Home » New Cas Blog » Brilliantly Eccentric Guide

Brilliantly Eccentric Guide

Penelope Street, our brilliantly eccentric guide, told me later that such stop-and-go maneuvers are the mark of anxious city people; real backcountry skiers take it slow and steady, never allowing themselves to overheat and risk catching a chill later in the day. A tall, beautiful redhead (not related to Picabo), Street spent most of her young adult life in the 1970s as a freestyle skiing champion. A self-taught expert on everything from neurolinguistic programming to gardening to the best method for peeing in the snow, she kept our group in check by hitching each of us to the sled for a sobering mm hauling the load.

An hour later, we huffed within view of the yurts–two round Mongolian-style tents made out of wood, canvas and latticework laid over colorful floral material. Each structure housed up to eight people in wooden bunks arranged around the perimeter. In the center, near a roaring woodstove, stood a table bearing a delicious olive salad, guacamole, hummus, bread, chips, instant hot cider, herbal tea and a mountain of chocolate chip cookies, all of which had been laid out by Sun Valley Trekking staff members who had gotten to camp before us. Not a Slim Jim in sight.

We polished off the meal in no time, but before devoting the afternoon to skiing up and down the ridge that towered over our yurts, we had a job to do. If we wanted to take turns soaking in the outdoor hot tub later that night–by this point, John and I had fully accepted the surprisingly sybaritic pleasures of backcountry skiing-we needed to fill the cauldron with 78 buckets of icy water from the nearby creek. Forming a line, we passed sloshing vessels back and forth for the better part of an hour. It would be another eight hours before the fire under the tub heated the water enough for any of us to withstand the 15-degree nighttime temperatures for a blissful soak under the stars. God, we were tough.

With the hot tub mission accomplished, we started up the ridge. The fuzzy neon “skins”–sealskin was the original material used–glued to the bottoms of our skis kept us from sliding backward. It was slow, sweaty going, but then backcountry skiing is for tortoises, not hares. Our pace gave us plenty of time to look around and notice such important details as the formation of a cornice (an overhang of snow), or the play of hard-pack and windblown snow. Such observations help experienced backcountry skiers make crucial decisions about how they should descend, where to turn and whether they risk setting off an avalanche.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




Phone: +1 (225) 753 9475

Email: info@newcas2013.org

171 Eva Pearl Street, Baton Rouge, Lousiana, US