We hummed and hawed and otherwise hesitated in the parking lot as dark, heavy clouds gathered overhead. The frigid morning was made more so by the wind that howled and swirled, a precursor to the coming storm. We zipped up our vests and tugged arm warmers a little higher, swapped cycling caps for fleece beanies and headed into the leave-less trees of Park City’s famous Spiro switchbacks.
The dirt was damp and sticky, and covered in a coating of leaves which became small water traps for dew and rain. As we spun the droplets of stagnant water flickered up into our faces. The sun streamed through the gray clouds, filtering itself among the bare branches and tumultuous sky. As we turned the pedals up the tight, steep switchbacks there was no question that winter was looming; peering over the edge of the precipice, patiently awaiting the call from Mother Nature to unleash its frozen wrath on the world below.
The naked aspen trees stood huddled together in blank defiance, stalwart and determined. Resolute in that inevitable fate that awaited them. The ground was filled with summer’s gold and green, those tinkling natural chimes that create the density and music in a windy grove of aspen trees. But on this day they lay silent and defeated. Instead of a dense and swaying field of shining leaves, only death and the stark, vacuous void remained . All enduring life was clinging precariously to itself, staring boldly into the face of an assaulting Wasatch winter.
An unmistakable feeling that this was the last chance to ride at that altitude hung, like the clouds, heavy in the air. The snow was brewing overhead, indeed that very night it fell in a sporadic dusting, leaving the timber sugar coated, and the high mountain accumulation that much deeper. But for a brief respite from the seasonal shift that was all forgotten. The singletrack was a winding, turning, incredible stream of fantastic improbability. A final taste of what has been, a goodbye to all that was. In that moment there was no thought of snow and winter and skis. In that moment all the world was concisely fixated on the grin-inducing flow of perfect singletrack. The Mid-mountain Trail was immaculate – smooth and twisty, a mix of pale green and gray and the fading resplendentcy of a long past summer.
In that moment the cold melted away into that irresistible warmth of speed and trees and a toothy ear to ear grin.
It was not unlike that April day of powder, that last frosting filled ski day before the heat and the thaw of the coming summer. In fact, these two days are now intrinsically coupled as bookends to the 2009 singletrack season. Transitional days, linking snow and dirt, skis and wheels.
And now, not unlike those aspen trees staring at the bleakness of winter, my eyes are turning heavenward, watching, waiting, and anticipating those first thick, heavy flakes of snow. Those first of the season’s inaugural storm. But as I do so, I’m remembering with fondness the summer of 2009. A training table of singletrack and vast summer skies. An endless stream of swoopy ecstasy and heart pounding mountain passes.
Long live summer.
Bring on the snow!