Lining Up With the Legends

It’s December 12. Not for you, but try to remember. Before your New Year’s hangover and the sweet turns you carved through the crowds. Before it started to get really crazy and really fun. Dec. 12 was the morning it snowed 45 fresh and fluffy cm’s. A Wednesday. First official pow day. It started cloudy but they moved out early and the sky was a brilliant blue. Spirits were high and you could feel the energy crackle in each frosty molecule. Pow day. Let’s play.

I drop my girls at school nice and early. Maneuver down an icy 4th street hill and pick up a few lost-looking Aussies wearing their full gear and carrying skis, attempting to cross the slippery highway. I swing my door open and call to them, “jump in!” They look at me like I’m captaining a yacht and they are adrift in the turbulent ocean. When we get to the hill Timber isn’t running. Yikes. Beside the gorgeous groom I can see the snow is deep and pillowy and I want to track the hell out of it. The lift should start any minute. Any minute now.

I’m putting on my skis when my buddy Bob Maudie pulls up. We grew up together and have shared many Sunday dinners and every time I see him I smile one of those warm, happy smiles you reserve for your special people. After our greeting, I attempt to send him on his way. Because even though I was just giving a powder tutorial to the Aussies, I have no business skiing with Bobber on the first pow day. He’s other level and we both know it. A legend. “You go ahead, buddy. I don’t want to hold you back.” But Bob is feeling generous, or maybe he’s injured, and he insists we ski together. By now it’s 9am and we see the line-up to Timber has doubled but it still isn’t working. No. Not today. We slide through the grumbling crowd and into the shorter line at Deer. The group is talking. We find out the power is out in town and someone’s ex-boyfriend who works at Hydro said - yup – it’ll be awhile. The snow looks so good and the sky so blue and we decide to give it forty-five minutes.

The thing about Bob is, people know him. Cool people. Legends tend to attract others of their kind. Despite the lack of skiing, the mood in this group is joyful. Like a party. Friends are calling out to each other, joking and making holiday plans. We’re joined by Jon Turk. Legend. A world-renowned adventurer and writer who’d been buried up to his neck in an avalanche on Cornice Bowl just ten days prior. He rode the avalanche for 300 vertical metres. Yet another close call. He starts talking about the experience and his battered body. I’m amazed he’s standing here, ready to go skiing again. But I think for Jon, skiing is like breathing. If you can, you do. Bob asks him questions about his mobility and pain, then offers a humble lift-line diagnosis that Jon is thrilled about. The rib he thought he broke is probably bruised. “You’re made of steel!” I remark. “He’s made of horseshoes – and he better shove a few more up his butt,” chimes in the man standing next to me. “Hey, Mitchy!” Jon exclaims, “Good to see you, man.” It’s Mitchy, of Mitchy’s Chutes. Legend.

I stand for the next 30 minutes and soak it all in. Like all writers with a regular column, when cool things happen you shut-up and absorb. Giants of Fernie folklore gathered together, discussing everything from snowpack to ear wax. Plans postponed because the flakes have fallen and it’s time to enjoy. I smile behind my coat collar. I know this is special and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. Despite the powder teasing us from just feet away, they remain calm. Grateful for the moment. A perspective gained from experience and all those close calls. Friends on a powder day? Heck, yeah. Eventually, Bob and I have to bail. “Too bad it didn’t work out,” he says. “Are you kidding?” I call behind me as I rush to get my fingers to my keyboard, “it was legendary!”