Among the many dissatisfactions of this most unusual season is that travel beyond one’s local environs has been roundly discouraged. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful down to my socks that we’re allowed to ski locally, and my version of same is pretty sweet. Pardon the plug, but between Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Mt. Rose I have a smorgasbord of savory choices.
But skiing close to home and skiing on the road are two different beasts. Nothing is the same, really, and therein lies a great deal of the road trip’s charms.
To shed light on my premise, allow me to pull back the veil on my favorite away game, an annual pilgrimage to Little Cottonwood Canyon. By the end of this brief travelogue you will probably hate me, so please fill your vessel of good will to the rim before proceeding.
I believe it was January of 1979 that my eldest brother Tim introduced me to the charms of Alta. I was a Salomon tech rep at the time, which is how I came to be in Utah with a set of bindings for him in my van. Tim was staying at the Rustler Lodge, which I naturally assumed as my own stomping ground. (Once an Alta visitor adopts a certain hostelry, loyalties remain by and large unshakeable for generations.)
Racing forward in time so as not tax my Dear Readers’ patience, I have now relocated my LCC HQ down valley to a private residence. The move also perforce tilted my skiing base of operations to Snowbird, improving the total sybaritic experience exponentially.
My current situation is so close to Paradise, the afterlife is going to have to go a long way to improve on it. On arrival I receive a backstage pass that allows me to bypass every lift line and, far more importantly, grants me uphill passage well before the general public. It’s an absolutely obscene benefit, for which mere gratitude seems insufficient. I tingle just thinking about it.
After gorging on G forces all day in one of Nature’s most intense gravity streams, I return to my lodgings to find a larder stocked to my specifications. In one of the most lopsided deals since the Louisiana Purchase, I provide culinary services in return for my bed. As I love to cook, this is hardly a burden, plus I’m excused on Pizza Night, when the host takes the helm, and grilling glorious hunks of beef is farmed out to a specialist, my longtime wingman, Rick Stalker.
Just when you think life can’t get any better, a neighbor may phone and utter a simple, magical phrase: “Call in your weights,” shorthand for “you’re all going heli-skiing tomorrow.” In more than one instance, that call has meant unlimited heli-skiing. Nirvana, meet your match.
I could go on, but I think I’ve already established that wretched excess is the rule. I’d be insane to miss this trip. Even the season that began with two laminectomies, I still managed to make the Snowbird trip.
It would be criminal to conclude this vignette without mentioning my co-author “Guru” Dave Powers, whose spirit animated every word I wrote in Snowbird Secrets. Our lifelong relationship wasn’t just forged at Snowbird; it was pre-ordained by Snowbird.
On the Road Again
The point behind this lengthy detour into my Snowbird sojourns is that life on the road, wherever it leads, is different from life at home. The tendency is to be more self-indulgent, more adventurous. Of course, Snowbird is a special place and my experiences there have been off the charts, but any distant destination can have this same wonderful, refreshing otherness.
This weird winter, when travel has been restricted when not outright banned, the opportunities for road trips have been few. Pilgrimages to Snowbird have bracketed my pandemic experience: the worldwide shut-down occurred just after I returned home from the 2020 visit and my trip there next week will be my first foray away from home since Covid changed the rules of engagement.
Most likely my four-day fling will be my only road trip of 2021, so I shall savor every second all the more. Stalker will reprise his role as wingman and our host will once again out-do himself in the hospitality department. He’s already reserved our seats on the Powderbird heli…
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