the top. There are many obstacles to be encountered along the way. Slippery skin tracks, steep switchbacks, malfunctioning equipment, tree bombs and changing weather conditions. Sometimes it feels like we fight a war out there and we just barely make it to the top crawling on our hands and knees. But most of the time we hardly notice because we made it and the best part is still to come. We are sweaty, tired, hungry and probably even a little bit turned on. It’s time to shred motha suckas!
The trip down is timeless. It doesn’t last long but it will never leave us. Big turns, short turns, jump turns, pillow drops, cliff drops, tree slashes, log slides, gap jumps, and face shots. The adrenaline is pumping through temples, eyes are bulging out of heads and teeth are cold because we can’t stop smiling. There is nowhere else I would rather be but here, on this mountain, in this snow, with these people, making these turns. If this sounds cheesy, then you’re right. It is cheesy but it’s the truth. And it’s worth it. It’s worth every long hike up, every short ski down and every single sore muscle at the end of the day. You may not be looking for a dirty ski bum lifestyle like mine, but if you have been skiing for a few years and find yourself waking up sweating after dreaming of riding waist deep pow then ski touring may be just the thing for you. But please be warned of the risks involved. Backcountry skiing is known to cause excessive screaming, profuse sweating, extreme excitement, uncontrollable laughter, intense feelings of happiness and estrangement from family and significant others. In some cases, ski touring may lead to addiction. You may find yourself wanting it so much that you quit your job, sell your house, pack up your minivan and move your life to some tiny little town in the middle of the mountains somewhere. You never know. It’s been known to happen.
High fives are given all around as we slide into the parking lot at the end of the day. The day was epic and we couldn’t have asked for better. The car ride home is silent except for some muffled snores coming from the back seat. We pull into the driveway and beeline it for the couch. Beers are cracked and cheers are made. We all smile knowing there is only short sleep till we do it all over again. That’s the beauty of the ski bum lifestyle. Every day is a Saturday. And guess what? Tomorrow is going to be even better. Goodnight sleepy ski bums. We’ll see you in the AM. Same pow time. Same pow place.