“Let the mountain come to you.”

I am sore, aching, and exhausted from two days on the mountain.

Friday’s storm dropped 11 inches on Stowe, filling in the rutted glades. It’s not enough (is it ever enough?), but the mountain feels whole again – complete under a fresh coat of white. Saturday was spent flowing through trees, and pounding through row after row of soft moguls. Sunday was for cruising with my coworkers, leaning into the turns, and taking the scenic way down. These were my best two days of riding so far… and not just because of the freshies.

Skis, snowboard against the sky

I haven’t ridden my best this year. I spend a lot of time frustrated, struggling with lines and recovering from poor decisions. Earlier this year, I even grazed a tree hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I want to blame my boots, the longer length of my new skis… anything to explain why I’m struggling. Rookie mistakes.

Saturday, I ended up upside down in a tree well. As I squirmed, one of the guys called out “Relax, don’t struggle.” Which… I didn’t do. I was too embarrassed and angry with myself for bailing out. Instead, I grunted and fumed. Between the two of us, I was right side up in no time, but rattled… The feeling was not improved by the next obstacle – a thin, steep chute narrower than my skis are long. Cover was thin… and the wall of solid ice on one side of the run-out was hardly reassuring.

The only way down was to take on turn and go for it, skis pointed straight. Which… I didn’t do. I was too scared to take the line, and ended up sliding part of the way and fumbling the rest, redeeming myself with a single solid drop into a pillow of soft powder.

Looking up from the bottom of the chute, I watched the next rider come down, moving with the fall line much more gracefully. Standing there, I thought about a story that Bob Berwyn shared with me about the woman who taught him to telemark. Something the woman said stuck out to me when I first read it, and just then it came back to me like a tap on the shoulder.

“Let the mountain come to you. And trust your skis.”

After the group shared high fives in celebration of our survival, we turned to the fall line. I exhaled, the worst over, and found myself finally relaxing into my turns. Too tired to battle my skis, I let them follow the fall line through the white.

Today, I ducked in to the woods to lap up what was left of the soft, riding easily. All the while, I reminded myself, “Relax, don’t struggle. Let the mountain come to you.”

Slackcountry Living

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am writing a ski blog. This happened entirely by accident. See, in the summer, I can be distracted by other things – running on pavement and diving into lakes, sitting in the shade of oaks and eating cherries. In the winter, I think of one thing and one thing only. Skiing.

In recognition of this, the blog needs a new title, and I’ve settled on Slackcountry Living.

The slackcountry (or sidecountry) is the sweet spot between the well-known Ski Area Boundary and the fabled Backcountry. Ride a lift, duck a rope, and you’re suddenly getting to know a mountain on its own terms, not yours. No snowmaking, no patrollers. Just you and the fall line. And maybe the guy behind you – slackcountry runs aren’t marked on the map, but locals know they’re there. At least it’s less crowded.

(Disclaimer: you can also get incredibly lost. Don’t do that.)

Hopefully by next winter I’ll have enough money to buy AT gear and disappear into the true backcountry on daylong tours. (If I do, you’ll hear about them.) But, even if I am so elevated to skiing and riding greatness, I intend to remain a slacker at heart.

Come ride with me as I explore the slackcountry. It’ll be fun.

Riding solo at Stowe
Early season ride at Stowe, VT