Steve Casimiro said it first, “I don’t like to ski alone…” (Ski Partners – Intro – Powder Magazine – Jan 94). I even laser copied the original and framed it for my best friends and ski partners 3 times…you know who you are. But in the 16+ years since Steve wrote that Intro column in Powder, I have certainly skied alone more often than not. The three-hour drive to Fernie, the three-hour climb up sun affected snow to Polar Peak solo, the random assaults with snow shoes and snowboards on random Kananaskis ridge lines (when they used to close the south end of the park highway out of Longview every winter), ducking the ropes to the upper entrance of The Cirque, skinning out Singing Pass, booting up the Spearhead Col…and beyond, and countless early morning burners down 10cm on the Blackcomb groomers before work rubbing shoulders with the nameless grey haired Whistler boys waiting for first chair who have been doing this for a lifetime longer than I have…like them, I suspect, I don’t like to ski alone, but I do.
I wouldn’t mention it to the other guys in the cat last week at Retallack (no shit !…but now that I am far enough away from Munro calling me out in front of the boys and behind the safety of my keyboard I know my buddies can read this in peace and know that I know…) but three days into another epic session with the best guides in the business, Tim and Wylee, I wiped the snow off the McConkey Pontoons, sat down in the cab and wiped tears from my eyes with my glove…somewhere there off the grid, 9 hours drive and a ferry ride from my home I found the truth. After a couple deep breathes I looked around and knew it was true…all of it.
Where to begin?
Harold Jameson said it best in K2:
“When I stand up there on a peak and it’s taken all my strength and all my courage to get there just for a moment, I feel the truth.”
There is something about returning to that familiar place between turns and trees, between men, between stomping boot packs up ridges and finding the same pillow line drops I swear I remember from last season, or the season before, still right there waiting for me, but I know it’s not the same because this time I bring the welcome weight of memories with me to the endless search. In the stolen moment I see his picture on my ski it all comes rushing back, backward and forward, the past and present together like you never left; my favorite gloves are still the shape of my hands around my poles, the little turn that slides my twice broken ankle into my boot still works and most of the faces are the same…but this year the McConkey’s are under my feet and when I look down I see my son’s Batman birthday, I remember holding my baby girl minutes after she was born, I hear the phone call from Warren the week before asking if I heard about Shane, I see my wife saying, “I know you’re going again…”, and then I look up and see the same stickers on the back of the cat seats and taste the same awful artichokes in the salami sandwiches…all of it…now and then and all the other every day things that make sliding down snow with my best friends so much better than skiing alone.
I could laugh it off and tell the boys, “That was the sickest pillow line I ever straight lined…” (You know the one Dan P.) but the truth is sometimes the search catches up with me and the memories of the people who led me here turn the 10 minute cat ride to Big Gem into a solitary reprise…I don’t like to ski alone…so when I do, I take them with me.
More from Steve Casimiro…here’s his complete Powder Intro’s site:
Life, Death and Voices in the Snow: