February 1 was the first serious day of skiing for me this year, beginning with a Friday morning drive that featured remarkable clouds in the closing arguments of their storm. The clouds moved around the peaks and valley quickly, breaking apart and reforming, dark grays in the middle and diamond white along the edges. I could swear I saw a cloud cradling a huge expanse of peaks that looked like a five hundred foot caterpillar. Skiing the afternoon shift in a full whiteout was nice simply because it felt good to be inside a storm and what it promised for the next day. Sunday morning began as a bluebird but was interrupted by another storm so after a couple hours of accumulation I was back in a cloud, skiing by Braille.
There was high quality snow in Mammoth this past weekend, with 10-degree temps at dawn Saturday morning and a harsh east wind blowing snow in the wrong direction, not down into the mountain creating sumptuous sugar deposits on all faces and in gullies but a wind blowing snow up and off of the mountain, but it didn’t really matter. This situation always causes the amusing entry routine on the upper peaks where riders approach ledges while covering their faces against a sandblast of a million tiny snow crystals.
I skied alone until I ran into John Wentworth at the bottom gondi, a figure who features strongly in Yutaka and my paintings and drawings. He is a very fast skier, and he is adventurous. He courts trouble. He has the long face of a sleepy criminal, a mastermind.
Untracked cakey feather pow was found all Saturday morning at the top of the mountain in a slot between Huevos and Climax, though every lap required intricate maneuvering to avoid hairball rock zones. 10 degree pow is not exactly a good binding base layer, so again, for the second time this season a cold dump of dry light pow has fallen on rock, so it was no surprise when a couple grand piano sized snow slabs separated, shifted, held—did not slide, while traversing underneath Top of the World. This was the first serious day of skiing this season. Five more chairlifts began loading for the first time all season, 22 & 23 among them, as well as 12, 13, and 14.
Toward the end of the day I got petulant.
I’ve never experienced a season so boney, I whined.
Yes, the unforgiving rock lurking under seductive twinkling powder is a true mindfuck, Mr. Wentworth replied.
I’m ruining my skis, I cried.
Trying not to destroy one’s dear skis, the prophet Wentworth continued, is a challenge we all face, but you can’t ski with the wellbeing of your skis as the central thought while descending a mountain.
Your precious skis, the oracle opined, are going to take a beating no matter what you do, you just can’t put any weight into your turns.
You’ve got to ski like Gordon Lightfoot, he said.
The guy who sang Sundown? I asked.
Yes, Gordon Lightfoot, the sensitive Canadian with a voice like dry light powder, and you’ve got to pray your skis survive. You’ve got to become more like a butterfly.