I called the snowphone after lunch from work to check on the ski conditions. It had been ten days since I last skied and I was feeling anxious. TNT, the local snow reporter, told me that the eight inches of fresh snow that fell that morning had made conditions that he was going to dream about for years. I knew that by the time I got off of work, picked up the kids from school, made dinner, and got out the door again, these conditions were likely to change.
It was raining when I left home; raining in Issaquah; raining in North Bend. And it was still raining and almost dark when I pulled up to park not far from the ski lift at the pass. Temperatures had risen in the afternoon and the fresh snow from earlier in the day was now getting saturated from warmer precipitation. I’d bought myself a new gore-tex jacket for Christmas for times like these, and this would be its first real test against Pacific Northwest spring weather.
There was no lift line – one of the biggest benefits to skiing at night in the rain. A few seconds after sitting down on the chair I could examine how well my ski clothes repelled the moisture. Even if they worked well, I knew it was only a matter of time before water seeped through. At the top, I tightened my boots and headed down an intermediate run to warm-up my muscles. People that skied earlier in the day tended to stay in the middle of the run, wearing the snow down relatively flat but with undulating mounds that I would not yet call moguls. On the next runs I ventured into less skied terrain, where very heavy powder made turning a challenge and maintaining speed was important, but excessive speed was foolish. I knew that falling while going too fast raised the chances of getting a ski caught in the snow and wrenching a knee. I’m too old for those kinds of injuries. But though the snow was heavy, my fat skis allow me to carve through it. I look for something steeper to be able to get more downhill momentum. Yeehaw!
On the lesser slopes toward the bottom of the run the rain melts the snow and creates runnels running downhill. Cruising through them sounds a lot like waterskiing. At the end of each run I seem to be the only one exacting enjoyment from this sound because the only tracks in the area were mine. Heavy wet snow hits me in the shins all the way down.
After four runs I feel a couple of water drops drip down the inside of the back of my jacket. After six runs I feel water drip down the front of my shins into my boots, soaking my socks. After eight, the foam around the inside of my goggles is saturated and water drips into my right eye. After ten, I tell myself one more run. I’m completely soaked through, but my body is still warm from the exertion. It’s my legs that are getting tired.
When I take off my mittens at the car, the wind freezes my wet hands enough to make changing my boots and unlocking the ski rack a bit of challenge. I wait for awhile in the driver’s seat until my fingers can feel the steering wheel. In an hour, I’m back at home with my ski clothes dripping in the shower, but not before I warm up under a warm shower myself. Thinking back, I would do it all again in a minute.
Note: The text was written at the end of March when it was too wet to take my camera phone out of the car. The pictures were taken at the end of May, when Spring conditions were almost perfect.