ALTA

A day in time

 

By Raymond J Bodley (started 1994------finished 2014)

 

      Yesterday it started, at first lightly then progressively heavier until a whiteout. This morning itís still coming down, but not as hard.

      They opened the roads at eight and you were the first in line. The way up was difficult to drive with snow piled up on the sides and the road bed very slippery.

      First up the canyon, past the Gold Minerís Daughter to the Albion lot. You park, the best spot, good. First into the Albion Grill.

      As the skiers come in they go to their tables, some having breakfast, others start dressing. The excitement of getting ready, the ritual. A Matador in Anticipation and Preparation anxious to get started. The quiet of it all. Gloves check, goggles check, helmet on, youíre set.    

      The lifts are open, are you ready? Avalanche beeper on and checked. Skis on, powder cords, Poles on. 

      Up the lift. No noise, the excitement builds. The beauty around you is unbelievable. The sun is beginning to shine and the mountain is aglow with sparkles of frozen morning dew floating in the air like a million diamonds in the sky. Now passing over Snake-pit. Itís steep, dangerous and barred to skiers. Up to the right Greeley Bowl, two ski lines. Ski patrollers getting first tracks after a hard morning of dynamiting. Now Gun Sight and Eddies High Nowhere, no tracks yet, good, you will ski them later.

      Off the Sunnyside lift and on to the Cecret lift, the means to an end. 

      Supreme lift at last. The attendant, the chair, have a nice day, thanks. You rise. The view is magnificent. In front of you Hammer Head, steep unmarked terrain with many trees and powder. Then Supreme Challenge below you, itís a tough one with a 39 degree pitch.

      Now you see Altaís famous Cat on the right. Itís been there many years sometimes with a hat, others with a necklace. 

      As you rise you see Challenger, itís as smooth as a pool table. 

      Off the lift and ready, where to go. To the left Catherineís is closed for now. To the right, #9 Express, smooth and steep. Officially 4 feet of powder at the base lodge, a lot more here. Youíre in skiers heaven. The ultimate skiing day. What you have looked forward to when skiing Hard Pack, Ice, Crud and Stones. The turns practiced and techniques developed just for this moment. 

       You stop at #9 Express and look down. This will be a good start for the day. Youíre ready. Remember the first two turns donít count, just feel the pressure on the skis and build up speed. Youíre off. Speed builds and you feel the skis begin to turn. Down one, two then three turns, youíve found the groove. The skis lift you out of this downy sea of white. Face shots as you sink, rooster tails spray up over your head and shoulders on every Turn as you rise. On the right trees. A hard turn and youíre in pine trees with spaces wide enough to ski through, then a little valley, the Erosion Gully. Swooping up one side then down and up the other until you reach the bottom. Now off to the right you head for White Squaw, more trees, face shots, tight turns narrow and dangerous.

      Back to the Supreme lift and up. Catherineís is open. Off with the skis. The hike up in the deep white velvet is tough. Other skiers rushing to be first down Catherineís pass you. Each step you take up is tougher than the one before until you reach the top. You are at about 10,700 feet. 

      On with the skis and you start to climb higher. Others skiers are dropping into the first opening they see but you continue to traverse and climb heading to your secret stash. Keep going higher and to the right, to the border of Altaís ski area. Be careful, the drop off on the right where the ropes are will make for a very unhappy skier. Itís steep, dangerous and you canít get back to Alta from there.  

      Finally you have reached your spot. Itís the top of the world, a soft white cloud. The view is spectacular. Before you is an upside down bowl with no trees. High in the middle and tapering off to the sides.

      Where to go, on the right the bowl drops away and into tight trees. To the left more trees and skiers, no way. Straight, an open shot from the top down the bowl and through a small opening in the trees that will get you back to the lift.

You decide for straight. 

      It seems your life has built you up to this point, this climax of nature and expertise. You and the mountain, everything is perfect, the snow, your abilities and the weather. It is so quiet you can hear your heart beat. One last look around and youíre ready.

      The bowl gradually drops off at an angle to carry speed for your turns. A small push gets you started, and it begins. Roll your skis on edge and press. Feel the pressure begin and strengthen. You rise, good now release the edges, roll and press again. Perfect turns, you want perfect turns. You float through the clouds effortlessly never touching bottom. Shoulders down the hill, arms out in front and to the sides, lifting after every pole plant. The snow is like smoke all around you. Visibility at times is impossible. Feel the moment.

      At least forty turns before you stop and look back up the hill. There in the snow are turns you have aimed for since you started skiing. With those tracks your name is written forever in the history of skiing. You will talk about those turns, that hill, Catherineís and ALTA for ever. Nobody can take from you what you just did, how you felt, and the way you skied. Itís there in your mind for you to experience for the rest of your life.

 

                    Catherineís, Alta, Utah and you.