Day 2: I’m an idiot

Dec. 13, 2015

Crystal Mountain

Vertical for the day: 15,000

Year total: 50,000

Backcountry.jpg

Well, so much for my great decision-making.

Another epic storm has hit the region, dumping 16 inches over two days at Crystal. I decided to go for it, despite the fact that it’s a Sunday, which I usually try to avoid. A Sunday at Crystal on a powder day can be a real shit show, but the conditions are just too good. I’m out of bed early — another fitful night for me — and in the parking lot of Crystal by 8:10 a.m.

Plenty early, right?

Nope, shit show. The top lot is full. The “reserved” rich-people lot is full. The nasty B lot is nearly full.

I schlep to the ticket window and there’s a long line of grumpy-looking dudes waiting to shell out their $72.

Not me, I say. I’m not going to be one of those stooges who waits for a ticket, then waits again for a chairlift, then misses all the good snow. Not me.

So I schlep back to the car, grab the AT gear, and start climbing to Silver Basin. About halfway up Quicksilver, a ski patrolman stops and says, “Be really careful. We haven’t controlled Silver Basin, and stuff we set off earlier has been releasing some very big slides.

That’s the downside to skiing by yourself most of the time.

Up I go. I’m following an established track and eventually, I run into the people ahead of me. Three snowboarders are looking up at the ridgeline in Silver Basin at the pristine, unskied slopes. They’re looking a little nervous. I power on, but have already decided I’m not going to the top unless I see someone coming down, giving me some assurance that the slope won’t slide.

I make it to the last bench in Silver Basin and stop to eat. I won’t be going higher today. Too much risk, and I can see a couple of small slides that make me think this place is unsafe.

I ski the low-angle 16 inches of snow and it’s great when I can get enough speed. Mostly, it’s a slog out back to the main ski area.

When I hit the top of Quicksilver, I take a hard left to Forest Queen, a mid-mountain chair where they rarely check tickets, and I head to Chair 6.

Uh-oh. Yes, it’s a shit show. A half-hour of standing in line later, I get the hell out of there and head over to Rex. Then Northway, which is has just been opened for the season.

The snow is funky. Big ice blobs from recent warm weather are hiding under fresh snow. When I hit one halfway down the Northway Bowl, I’m sent flying, land hard on my side, both of my AT skies fall off. Epic crash.

The lightweight bindings never really recover and keep popping off. So the rest of the day is spent tentatively turning, hoping the skis stay on. 2:30 comes, I’ve racked up a little vertical, and I head home.

Yes, bad decision-making. Sometimes you need to suck it up and stand in line. Especially when the backcountry isn’t safe.

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