"How's it goin'?"
"Real good; real good. Hey, those look like fun. New ones, huh?"
"Last year's model. Just got 'em on sale."
"You like 'em?"
"Yeah. They seem good for everything except going fast."
"Yeah, I've heard that's pretty much the deal with those sidecuts."
"How about those-do you always go free-heeling, or..."
"...Hey, man, watch out, this chair comes around fast."
"Whoa. I've gotten so used to super-quads. So do you always..."
"...Yeah, I usually tele, though I alpine too, and when the snow's heavy I like to get on my board."
"Damn. Sounds like you live around here."
"Yeah, over in Bozeman. I'm lucky."
"I know. I did two seasons in Steamboat."
"Minneapolis. My wife and kids are back at the condo. I had to make last run."
"Days like today, yeah. If I'm not on the hill for last run on days like today, then I know it's time to move."
"What's going on in Minneapolis?"
"Work, mostly. Medical sales."
"You like it?"
"Well, you know. The pay is decent. But I still call the Steamboat snow phone every week just to torture myself."
"We've got snow. But we've also got Ph.D.s washing dishes."
"I worked two years busing at El Rancho..."
"I know that place. Great burritos."
"Yeah. I never made more than $3.25 an hour there."
"Wow. When was that?"
"Seventy-six and seventy-seven."
"Yeah, a long time ago. My youngest kid's eight; the girl's eleven."
"That's cool. Good kids?"
"Oh, man, great ones. Just great. Both of 'em are super skiers, too. This is the last year I'll be better than my daughter."
"Yeah. I'm lucky, too."
"I wouldn't mind having kids one day. I suppose I should start with a girlfriend first, but you know ski towns."
"Yeah. You don't lose your girlfriend..."
"...You lose your turn. Tell me about it."
"I know. I've been there. Speaking of turns-where should I go down?"
"Let's see. Steamboat man? I got one for you. See those tracks winding around the top of the bowl?"
"Follow them over that ridge. Get some speed up and you won't have to push. There's still a few fresh lines through those lodgepoles. A little tight, but untracked."
"That looks great. Everything looks great. This is my first trip out West this winter. I haven't missed a season in 33 years, and I didn't want this to be my first."
"Thanks. We just flew in last night."
"Man, it's gonna be some serious ibuprofen tonight, huh?"
"And some serious beers, yeah. But totally worth it."
"I know what you're sayin'."
Michael Finkel, the author of Alpine Circus, a collection of winter adventures, has skied on six continents. He lives in Bozeman, Mont.