Here is what you know. That, when the front side is frozen and wind-scoured, there are steep shots on north faces that stay cold enough to hold an edge. You know where it blows in days after storms. You relish bizarre little three-turn stashes that seem like more effort than they are worth. You can talk your way into parking for free in the pay lot. You don’t care about the official run names because you have your own, and you simply feel your way through them as you move around your mountain.
You know you will find your friends if you simply watch for one another under the lift. This place is your Hollywood. You know ski patrol well enough to get away with a warning rather than a pulled pass. You know how to scam tickets. You went to high school with the dude who drives the cat and rode it with him one night, hopped up on Wild Turkey and government-grown MMJ. At the Dirtbag Ball, you kissed that snowboarder who died in a car crash a month later. You know that bartending is a far better ski-bum job than bumping chairs.
You found the best sidecountry stashes thanks to a guy with a surgically repaired hip who still skis with more grace than you. You did not know the dude who died just on the other side of that rope, but you have made similar bad choices before—and somehow you’re still here. You know some shots so well that they should be boring but you keep coming back and skiing them as if it were the first time.
You have been fired, have blown off your girlfriend’s birthday, have left your parents waiting at the airport—you have outright lied—to be up here on one of those days. Hell yes, it was worth it.
You soar alongside and bond with social rejects who transform up here into something resembling normal. You know that no matter how bad your relationship, your job, your family, or your headspace is down there, up here none of it matters.
You know you should be doing something else, that you have spent too much time up here (you even come up in summer to see what it looks like with grass on it). You swear that you need to move on, that you know this place too damn well. And yet here you are with your season pass again. You still haven’t had enough.
Doug Schnitzspahn has called Big Sky, Montana, and Eldora, Colorado, his local hills.