In the past I've been known to disparage those who slide down mountains. Snowboarders are "knuckle draggers." Skiers are "lazy" and don't deserve to get to the top if they can't climb up there by themselves. Heck, I've even been somewhat justified by poorly behaved skiers. (Of course, I'm sure they felt they were perfectly justified.)
It's been a solid 10+ years since I've been on skis. Before that it'd been at least 10 years since I had last skied. So what prompted me to ski again?
Two trips: Mt. Hood and Mt. Hood.
On both climbs I had no problem keeping up with my teammates on the way up. In fact, I did better without the added weight of skis and heavy boots. I chuckled to myself when they struggled to put on "ski crampons" and still slipped while I used my spikes to climb straight up the icy slope.
After we summited (or didn't, read those two reports for some of my proudest moments on any mountain) I realized why they had lugged those heavy planks all the way up the mountain.
And they were gone. Swishing effortlessly down the mountain while I was left to trudge back the way we had climbed. My descent was made worse by softening snow and the knowledge they were probably already eating burgers.
I've been building my ski gear for a few years. It's hard to justify spending money on something I'm not 100% committed to so I got a set of skis here, a pair of boots there. Next up is a set of bindings, then I'll splurge on some skins and I'm good to go.
In the meantime, my buddy KC had an extra set of skis I could borrow. He, Scott, and Matt promised they wouldn't laugh (too much) on my born-again first trip down the slopes. But remember that this is the Pacific Northwest and even in late December the snow is sparse at best. The local slopes aren't open so we were going to "earn our turns."
It's a good thing, too. The climb was the best part. Pretty much just like hiking or snowshoeing with longer feet. I got the hang of it even if Treen kept looking at me like I was crazy. KC broke trail and did indeed give me some pointers. 1,000 feet of climbing later we were at the top of Silver Fir and it was time to descend.
I found myself wishing the lifts were running so I could ride it down. I guess that's not what skiers do, though. Skins off, goggles on, boots clamped, tutu secured and...
Hey. This isn't so bad.
Wait. How do I stop? Seriously! HOW DO I STOP?
Luckily, the snow was soft and deep. And just like riding a bicycle, skiing came back to me pretty quickly. What didn't come back was a set of skier's thighs. How do they do it? After 200 feet of vertical I could hardly stand up. Treen felt the same way. She was running through the deep snow wondering how I was suddenly going so fast.
The other guys told me I did well. They said this was hard snow to ski. That it would have been easier had we been on the groomed slopes on the other side. I don't know if any of it was true.
I was relieved to make it back to the truck. I only crashed twice so that was a success. I figured out how to climb in skis and to get out of ditches, of which there were many.
I'll definitely continue my quest to build my ski gear so next time we tackle Hood or Bachelor or one of the other Oregon volcanos on my list I'll be able to slide down with ease and grace. But first I'm going to do a lot of wall sits and maybe some lunges.