Author David Steele knows his trees.

Words by David Steele // Photos by Gavin Gibson

Studying the outlines of states on the small screen, it’s clear that I’m in the wrong place. Radar shows green storms of moisture pummeling the mountains to the north, while another deck of blizzards lines up a few hundred miles down the interstate. This place is the doughnut center while everywhere else picks up the frosting. By noon, my friends’ orgiastic cavorting of whitewash invades social feeds, leaving me with a sinking feeling.

“Man, we should have got in the car.”

Ski culture’s fixation with skiing fresh snow and traveling to do so breeds a fear of missing out on pow. Today’s madness is worse, thanks to phone apps screaming storm totals greater than your height, your dick length, or in some cases both together. Somewhere, somebody is skiing deeper snow than you are. Those tracks through the glade should be yours. Most importantly, there won’t be any left when you finally get there, dooming you to moguls and a summer of blue-balled daydreaming about Nimbus edits and a trip to Japan.

I can’t blame anyone for chasing the deepest powder fix. Slashing two inches of duff on a groomer makes a cheap face shot. But as the electronic powder cloud moved into our phones, a strange thing crept into our hearts. Localism and secret stashes stopped looking as good as the forecast next door. At the risk of seeming like I’m trying to sound older than I actually am, I want to make a quick case for skiing in the now, right here.

If the snow pack is 70% below average, it’ll be hard. If the danger rose is totally black, then repeat that classic line on the couch. But if it’s snowed within the last three weeks and there are mountains of any size, there’s good snow someplace nearby. I can’t come up with a better use for this lightweight touring setup than checking the treed, north aspects to see if they survived the warmup. Maybe a peak further. Perhaps a thousand more feet. Terrain I’ve known in sun cups and pockets of smoke makes easier scouting than reported numbers on a map. If I want to work for it, I only have to share them with the friends that helped to put in the skin track.

Perhaps the most under-reported statistic of the powder-focused marketing revolution remains the elevated douche-bag quotient. As measured in parking lot anger and skiers cut off per chair ride, the numbers don’t lie—it sucks to deal with these assholes. What should be a fun activity turns into a cutthroat quest for the same turns with slightly more snow.

The retreat to trail heads with friendly dogs and folks who wish safe travels is an easy one. It makes it easy to return home when the hill jockeys have left bar stools and mogul fields safe, once again, for a good time. I’ll clean up the aftermath, otherwise known as spots the phone-toting folks missed, with friends.

I watch screens and radar. I’ve heard how good it is in Jackson. And tomorrow, we’ll probably venture to find a good zipper in the bumps off the backside. Maybe go touring. Continue life in the doughnut hole outside of the main event—but it’s made of the same stuff as the rest. -DS

To find the deep, one must search.


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