Give Thanks Meadows: First ski day of the season
            (click on pictures for larger versions)
I headed for the Schell Creeks thinking about the possibilities along the way. When I arrived at the road leading into
my favorite stashes I was greeted with this view.

The drive up this snowy road involved many pauses for deer crossing the road. This gave me time to contemplate
my route for the day. The snow was so plentiful that I decided to ski a south facing aspen bowl. I had often looked at
that bowl but usually pushed into the mountains further to get some steeper lines. On this day with so much snow
and the resulting potential for some really loaded slopes it seemed like this bowl was the obvious choice.
Another beautiful point about this bowl is the nearly non-existent approach before the climb begins. I’m so used to
mile or two approaches that this was almost too much of a shock for the system. Despite the shock I adjusted quickly
and put the heel lifts down for my ascent.
The dogs and I had not gone very far when we bumped into a cow and calf elk hanging out in an aspen grove.
They moved up into the sage and let us pass, the dogs wanted to greet them close up but the snow was deep
enough to prevent them from getting close without me having to yell at them. The elk had also been kinda
enough to have broken a trail down to that grove from another grove of trees up the mountain further. This
gave me a welcome reprieve from breaking trail for a little bit.

Checking slope angles along the way up I never found anything steeper than 30 degrees and those pitches
were mostly small roll overs in openings scattered amongst the aspen grove. For the most part the pitches were
20 to 25 degrees and the snow was very stable.
As I reached the top of the bowl I was greeted with north winds blowing hard. I went from hot to cold very quickly.
The winds were blowing a good steady 20 plus mph. Another good reason to be spending most of my time down
in the protected bowl. I did manage to stay on the ridge long enough for some pictures of other tempting slopes.
Looking down at my intended route I remembered that these were going to be my first turns of the season.
Thinking back I couldn’t remember a season that my first turns were going to be in sweet knee deep powder.
The dogs seemed excited about it to although they had to stick in my tracks for the most part as the snow was
too deep for them to blaze their own trail.
The ski down was superb with the only downside being a few flat spots along the way where I had to let the skis run
straight to maintain speed lest I just come to a stop on each turn. Those flat benches weren’t very long and didn’t
take away from the descent at all.
At the bottom I decided that I would ski a different line on my next run. This one would involve reaching a more
westerly face with a good 25 to 30 degree pitch on the top 500 feet or so of the slope.
Reaching the last bit of this ascent I quickly dug a pit and checked the snow pack. No obvious weaknesses and a
green light Rutshblock test gave me the confidence to ascend this last pitch to the ridge top. I could tell by some
of the vegetation that most likely in years past some of this slope had slid but today there was nothing going down
the mountain except for me.
On the final switchback I went by an old bristlecone pine that reminded me I was in Nevada. Not because it was a
Bristlecone but because of the empty cartridges wedged into the trunk.
The view were also reminders of how beautiful Nevada is with a snow blanket.

The ski down was all I could want it to be with the snow being deeper on this aspect.
I enjoyed the last moments of the day soaking in the ecstatic light of the aspen alpen glow.
Darkness set in on the drive home and with it a fully satisfied feeling overtook me, first days like this remind
me of why I love playing on the mountains in the winter.
First days are hard to beat and one like this is bound to keep me searching for similar days all winter long.
I hope the Christmas holiday season brings some snow like this. Come on Santa, bring some North Pole like
Happy Holidays everyone!