CANYON 2: THE ADVENTURE
Feeling guilty after all the pampering, I decide to ease my conscience with a little self-flagellation. I head out the Escala’s huge wooden doors (full disclosure: a nice man named Bryan hands me my skis), intending to enjoy some of the five feet of snow that has fallen in the past three days. My destination: the Ninety-Nine 90 lift, which gets its name from its elevation and serves some of the wildest terrain at The Canyons.
By the time I get to the top, it’s snowing sideways. To my left, there’s a skull-and-crossbones sign on an out-of-bounds gate, which indicates that once through, I’m on my own. I know from experience that this gate, along with the one on top of Peak 5, accesses some of the most beautiful lift-served backcountry in North America. But given the current storm, that skull-and-crossbones looks like it means business. I go right, which is inbounds, but no less rugged.
I take the High Traverse across a 30-degree snowfield toward a stand of ancient spruce trees. Soon, I’m on a north-facing slope—an advantage in the spring, when the snow on many southern slopes is thinning.
The point on the compass is no small matter. “All great resorts have a ‘true north,’ so to speak—a real north face,” says Chip Carey, The Canyons’ former vice president of marketing. “And because The Canyons is made entirely of canyons, all of its peaks have one. Super Condor, Sidewinder, Peak 5, Ninety-Nine 90 and so on.”
On this particular canyon’s north face, which is the highest of all of the resort’s north slopes, the snow has piled up in giant, lightweight mounds. I dive in. It’s steep. Within moments, I’m chest-deep. The drooping branches are close on each side, and it’s intensely quiet. I can hear myself breathing. The trees are the only ones watching. The trunks are spaced far enough apart that I can really pick up some speed. Now I’m flying. The space tempts me to go faster than I should, so I do. And when I get to the bottom, I feel like I have just burst out of a Banzai Pipeline tube after a quick and scary disappearing act. I like it.