Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 4 of Beartooth Trip: In which we get a late start, and meet a ledgend!

Yes, I will eventually get this entire trip written up! Hang in there...

SO... when we last left our intrepid heros, they were laying around eating bonbons in bed and blogging rather than getting AFTER IT in the back country, thinking that the pass was closed... and, as you no DOUBT remember, we left you, perched precariously on the edge of your seat... Kurt comes running in... "The Pass Is OPEN!"

Cut to: dressed, car packed, hotel checked out of, in the truck, windows open, Grateful Dead playing, heading up into the glacial cut of the Beartooth Wilderness on the Red Lodge side...

We went up and got on the Gardiner Headwall at about 11, and skied it once, then moved over to the shallower aspect and skied there till about 2. It was frustrating, like skiing in cement that was setting up... it demanded absolute attention to touch, and the snow changed almost every three turns, so you better be paying attention!

It was, of course, truly spectacular. When I had been up there the year before, it was almost melted out, but the epic snow year we all had blanketed the Beartooths with beautiful, thick coverage, that teased you with its potential... but because we went straight from the dead of winter to summertime, we never got freezing temps at night, and therefore the snow is thick, grabby, wet, manky and challenging, not to mention prone to wet slides.

I had to talk my way through it in order to make any turns that made sense; concentrating hard on retracting my old outside leg to begin the next turn, steering strong through the whole turn, but nothing abrupt, and crossing my body over my skis slowly, patiently, let the tips seek the fall line while steering hard...

I got ahead of my skis several times, wanting to stay forward and keep moving down the hill, and it was VERY OBVIOUS that that tactic was too much in this snow. This, of course, is how I met Mr. Gary DeMille and Mike Taylor. Because I followed Kurt down this super slush fest, and he made these tiny little hoppy turns that looked so much more athletic and fun than the deep, waterski rooster tail, gonna die turns that I was struggling with, so I watched him carefully, and then thought I'd give it a try.

Well, the first eight turns WERE, indeed super fun. The next one right after that resulted in a full cartwheel on loose mank. The next two turns, same deal.

COMPLETELY soaked in snow and a bit dizzy from flipping upside down so many times in a row, I followed Kurt's laughing advice and meekly headed further out into the bowl where the snow was firmer, and made some fun turns down to these two characters laughing it up on the boot pack.

Kurt ended up further down the boot pack, and I started strapping my skis onto my pack, shaking my head at my ever optimistic outlook that if I really thought I could make those turns in that snow. "Man, it looked so easy when he was doing it, I forget that what it looks like when he skis it is not actually what it will feel like when I ski it." I said, sheepishly to the laughing characters.

"Well, YEAH, its hard when you are doin' it wrong." said one of them. This would be Gary DeMille, ladies and gentlemen. Sage of the snow. Just wait, there's more. This guy is absolutely prophetic, prolific, and likes to show off his belly button.

"Nice cartwheels, though, those were pretty." said the other one. This would be Mike Taylor. The ring leader. The Commander in Chief. The trouble maker.

Gary DeMille and Mike Taylor, ladies and gentlemen. The Lost Boys.

After a couple more laps, we ended up eating some incredible gourmet pizza and drinking beer at the top of the boot pack with the whole crew of Lost Boys, and I knew right then and there that Kurt and I had found the essence of skiing in Red Lodge, we had found the Lost Boys.

That night, after finagling our way into their Reefer Ridge shuttle and ski the next day, we headed down to Sam's Tap room for some of the best beer I've ever had anywhere, in an absolutely lovely, relaxing atmosphere.

Emily, 11 years old, a racer from Red Lodge, was tending bar and washing dishes with Ross, and lamenting the fact that we wouldn't take her on the Reefer run the next day (This little pistol is the future of women in skiing, I kid you not. She is beautiful, vivacious, and she RIPS. And she wants to hike and go fast. Ingrid Backstrom, watch your back, HERE SHE COMES!)

We sat on the back porch drinkin' beautiful beer, watching the sand volleyball, and getting ready for pizza at Natalies in town. It was a day full of perfect moments, good friends, and the promise of yet another great ski the next day!

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