by Kirstin Nelson ~CO Programs Manager
Spring time is one of my favorite times to ski. Especially in Colorado, where I have spent all season looking at fat lines, beautifully white and long, narrow chutes, and open faces blanketed with fresh white powder that all have considerable to high avalanche danger for most of the winter. I often drive in the slow lane through mountainous areas, spending just enough time looking at the road to not go off and just enough time to admire a new conquest or dream line, a quick route planning thought, and then back at the road. What would it take to ski that line? When will it be safe? How steep is it really? (Which I often totally misgauge…)
This spring I got a later start than normal. I went back and counted only 12 days from Jan-April not in some sort of ski boot. Let me tell you, by the end of ski season my body felt wrecked. Those last 2 weeks spent cleaning up on the mountain (I work as a patroller) where it snowed and snowed and then became warm, wet and heavy, were enough to seal the deal for a month off to focus on recovery and healing all the little aliments I’d been ignoring in thoughts of just one more face shot. I took most of the month of May off from skiing. Looking back at all the avalanche fatalities towards the end of the season here in Colorado, and a little ride of my own, a month was just what I needed.
So I bought a yoga pass and enjoyed some biking in the Front Range sun, got a massage and worked just enough as a climbing instructor for kids to be active, but not overdoing it. And then it hit me again: the need to ski! I’d done enough down dogs and balances to at least feel as if I was realigned and grounded again. I’d spent enough time out of boots for my toes to go back their normal pink hue and size, and my face had no more wind burn or frost nip scars. I hadn’t been so cold that I’d needed to huddle in my 0 degree bag or just sit in a hot shower to defrost for quite a while, and my heart was yearning for some turns.
My normal spring skiing partner in gnar (Dougie fresh, my husband) is out due to a knee injury. So finding a new partner can be a little tough. My ski partner needs to have the same ambitions as I do, travel at a similar speed, and have a similar decision-making philosophy. I was fortunate enough to find a few friends looking to get out. My spring adventures this year were interesting to say the least. But, with all the great lines I’d admired to ski this spring, I didn’t actually get to ski any of those lines.
Whether it was a weather issue, a runneled run, snow getting too warm, a car getting stuck in the snow adding 4 miles to the journey, a late start,not having the right people, or skiing the wrong line and getting to the bottom to look up and see a longer steeper couloir a few shots over, it just didn’t seem to work out. Yet despite having some kind of issue on almost all of my tours, the skiing was still great and just what I needed. So it wasn’t the sick line I’d been eying from the road, or a dream line I’d had on a list in my gear room for three years, but it was skiing and it was great.
There is something to be said for low angle corn skiing. There are no thoughts of “I have to make this jump turn right here or a fall could fatal”, no potential wet avalanche slide hazard, and no deep breaths and heart thumping in your chest (which can be thrilling). What you find is just hooting and hollering, carefree, low angle turns. Which is exactly what a lot of my spring skiing has been. It’s been missing the T-shirts and board shorts, but there is still snow and I will find it! My list keeps growing, especially when I travel to new terrain, and who knows if I will ever get to them all, but its sure fun to try.