How To Be A Ski Bum: Hitchhike
We heard it was going to be a powder day.
For most, the prescribed course of action at this point is second-nature–the night before, make the sandwiches, pack the beer, load up the car, go to sleep, and try to block out the lyrics of that familiar Christmas song echoing in your brain…”They know that powder’s on his way! He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies for your play!”
For us, the story looked a little more like the following: call friend number one–no ride; call friend number two–no ride; ask to borrow friend number three’s car–no go; ask ex- ex- ex- ex-girlfriend’s brother for a ride–nope. Powder was coming and we were desperate. We didn’t have a car, and making it up to the mountains, AKA braving the I-70 monster, when you want to ski every day is a near impossibility.
Nevertheless, snow was falling West of Boulder, and we would not be deterred from getting there.
So our night went to the drawing board–literally. On an old white pizza box in giant block letters we Sharpie’d “WINTER PARK” and on the reverse, “BOULDER”. In the balance were fresh tracks at our beloved Mary Jane at Winter Park, and on a piece of cardboard they hung. I stashed the sign under my bed and fell asleep, smiling to that familiar tune because one way or another, tomorrow was going to be fun. “They know that powder’s on his way….”
The next morning we awoke early and snagged a ride as far south as my roommate’s girlfriend was willing to take us–about 10 minutes–and stuck our sign out on the side of the road. Boulder, as it turns out, is great place to attempt to hitchhike up to the mountains. Like cattle funneling through gates to the slaughter house, so do the cars on there way to the slopes. Unless you’re going to Eldora (a great small mountain in Boulder’s backyard) you’re driving right past us. Within 15 minutes, we were in a car. She was a skier, of course, and in classic Colorado style, she was beautiful.
The rest of the day unfolded as we had hoped. Waiting for us was five inches of fresh snow on top of five inches from the day before, and the snow was still falling. In the glades we found fresh tracks in knee-deep powder, and the Jane’s towering moguls sent our legs screaming for Momma. Winter Park’s Mary Jane, for those who don’t know, has a culture of big bumps and steep gnarly glades. “No Pain, No Jane” they say. They mean it. On a powder day, though, stepping off the main trails and disappearing in the woods can turn up pillow powder stashes that will have you hootin’ n hollerin’ before you can ever think about how bad your legs burn. That being said, it wasn’t too long before the lactic acid from hard riding told my body that enough is enough. I could smile, though, knowing I had earned every fresh turn and every ounce of pain I endured, and the ride back home, to say the least, never felt so good.
In closing I want to dedicate this post to a new hero of mine–skier, climber, surfer, conservationist, and founder of the North Face, Doug Tompkins. Following the essence of the company he built, whose motto it is to “Never Stop Exploring”, Tompkins died at age 72 kayaking in Patagonia. While we lost a man who made tremendous impacts in our world, his passing should be a profound reminder that every day is an adventure, no matter how old you may be.