Normally I limit my posts to fly fishing trips and extended vacations and road trips that differentiate my life from my daily routine. My day of skiing at Vail yesterday was so outstanding, that I felt the need to document it while fresh in my memory.
Jane and I took advantage of ideal winter temperatures; and we invited our friends, Dave and Karen Gaige and Fred and Douggie Young, to join us. As predicted the sky was bright blue, and the sun was brilliant during our five hour visit to Vail Ski Resort. The high temperature hovered around freezing, and these weather factors produced nearly ideal conditions for an enjoyable day of skiing in the Colorado high country.
After lunch our group of six ventured into Blue Sky Basin, and on the first descent of Little Ollie, Fred observed an inviting situation that demanded further exploration. A large bowl was positioned beneath the Skyline lift, and a huge cornice adorned the western rim. This natural snow formation builds throughout the season, and the wind blows snow across the lip and deposits it on the concave eastern side. As we skied by, Fred observed areas with a smooth collection of wind blown snow, and he suggested that we should explore it on our next run.
I reluctantly agreed, and we carefully skirted the edge of the cornice on our next loop. Sure enough as we slowly descended, we noticed a section that was as smooth as an untouched sand dune, so we decided to approach. The snow curled over the steep wall and created a C-shaped configuration. My heart pounded and jumped in my throat, as I gazed at the near vertical pitch of the snow wall that extended for ten feet below the cornice. Fred was undeterred, as he guided his skis to the edge, and then he took the plunge. He traversed a bit and then executed a sharp turn and zig zagged his way down the slope until he came to a stop 25 yards below.
I filmed a portion of his run with my camera, and as I was restoring it to my parka pocket, a group of four skiers approached from above. They watched Fred do his thing, and I heard the likely leader of the group comment that, “he did not sink in”. I was not anxious to wait for the four new arrivals to blemish the bowl, so I hurriedly approached the precipice and elevated my courage. In a flash I slid over the edge and followed Fred’s lead by traversing just below the lip for five feet, and then I twisted my lower body and launched a sharp jump turn. I will never forget the next vision. A wave of sparkling ice crystals initiated by my traverse tumbled in front of me, and I glided through it and reversed my course with another adrenaline fueled turn to the left. What a rush! My heart was pounding and endorphins flooded my brain, as I connected three or four additional turns until I came to a stop in front of Fred.
It was a two minute skiing sequence that I will never forget, and I have to admit that I was a bit energized by the group of four spectators perched on the rim of the bowl above me. In addition to the primal need to survive, I did not wish to embarrass myself in full view of the other skiers. Other memorable runs took place during February 1 at Vail, but the Lover’s Leap episode will never fade.