Trip date: Saturday, February 4th, 2023
The day started off misty and rainy, leaving many of us perhaps questioning what exactly we signed ourselves up for. The walk from the car to the cafeteria already soaked through my first pair of gloves; seemed like it was going to be a wet day. Despite all of this, I was still very happy to be there (I suspect most of us were, given how much interest there was for this outing), and curious to get a taste of what backcountry skiing is like. Aside from some cross-country skiing and a bit of downhill many years ago, and I was excited for this opportunity to give it a first shot in a welcoming and beginner-friendly environment.
After waiting for all the cars to arrive, and some organizing in the caf, we made our way to the trailhead in smaller groups, ours being Tamara, Anelia, and myself. Compared to the wet slushy mess of the lot, the conditions got noticeably better once we got on the skin trail. From there, it was just mounds of powder along the trail and piled onto the evergreens, treetops slouching under the weight of the snow. As we moved along the ascent, it really felt wonderful to be outside among the trees, the rolling terrain out in the distance, breathing in the fresh air. My phone was tucked away in my backpack, and reluctant to take my hands out of my mitts again, I tried my best to soak up the beauty of the scenery in the moment.
I learned that skinning up is a lot like cross-country skiing, except it took me some time to wrap my head around some differences, like not having to “herringbone” on the uphill, just walking straight up. The pace of the uphill reminded me of what I love about cross-country skiing and winter hiking in general: the peacefulness of winter and the stillness of the forest, that refreshing air to cool off on the climb, and the sense of time just rolling by from moment to moment. Especially on the uphills, you’d see a steep climb ahead, but then it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, find a steady grip, and suddenly you look up and you’re at the top. When things go up, they come down too; the rolling bits of trail little were a boost of adrenaline, a little taste of the downhill to come. I also learned that with telemark skis, you’ve got to lean back like in a chair when going down, otherwise you might tip forwards! Luckily the sound advice, plus some good old pizza method, made things a smooth descent.
The trip as a whole was incredibly supportive and encouraging, and I felt especially lucky with my group. Tamara was a wealth of knowledge and experience, sharing helpful techniques and always cheering us on as we made it past a challenging section. Anelia, who had some experience in telemark (like me, more by circumstance than by choice), had solid tips and kept an eye out for my skins which popped off once in a while. When it got to a steeper part, Tamara paused to show us the kick turn, to get up sharp turns without slipping down, a technique that proved extremely useful on multiple occasions. I love how some of the trail you can just wander in your thoughts, chat with your fellow ski-mates, or just enjoy the views, and at other moments, you have to stop and puzzle and strategize about how to get up a certain section. I had my mandatory first fall trying to turn, but managed to make it up the second shot!
Along the path, we’d stopped a few times with another trio (Tia, Kei, and Avah) for water breaks, for Anelia to check the fatmap (amazed how quickly the 3 or so km ascent was passing), or to let hikers/skiers pass (and say hi to dogs). After some time, it seemed like we were ahead of the group and starting to get into more exposed terrain. The wind was definitely getting stronger, with some hail or sleet starting to come down. We eventually made it up (a few slips later) and saw some other hikers, skiiers and boarders in an area that we figured must be Brockton point. It was hard to tell with the foggy view, but rergardless, a thrill to have made it up!
While waiting for the other groups, it was time to layer up and pack away our skins. The winds were really picking up, and now that we’d stopped, seeing that my mittens (second and last pair) were absolutely soaked, I started noticing those cold fingers. Noted for next time: check the waterproofing or bring a third pair if possible. The next group arrived, and from there it seemed like most of our party started rolling in soon after. From one minute to the next, the point was bustling with activity of taking off skins, assembling splitboards, putting on helmets and goggles, hanging around and chatting, eating sandwiches and snacks, and generally getting all sorted out. It was a beautiful sight to see amidst the flurries; folks of all levels of experience helping each other out, chillin’ (in both senses), smiling, all of us enjoying the outdoors together.
Our group had been up for an hour by this point, and quite damp, so we did try to get things moving a bit. We all gathered for a group photo (this was probably one of the fastest I’ve ever experienced- something about the cold, perhaps). It seemed like there was a last group missing, but the 3 of us at least, given we were going to return in the same car, were ready to do our waiting in a more warm and dry environment. After a little steep pass, we all started gathering around the entrance to the descent, and got a chance to chat around with other groups before people started streaming down one by one.
Getting into downhill mode was a bit nerve-wracking at first, not to mention having almost no visibility with my glasses. Between the mist and the precipitation, there wasn’t much to see anyways. After overcoming the initial spook of the speed, my muscle memory from ages ago seemed to return, getting back into the groove of the parallels. Despite the words of warning, I thankfully didn’t notice the telemarks too much. It felt great to be going down, watching the skiers on the chairlift overhead, and extra cool to be weaving in and around our awesome gang on the move! Going down can be peaceful in a different way, exhilarating too, it seemed like we all scattered a bit as the runs split off in different directions, but all regrouped at the bottom before headed back into the lodge.
The day ended with having lunch together in the cafeteria, joining up with the resort ski group. It was all good vibes around our sandwiches and tupperwares, getting to hang out while all thawing and drying off. Our car group left a bit early, since it seemed like today wasn’t the best moment for the initially planned Avi training, and a last group was still coming down (apparently there was an injury on the slopes, thankfully everyone made it back safe and sound). We even missed the traffic and enjoyed a smooth ride home by the early afternoon.
Overall, the trip was a wonderful time and such a positive first-time experience on backcountry skis. The route was short and sweet, perfect to get comfortable with the skis, enjoy the outdoors, and try something new. It was great to meet such amazing gals and pals in the VOC and wider outdoors community, to be a part of such a lovely group in supporting each other, and just having a good time. I think I may have caught the back-country bug and hope to get back out again soon! (and hey, if it was fun on telemarks, it only gets easier, so I hear).
A huge thanks to Melissa, Emi, to all the volunteers and everyone who helped out on the trip and made it happen!