Day 5 on the mountain, January 8
The snow coverage has been relatively awful this year, so I haven’t been up much, despite the fact that I purchased a season pass at Schweitzer. But now there are three inches of fresh powder over a sheet of ice and woodland debris — the first signs of a winter storm that will be with us for several days. I line up at 8:40 and catch the sixth chair. On my second run, I find a nice stash on a steep wooded slope, only to scrape into a fall and slide with alarming speed towards two boulders. I decide my best bet on not breaking anything (including my gear) is to arch my body sideways and slither over them like a rag doll, which I do, and which works. I stand up again and promptly faceplant at the bottom when I try to swoosh between the bare bushes, into an indentation and over a ridge.
I practice dodging things by ducking in and out of bounds under the cord separating the Bunny hill from what otherwise might be a slalom course if those featured miniature Christmas trees as obstacles, riding a thin ridge of untouched snow. I miss the bus out by 60 seconds, so I hitch a ride down. I end up getting the guy’s business card — he’s just moved up from Boise to clean hot tubs and pools, after being cordially invited by the competition because there was “plenty of work for everyone.” After talking for 20 minutes about the jobs around town, he looks at me and realizes, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen you on Facebook.” Then he gets a tad uncomfortable, because he’s obviously just said something that sounds potentially creepy and stalker-ish, but I am sufficiently used to being recognized by people I’ve never met that it doesn’t phase me. That’s just how small our town is.
I am at work before 11 a.m. to try to get the last issue of the magazine wrapped up and sent off. My boyfriend shows up at work to give me a late Christmas present, his third attempt after ordering clothing that, it turned out, looked way cooler online. They’re new snowboarding bindings to replace the ones I got for about $25 back in 2010. I approve of this Christmas present — gear is always a good choice, or at least it will be until I run out of cheap secondhand stuff to replace.
Day 6, January 9
At 8:20, I am stopped by a train on the way to the bus up the mountain. I make use of the minutes by donning my snowpants and wool frantically as the train flashes by and while, no doubt, the other cars’ passengers stare at me through their crusty windshields. I arrive just in time, grabbing my gear and shuffle-running to the bus in my untied boots.
At the top, there are seven inches of new, thick powder. So much beauty, and so much effort. My new bindings are helping me turn, however. I’ve cinched them to the point that my front foot falls asleep, something that was impossible with my old bindings. I get some fresh lines and fall over several times when the heavy snow is more than I can navigate. The trees are my friends — I cut through them, grabbing branches when need be to stay upright.
I get the 10:30 bus back down, tired and ready to work for a bit. I spot my friend Kelsey, Sandpoint’s best female rock climber, also on her way back down for the day’s work. “You had the same idea, I see,” she says jovially. Kelsey has a perpetual smile on her face, at least when it comes to the outdoors, and as the bus heads down the mountain she tells me how much she loves the snow on the trees, how much she loves winter.
At 3:30, I’m heading back up the hill with my boyfriend. A bunch of friends have gotten together and rented a ski-in, ski-out condo for his 40th birthday, something he apparently has wanted to do for several years. He picked a great time to hole up because this is probably the best snowstorm of 2013-2014. We unload massive amounts of food over the next several hours as friends trickle in, but naturally, in my haste I’ve forgotten to pack any toiletries or my PJs. I make do by borrowing.