It took me a minute to figure out how to work the crampons. They are basically giant metal teeth that you attach to your skis so that you can walk uphill on slippery ice.
I didn’t think to try to take a video of myself at 6am this morning. I wish I had. The wind was whipping as I put together all my equipment in the parking lot and got started hiking. It took me a minute to get used to using the crampons. Once I found my rhythm, I looked ahead up the trail and realized that I was about to ascend a freaking vertical ice skating rink. I felt pretty badass doing this crazy hike up the mountain first thing in the morning. It was clear that I was the only person on the mountain. It was well before opening time, and not a single person was in sight.
This might seem strange to somebody who is not a skier, but I wasn’t worried about getting hurt on the icy climb – and I didn’t worry at all about skiing down it once I got to the top. I’ve been skiing my entire life, and I’ve done that particular hike at least ten times this season. But you know what I was worried about?
Getting caught by ski patrol.
Climbing uphill, or “skinning” is technically allowed in the early morning, before the lift opens, but the ski patrollers don’t really like it. There are many reasons why- the biggest being that, in general, my fellow uphill skinners do not always follow the rules. Actually, they pretty much always break at least one rule – -ducking ropes on closed trails, climbing up when they shouldn’t be, just being a general nuisance.
But not me! I am a rule-follower. I am one of those people that gets heart palpatations about being late–and I DEFINITELY avoid conflict and trouble at all costs.
This is not a common characteristic of somebody who likes to hike on ice and then ski down it. But that’s me, I guess.
About halfway up I could hear the sound of a groomer coming up the trail behind me (for non-skiers: a groomer is a gigantic machine that grooms ski trails). I had a moment of panic. Was the driver going to yell at me for being out on such an icy trail?
He didn’t. I gave him a friendly wave as he passed, and he waved back from his little perch inside the gigantic machine. He looked perplexed. A light drizzle, a very cold mist was coating everything with even more ice. My pants and jacket were starting to crust over. I knew I looked slightly insane, hiking alone on ice, getting covered in ice in the process.
When I hike with my friends, we like to drink coffee in the Ski Patrol lodge at the top of this particular trail. I was alone this morning, but I still wanted coffee. When I sat down in the lodge, alone, with my coffee, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the patrollers might say to me if they walked in right then. So I drank my coffee quickly and got ready to ski down.
To say that the ski run down was the iciest run I have ever done in my life wouldn’t begin to do it justice. There was literally no snow – just ice. I have been skiing since I was three – so that’s about 36 years of icy east coast skiing. This was the most ridiculous ice I can remember. It was so icy that there was no choice but to sideslip (for nonskiers- sideslip means you aren’t pointing your toes down the hill, instead you turn your body sideways as if you are stopping – except you allow yourself to slip). At one point, I was slipping at such a high speed across steep glare ice that there was no way I could have stopped if I wanted to. My skis were chattering feircely, making an extremely loud Pftttttttttttttthhhhhdddddddhhhh sound that echoed from the mountaintops. My feet and legs were vibrating so much that my toes went numb. It was so ridiculous I laughed out loud.
I wish I had a video of it. I might have been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, since the trail I was on never would have been open if I hadn’t been skiing so early.
As I neared the end of my run, I passed under the lift. It was now running, and there happened to be three chairs full of ski patrollers on their way up for their first run.
Uh oh. I thought.
I figured I’d smile and waved up to them. It had worked with the groomer earlier. I shouted, “Good morning!”
They all just stared back at me. Obviously, they didn’t like what they saw. “You alone?” one of them called down in a serious business-like deep voice.
“Yep – just on my way to my car now!” I shouted back as I scraped across a patch of black ice, and then picked my way over a giant crack in it. I could feel their eyes on me as I scraped further away.
My first thought: Phew. At least I didn’t get in trouble.
My second thought: Holy crap, that was actually really dangerous!