Winter is still sputtering, somewhat. At least in the sense that there has yet to be any of those absurdly deep, light, and altogether fantastic powder days. That is not to say that the skiing has not been good. It has been. Good, but not exactly great. But then, the down is only part of the reason I ventured into the backcountry in the first place. Stemming from a snowshoe habit, and that desire to maintain some semblance of fitness without much exposure to the stationary trainer was an insatiable desire to hike uphill. And as it is now, I hike far more during the winter than I ever do in the summer. Which is natural, given how difficult it is to pry myself away from the bike and the singletrack when the days are long and warm.
But, surprisingly, riding a bike and skinning up a mountain are more similar than they are not. That is, the rhythm, the cadence, the technical skill involved, and the overriding sense of “out there” are nearly one in the same. A well placed skin track is not unlike a well built singletrack. The result is an uphill effort that leaves one both exhausted and euphoric. Huffing and puffing at 10,000 feet is rewarding, regardless of the means of achievement. The descent, whether on wheels or skis being equally so.
And I think that is where much of the larger public loses the attraction, and is left wondering and asking: “why?”
What is the ratio of hiking to skiing in the backcountry? 4 to 1? 10 to 1?
I hiked for 4 hours on Saturday into Timpanogos’s UFO Bowls. 30 minutes after dropping in I was back in the parking lot after a few soft turns in mashed potato snow, and several survival turns through Aspen trees that seemed hellbent on sending me rolling face first into one another. I imagine they must have been having a great laugh at my expense.
But the day was a good one. And all that thumping of the heart up the steep ridgeline was itself a worthy and satisfying endeavor. Floating downward through the snow after the hiking was simply gravy. Those turns were well earned.
There may come a day when an intrepid entrepreneur will come up with some form of mechanical transport that can “lift” one into the mountains on some sort of suspended “chair”. Perhaps a gas or electric powered pulley system could be rigged to large metal posts that have been built into the mountain side. Perhaps, someday. But, until then I suppose I will have to be satisfied with putting skins to skis and trudging up the hill the way God intended it to happen – on my own two legs.
And that is alright. Because, well, I like the hike.
Weekly weigh in: 169 (take that, holidays!)