Thwap! Went the t-bar. I’m not sure which part of my body it knocked into, but I fell hard. I don’t fall much these days when I’m snowboarding. Partly because I started riding 27 years ago and have solid edge control and partly because I don’t jump. I do like to ride fast, though, and this year, especially, I’m challenging myself to push my boundaries a little bit more. Historically, I’ve leaned toward blue groomers, just for fun. This year, I’ve gone after a number of black runs, and bumps, and today, some trees. I often reflect on how I don’t really know where my boundaries are physically. The closest I’ve come to those limits was birthing two babies without drugs, and that was 12 and 10 years ago now.
This morning, I won my battle against inertia again and set off to explore Ski Cooper for the first time.
I rolled up about 15 minutes before the lifts opened and parked super close to the lodge. Check-in was easy with almost no wait. Even on a holiday Monday, there were almost zero lift lines and runs were wide-open, the snow magical. I fell in love with this gem of an indie mountain today and will most certainly be back.
After five or six runs and a quick break, I decided, for the very first time, to ride up what I thought was a t-bar. (It wasn’t – it was actually a platter lift. You ride up on the surface of the mountain like you would with a t-bar, but you’re leaning on a circular disk instead.) While I watched a few people load up to determine whether or not it would be a good idea, I discovered one of the straps on my bindings had snapped off to an unusable point, so I took a brief detour to the rental shop, which ultimately saved the day for $10. While I was waiting, a couple of young guys walked in to trade in their ski gear for snowboard gear. They asked the rental shop guy for tips. Two of the guys standing around chimed in with several minutes of guidance, though they had only started riding a couple of days ago. When I mentioned I had some more tips if they’d like to hear them, I was quickly dismissed. Twenty-seven years, dude. Oh, and I also used to be a snowboard instructor. That’s fine. Good luck to you. 🙂
With a new strap fastened in, I went back to the platter lift and made my way up the mountain. It was a fun-ish experience for the novelty, but my legs were definitely cramping by the time I got to the top and I decided I didn’t need to do that on a board again. I took a super fun run down with not another soul nearby.
When I tried to get back to the same run without taking the platter lift, I crossed over to the back side of the mountain and ended up opting for a black tree run called Slider. The snow was incredible and the run innocuous enough, at
first. I was feeling a little arrogant from some of the other runs I had done until it got much steeper, with big bumps, and very little space to make turns. I made my way down, inelegantly, but effectively. Until I stopped and got stuck. The nose of my board was buried in probably a foot of snow and every time I tried to make friends with gravity and point my board down the hill to get myself out, I sunk down further.
Eventually I was able to unstrap my back foot, at which point I quickly realized I was in over my head. Or over my knee. I tried to take a step and sunk down a couple of feet. I dug out my nose, unstrapped my other foot, and tried again to take a step. Fortunately, I was almost down to the bottom and after a bunch more steps mostly up to my knees, sometimes deeper than that, and occasionally on a more solid surface with no sinking, I got down to the…wait for it…actual t-bar. Yep, after I had decided no more based on my platter lift experience and completely exhausting myself trying to dig my way out in the trees, I was stuck with my only way back up the mountain being a t-bar.
This one moved faster and had a more substantial structure pulling people up. And the surface was much steeper. I watched a few skiers go up, asked the lift operator for some pointers, and then made my first attempt. At which point I was quickly, swiftly, and hardly knocked off balance to the ground. I watched a couple more skiers go up, asked for some more pointers, and tried again, this time successfully.
After one more run down, I was done, but gleeful.
I stopped at another gem in Leadville, called Buchi. I ordered a café con leche (double shot uh oh) and a Cuban sandwich to go. Buchi has become a favorite go-to any time I pass through Leadville now. Nearly four hours later, I’m still buzzing from the coffee.
This was a happy day. I usually feel like happiness is elusive. I experience moments of joy and contentedness, for sure, but happiness often feels out of reach and like language that just doesn’t resonate. Not in a sad, depressed way, just in a without definition way.
So, I’m grateful for this day.