November 19 Opening Day
I awoke early this morning; the ghosts of powder dreams fresh in my mind. Through the window, I saw the glimmer of daylight beckon me. I felt like a kid at Christmas, anxious to get up and unwrap my presents. Big White was opening again for skiing after eight months. I was planning to get to the chair as early as possible. My powder dreams were about to become reality.
Our good buddy managed to beat us to the bottom and there he stood holding a spot in the lift-line. There is no riding the chair with strangers this year and single riders are on their own. We stood together, excited, waiting for the first quad chair to start uploading. We were some of the lucky people waiting to go to the top of the mountain and into the Okanagan Champagne Powder. We stood in a long line distanced for the coronaverse. Most people had masks on and a nervous excitement built in the crowd. People were strangely subdued for the first day of the year. Even when the first chair started carrying riders to the heavens, the cheer felt stifled, like everyone wanted to explode, but they were somehow afraid to let go.
The minutes ticked by in silent anticipation. My legs shook slightly as we moved slowly forward toward our destination. I looked at the clock and smiled as I saw the time. At 8:40 am on November 19, 2020, I sat down on the welcome comfort of the Ridge chair. With a sudden rush, our excitement mounted and another ski season began.
We connected with many old friends and did some epic turns. Our first run was a series of fresh lines and boot deep powder. It was a pattern I would continue throughout the day, right until the last turns on Millies Mile. It was an opening day for the ages, the day became one of the top ten of my best ski days ever. The conditions were perfect and by lunchtime, the sun had broken out and blue sky gleamed overhead.
I had teamed up with with my friend and neighbour Brad and by lunchtime, it was just the two of us and the search for fresh powder. We were stoked at how many fresh turns in the snow remained despite the long lines at the bottom of the Ridge. When in line most people were playing by the rules. Which meant we couldn’t see all the smiles beneath the various masks being worn. It will take a bit of getting used to but I think the skiers and boarders playing in the alpine will respect the mandate around wearing masks.
We rode the chair to the top for another circuit of excitement as the sun shone in the blue sky overhead. I turned to Brad and pointed to one of my favourite runs. We skied to the lower access to the steeps glades off the backside, anticipating deep in snow. Brad and I were pumped to explore terrain that usually waits till well after opening to be carved up.
We stood atop the steep trees and breathed in the site. Directly in front and below me was the steepest, deepest terrain we could find. I turned the tips of my skis downward and let go of my inhibitions. It was like a freefall as I floated through powder and skimmed among the trees that guided me into the knee-deep bits of powder. My face felt a cool caress of snow and I howled with the glory of the moment. Face shots in November and it was the middle of the afternoon.
We felt connected with each other and with the world around us. I had a brief memory of an afternoon hike up this same terrain only a few short weeks before. The transition mother nature has made since that day was impressive. I was standing a metre above the spot I stood on that day hiking the alpine.
With a grin and a giggle, Brad pushed off through the trees. I set off with a grin and gave chase.
The road back to the hill was fast and I tucked behind Brad urging my skis for more. On our left were the untouched runs that went down to the far chair. They were inviting us and called to our sense of adventure. Common sense kept me from turning left as I knew we would be stuck walking out.
We continued on the traverse looking into the untouched powder. I laughed out loud and told Brad to trust me, with a laugh and a howl, I made my move.
Virgin snow creamed over my boots and feathered my knees. A feeling of floating on air rushed into my senses and we carved the fresh powder under our feet. We veered right and headed toward the gondola. I felt like an explorer advancing on a new world as we popped through the trees and into the fresh snow beyond.
Satiated we arrived at the bottom and climbed into the gondola. Brad laughed, I smiled, sighed and we both broke out giggling like the kids we are inside.
It is moments like this I live for. When nothing else matters but the next turn in virgin snow and joy shared with a good friend in the quiet moments that follow.