There was a time in my life (not so long ago), that I didn’t even realize you could ski off-area. Why would you want to? Ski areas have lifts that take you to the top. They have lodges with fires, hot chocolate, cheeseburgers and beer. They have groomed runs. Why would anybody want to go off-area?
So when I was dating then-boyfriend-Hubs, I didn’t blink an eye when he asked me if I wanted to “go skiing up Lolo Pass.” Sure! I said. I heart skiing. I’ve been skiing since I was six years old. I’m sure there’s nothing Lolo Pass can throw at me that I can’t handle. I guess I didn’t let it worry me that I’d never heard of a ski area called Lolo Pass before…I’m sure it was just because it’s a cutesy little local mom-and-pop shop. And somehow I didn’t blink and eye when he told me to bring my backpack. Um…ok. That’s weird. But ok.
An hour later we pull in the parking lot and our conversation goes a little something like this:
Hubs: Ok, get your boots on and strap your skis to your pack.
Hubs: Put your ski boots on and I’ll help you strap your skis to your backpack
Me: So I did hear you right the first time. You’re serious?
Hubs: Um, yeah? How else do you think we’re going to get to the top of the ridge?
Me: You want me to hike. In my ski boots?|
Hubs: <sighs> Yes! Is there a problem??
Oh buddy. Is there a problem? Yes there’s a damn problem! Have you ever tried hiking in your ski boots with 30 lbs on your back? Because up until 3 minutes ago the thought had never (in all the years I’ve been on this earth) crossed my mind. Ever!
I took this opportunity to make a few mental notes about this so-called-boyfriend of mine which probably included: “blatant disregard for other’s feelings. Extremely poor communicator. Fails at setting expectations. Willing to throw me into situations that I am extremely uncomfortable with. Bat-shit crazy.”
I’ve since discovered most of those aren’t true. Although I still to-this-day do not rely solely on his accounts of skiing, rafting, hiking or mountain biking. I choose to do my own research and decide for myself how “extreme” it is, because he apparently has more confidence in me and my abilities than I do. Bless his heart.
Anyways, I digress. I guess I still had some of the “I’m-a-cool-girlfriend-and-I-want-to-try-and-impress-you” attitude in me. But silently I felt as if I had been slapped across the face with the harsh reality of backcountry skiing. I was still trying to convince myself that it was a “real thing” and not just some crazy form of torture as I trudged up the ridgeline. But I made it. Not without a few tears; but I made it. And here’s proof.
Check out that powder though…knee deep! Seriously. This is why people love the backcountry. Fresh tracks. Untouched powder stashes. No lift lines. No out of control snow boarders whizzing by. No crowds. Just you, the outdoors and some sweet snow.
We skied one run and traversed back to the parking lot. And to this day, I’m not 100% sure what made me say “let’s do it again.” So up we hiked for the second time that day.
Fast-forward 4-5 years. I didn’t kick the Hubs to the curb like I thought I might in those first few hours of my intro to backcountry skiing. And as you know (if you’ve read previous entries like this and this), I’ve actually continued to backcountry ski and invested quite a bit of money into making sure I never have to boot pack again. Now we’ve got fancy powder skis with special bindings, and skins that allow you to hike on your skis.
And you know what? Two weekends ago we went back to this exact same area up Lolo Pass for a tour. I’m glad to report that I’m all grown up now: there were no tears this time and I actually had an amazing time. I can still hardly believe that in just a few short years I’ve done such a 180, but it just goes to show you that “you never know where you’ll end up.”
Here are some highlights from the trip two weekends ago:
There is an “official” visitor’s center at the Pass that has restrooms, hot chocolate, a fire and a little gift shop. So I guess it’s kind of like an official area. Kind of.
Ok I’m going to fast forward here cuz no one really cares about my pit test! Bottom line…..we deemed it fine to ski. Pow pow!!
Here’s a little bit better one:
Ah yes. How I do love backcountry skiing. I love the isolation. The lack of lift lines. The lack of anything other than me and a mountain that has stayed the same for hundreds of years. I guess I am turning a little hippie Don. I hope you’re proud….but don’t tell anyone.
And you know what? I even like the touring. The climbing. Because when you work for your turns it makes them that much better.
So yeah. I’ve come a loooong ways in just a few years. And I’m kind of proud of myself. Tear….
So another glorious day at Lolo Pass. And no day at Lolo is complete without a trip to The Lumberjack Saloon on our way back to town. If you love dive/country/in-the-middle-of-nowhere bars. This one is for you:
In the end…I have come a long ways. Don’t you think? In fact we have a ski vacation planned this winter that will be purely backcountry skiing. Can’t say I would have been too thrilled about that 4 years ago (what, no condo? No big fancy lodge? No high-speed quads? The horror!!). Don’t get me wrong, I still dig real ski vacations….but when in Rome….bring your own beer.