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Winter on Winter: The Tipping Point

Winter on Winter: The Tipping Point

[ February 22, 2010 - 8:47pm ]
The Tipping Point
Dek: 
Every season has a tipping point. The moment when, suddenly, the mountain is filled in, the snow is deep, and the rocks and stumps vanish under a cold white blanket. This moment happened for me last Friday, the first day of an epic three-day binge of low visibility, constant snowfall, soft turns, and backcountry hikes.

Every season has a tipping point. The moment when, suddenly, the mountain is filled in, the snow is deep, and the rocks and stumps vanish under a cold white blanket. This moment happened for me last Friday, the first day of an epic three-day binge of low visibility, constant snowfall, soft turns, and backcountry hikes.

Of course, those three days don’t mean that the rest of the year will be gravy. After all, you could argue quite convincingly that both Whistler and Cypress Mountain enjoyed their tipping points in mid November, and that given the current balmy conditions plaguing both Olympic venues, their seasons are pretty much over.

But that would be to miss the point. Each winter has an ebb and flow. While the tipping point is, of course, about snow, it’s also about the intangibles. These include fitness level (mine remains poor), the coat of wax you just put on your skis or even the posse you’re spending the winter skiing with.

But back to Friday. Given the drought that Colorado had been suffering through, I’d been remiss in chalking up the days. Sure, there had been some bright moments. But work and age and marriage all conspired against me in a triumvirate that limited on snow miles and had left me in the kind of mid-season funk reserved for Bode Miller after a month of crashing out of every single race on the World Cup circuit.

Until Friday. The snow total for the past 24 hours wasn’t impressive. The locals were still in bed, and the tourists wouldn’t arrive until Saturday. We hiked out of bounds, just the two of us: me, on skis, and an old snowboarder friend who also had been chained to work, his misery compounded by a do-it-yourself home remodeling project that was starting to stretch into the second year. He was in worse shape than I, a mere five days under his belt, and the mountain a long lost friend that he’d spent way to little time with.

As we crested the ridge, the sun poked through a growing cold front, lighting an untracked face below, enticing us with perfect visibility. The perfect light only lasted for a moment. It was a moment as fleeting as our turns would be, the snow billowing in our faces as we rode the face, dropping down to another ridge through trees, with more untracked snow in front and only the memories behind, the worst of the season behind us and only the best to come from here on out.

Check out writer Tom Winter's other columns at www.skiingmag.com/winteronwinter.

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