There it is. A shot of powder so pristine, I almost feel guilty tracking it up. There’s no point in looking over my shoulder — no one is there. I could never explain exactly how to get here: A few turns, a traverse, a side step, a tree duck and then it opens up. A magical alleyway. My stash.
My favorite tree shot lies hidden between two groomers – the same line I skied in a power wedge more than two decades ago in the Pacific Northwest. The base area looks a little different and some of the chairs are faster, but the runs haven’t changed. The views remain the same.
In no other outdoor endeavor is familiarity more advantageous. How many season passes must one acquire to know the secret parking spot, to swiftly navigate the lift line, to know just how much speed you need on the traverse. To time a rope drop just right and sniff out untracked from first chair to last.
I pole unhurriedly past a group of indecisive skiers, confidently heading to the zone I know will be harboring a pristine blanket of white. It’s like keeping a juicy secret. When I emerge onto the groomer, remnants of a face shot still lingering, I look around to see if anyone noticed my exit. I smile on the chairlift, wondering if anyone knows what I just had.
Of course, I don’t always keep my secrets. I’ve been on the other side, too – a disoriented visitor to a new resort. I’ve watched the local posse come screaming into the lift line, reminiscing thigh-deep turns, while I stood wondering which direction to go. I try to build ski karma by occasionally showing visitors my home turf. Nothing is obvious and straightforward at my home mountain. There are a lot of big trees and flat-light skiing. I might greedily deliberate for a moment about the consequences of exposing a stash, but the fun of showing off a place I love is too much to pass up. When I lead the lost into the promised land, their hoots and hollers are all I need.
I now live in the Rockies and, while it took a few seasons of exploring and chasing locals, I’ve learned the lay of the land. I have my new stashes. I know exactly where to go when it snows 4 inches and where to go when it snows 10 inches. I learned to double step the bootpack and pass efficiently; when to ski the gut and when to ski the north-facing trees. It’s a special feeling — knowing a mountain intimately. It takes time and dedication. I storm chased to the Dolomites, the Kootenays, the Wasatch and the San Juans this season, but I found the deepest turn of my season in that hidden nook at home where I made my first powder turn.