Snowpack-less

Well, good on ya old man winter.  You’ve fooled us all.  As the end of September came to a close, we were all beginning to turn our gaze a little higher to the tops of the mountains.  Lawn ornament projectiles were slowly taken down and put away before the winds rolled in and many of us pulled open the shed to dust off the ski gear. While we began to plan a trip to the bird, a tour up the lane, maybe even an early season tundra jaunt on lower Hatch Peak, well, old man winter had a different plan.

Instead of early season snowflakes, any of them, we recieved early season wind storms, three of them.  When I say “dust off the ski gear” I mean in a literal sense of the term.  Getting a good look at my skis required the removal of  a thick condensed layer of matanuska river silt. I had to remind myself, this is normal, this is winter in Palmer.  Right?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still amped on winter, and not so desperate to make the drive to the Kenai yet, but the relative lack of snow does get one wondering. When will it happen? In mid October Jared and I biked up Archangel to a silent and brightly lit fall day,  and I’ve made three tours up the road over the pass, but still, I want more.  I know good things come to those who wait, but if I had a chart of Wait time vs. Ski Desperation, my line would be rapidly approaching the ceiling.

Fortunately, we did get about 4-6 inches of new snow across the high elevations on Tuesday night, just enough to refresh the road and provide my first powder turns for the season.  Yeah, it wasn’t bottomless blower, spines on Rae Wallace or pillows at tincan, but it was pow skiing.  I could feel the speed of the wind against my face and the gentle tug of gravity pulling my legs and skis into each turn, gliding swiftly across the new light density snow.  Right now, I’ll take that 4-6 inches. I couldn’t tour to where I really wanted, but damn it felt good to be making turns in soft, fresh snow.  The line of desperation on my chart backed off a little and that crooked smile on my face now ran from ear to ear. While the skiing could be OH SO MUCH better, it’s nice to be humbled; to get back to that new-born skiing feeling again. Except this time, it was different.

I’ve been skiing for almost five years now, a mere blip compared to some of my friends and acquaintances.  I’m a ski baby. For the first time, it became abundantly clear that skiing felt like home, the turns locking in place by muscle memory without so much as a second thought.  For the first time in my memory of skiing, or returning to skiing, instead of this new exicting experience, it felt the return of an old friend; a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.  You know, one of those friends where you sit around and share old stories over some cheap whiskey.  That was my most recent day skiing.  I reconnected with my friend “skiing” and had a blast.

I’m ready for more of course, but we definitely need more snow.  Every glance at the snow stake makes me cringe.  We’re all waiting for that little bit of snow to cross the 1’ threshold, and it’s been a long time coming.  What’s holding me over is the knowledge of inevitability, of the fact that no matter what winter will come.  It will happen, and it will surpass my expectations of epicness, at least for a short while.  For now, I’ll take what I can get.  If that’s a tour up the road then so be it.  Let the season begin.

Before I fully close out this much overdue update, it’s important to mention the long standing rumor that it’s too early to slide right now.  BULLSHIT.  There’s not more than 7” across most areas of the upper elevations. Where the snow has deposited in lee aspects and gullies, the snowpack, if you could call it that, is reactive and unstable.  Brian Vaughan decided to give one of these little loaded pockets a look, and it popped on him, releasing with what looks like a 6-12” crown.  Now, a wind slab like this might easily be managed and ski cut during deeper conditions, but as of now, all that’s going to happen is you getting run through rocks in a very thin, non existent snowpack.  Furthermore, if April bowl looks as awesome to you as it did to us, then you’d be very smart to avoid it right now.  April bowl looks deep, and when compared to everywhere else it should be a big fat bullseye indicator to keep your ass out of there.  As a final heads up, this is the time of year that numerous people have died or been injured in April bowl.  I’m not trying to scare anyone, or tell you not to ski April bowl, but use your brain.  I’m going to wait for some more snow and less reactive windslabs before I head up in to rocky terrain.

Make sure to check out the new links on the bottom of the right hand sidebar.  Midnight Sun Yoga Center is Palmer’s newest Yoga Studio offering classes in Yoga, Zumba and Belly dances, and covering all skill levels.  Erin and Ailis have been operating since September 1st, and MSYC has been an amazing addition to Palmer’s growing community of outdoor adventure and enthusiasts!  Check em out.  Also, please please please check out the new website for the Palmer Bike Park planning page, www.bikepalmer.com.  The site will go live on 11/21, but if you sign up now you’ll be updated when the site goes live. Then you can jump right in and provide all the detailed comments you want about features, lines and things you’d like to see in the park.  We’re going to present a comprehensive example of community support to the borough and let them know we mean business.

 



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