Death guano snow covered the slope like icing on an evil cake. The junk threw me like a Sumo wrestler. “Try this,” said Ken, as he traversed and bounced like a kid on a trampoline. On each bounce he’d make a pole touch, then when it felt right he’d rebound his skis out of the snow, swing them into the fall line, and link turns. I wasn’t so elegant, but following Ken’s lead I could feel my skis snapping me up out of the crud. On one bounce, I swung my tails around, saw the bottom of the run over my ski tips, and linked effective rebound turns to the bottom.
Skiing is a hard sport to master — especially when applied to wild snow. Today’s gear is terrific; but the skills of high-level skiing still come hard for most of us. We learn from ski schools, friends, books and videos. Most of all, we learn from our mentors.
Part of skiing’s appeal is its discipline; mastery is sweet. What’s more, the sport’s noble tradition adds esteem and keeps us humble. Most of all, skiing is beautiful because an expert skier blends with the hill, facing gravity with élan and commitment. The best runs choke the nattering voice in your head. Beyond mind, you enter a place of feral pleasure — a womb of mastery and perfection. If you’re fortunate, a mentor led you there.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.