It is New Year’s Day and at noon those nursing hangovers are still asleep in their condos. Outside it is five below zero and so clear you can see from the top of Pioneer Peak next to Big Sky all the way to the Grand Teton, which rises above Jackson Hole, Wyo., a four-hour drive away.
The opening of the chairlift has been postponed until 10 a.m. because of the cold.
I sit here reminiscing about all of the fantastic New Year’s Days I have had the privilege of making turns on almost-deserted mountains.
Forty-five years ago at Sun Valley, Idaho, was a day exactly like this one. It had been snowing for three days and, early in the morning, the storm moved on and left a star-studded sky and almost two feet of new snow on Jan. 1., I woke up my son Scott, who was only 12 at the time, and we met my friend Bob Casey, who was working the sports desk at the Challenger Inn. We rode to Baldy in his milk truck through the deserted streets of Ketchum.
The River Run parking lot was completely empty when we got there. I stepped into my skis and eased into the single chair for the ride over the Big Wood River. I knew it was below zero because the river was really steaming.
By the time I had ridden all three chairs to the top of Baldy and saw almost no tracks whatsoever, I knew this would be a wonderful day to film Bob Casey making turns in the deep powder.
It was after lunch before very many people showed up on the hill and, as always, they skied where we had already left our tracks. This was during the time when skis were long and stiff, with no side camber, and very few people made powder snow turns. We decided not to stop for lunch and I kept on filming and changing 100-foot rolls of film as the day progressed.
Finally, at about 1:30 p.m., Casey just ran out of gas and had to take a break for some food and water. While he and Scott where eating, I ran into Irving Goodman, a friend for many years, and he started making turns for me on the south slopes down into the bottom of The Lookout Bowls.
Before I knew it, they were beginning to shut down the lifts and I had almost run out of film at the same time. I usually took 20 100-foot rolls of Kodachrome in my rucksack and each roll was worth 2.25 minutes of screen time. This was the first time in my first 14 years of filming that I had ever shot that much film in one day. I was really jazzed on adrenaline and about what I was going to be able to share with my audiences the next fall and winter.
When I got back to the lodge, the Rose Bowl football game was on every television set in the building, so I kept my mouth shut on what an epic day it was. Most guests were on their second football game of the day and gearing up for another long television day on Jan. 2 after they caught up on the sleep they lost on New Year’s Eve.
I believe you should enjoy the snow to the fullest, because the following week, when you are sitting in front of a computer, you will regret that you slept in and missed that epic day of powder snow.
Remember the best day of skiing that you ever had and try and put a price tag on it. Is it worth $1 million or more? It is not for sale for any price and the only way that you can own one of these special days is to be the first one on the chair lift on a powder day. Memories are priceless.
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