We’ve sworn off lift tickets, and instead invested in alpine touring gear for Ann so she can accompany me when I go out on the split board. Yesterday we tried to find a practice hill in the foothills of the Owyhee mountains, but higher temperatures and winds had removed the snow already! So today we decide to do our test run at a ski area.
Ann’s new setup consists of her old downhill skis with climbing skins on the bottoms and new boots and bindings on top that allow for free-heeled perambulation. They’re utterly foreign to her at first, but as soon as she discovers she can tractor straight up the ski hill she lights up. “This is amazing!”
She’s so excited that she proposes we climb straight up to the summit of wind-swept Shafer Butte. This goes well until we reach the steeper, crusty upper slopes. Up here the new gear feels uncertain and frightening, and memories of her big tumbles on icy slopes come flooding back. I stay close and ease us toward better snow. When we reach the summit, Ann is excited again.
We ski back to the mid-mountain lodge in nice snow, where Ann has a celebratory beer while I take one more lap on the lower mountain. All our gear is working nicely, and I have high hopes for many more free ski area days and backcountry explorations in the future.
Also posted at EveryTrail.