Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Down in Colorado and Utah, these kinds of things are more commonplace. Up at Snowbowl, bluebird blower powder days are a coveted rarity. More often than not, a Snowbowl powder day involves socked-in or even whiteout conditions, the best turns limited to riding in the trees because out in the bowls it's nearly impossible to tell where the ground ends and the sky begins. Not yesterday.
The weather rolled in just after the Super Bowl. It then proceeded to puke at a rate of about 1-2" an hour through Monday evening. From those that were up there, it sounded like the skiing Monday afternoon was ridiculous, tracks-are-covered-next-pass-through kind of conditions. The rest of town, including saps like me, watched it snow through the window while maniacally checking NOAA reports that warned of impending "snow, heavy at times, accumulations totaling 10-16." We ended up with 2 feet.
Things cleared up overnight, and by dawn Tuesday much of Missoula had arranged--or neglected to arrange--at least the morning off. It always amazes me how many people can make a powder day happen in a town like this. I wonder how many jobs were lost yesterday, in a city where part time gigs are about as easy to come by as supermodel girlfriends and million dollar bills. If you're lucky to work in a cool enough place like a ski shop, it's understood that business simply is not conducted on mornings after the mountain gets 6" or more. Period. Though I didn't have to work yesterday, my boss did. I saw him in the lift line at about 10:30, beard freshly crusted in snow.
It was mayhem up there for sure, but well worth every bit of it. We were in line 45 minutes before the chair started loading, and still probably ended up 50 chairs back by the time we hopped on. As is tradition at Snowbowl, the bugle marked the loading of the first chair by sounding the cavalry charge and the chaos ensued. Whoops and hollers and gloved hands pointing off chairs to far off lines. Envious, almost pissed-off mutterings when someone is spotted getting there first.
I don't think I crossed another track for much of my first three runs, and the stashes stuck around until well in to the afternoon without a single hike. That's saying a lot for the Bowl, what with the staggering population of ridiculously good skiers up there who obviously have no worldly obligations, coupled with the geography's unfortunate resemblance to an upside-down laboratory beaker. Long story short, shit gets tracked out fast at the Bowl. It is a rare day to have sunshine and soft snow on the same afternoon. To top things off, I somehow managed to stay up top and run laps of fresh snow on the LaVelle chair while hundreds of poor bastards sat trapped on a busted Grizzly chair. Only at Snowbowl would the main chair break in the middle of an epic powder day, and after a half-hour wait only then proceed to run on auxiliary power for the rest of the afternoon.
Regardless of the mechanical (heh-hehm, management) issues, smiles and high fives were widespread in the bar. The Snowbowl bar is a good time on any given evening, but yesterday afternoon the stoke was on radioactive. I'm not sure the pizza and Bloody Mary's tasted any better than they do on a normal gray, icy Snowbowl day, but that's OK. They're already amazing. God this place sucks.