We woke to our alarm, carefully planned so that we would be on the mountain right at opening time to get our ski gear and lift tickets. We were both feeling seedy at best, violently ill at worst, but it got better once we got some food into us. Nothing like a dirty waffle in the morning to cure a hangover. We dressed for snow, me happy that I have everythin I own with me, whereas Kevin had to concoct a ski outfit using thermals, hiking pants, his downie and a neckerchief. Back in December when I was in Montana, a random stranger, Kailey, gifted me with a pair of ski goggles, which I was excited to don around my neck. We left the hotel right on schedule.
It took half an hour to drive up the mountain and we got a carpark right at the door amongst the other early arrivals. We got our lift tickets no issues then went straight into rentals to pick up our boots and skis. No snow blades unfortunately, which is the only thing I’d skid on before, so I had to use the normal skis. Kevin’s normally a snowboarder, but he was going back to skis so that he could refamiliarise himself with them before taking his daughter to the snow later this year. Boots, skis and poles in hand, we went back to the car to get kitted up for real. I already hated the poles, such a hassle to carry around. We had time to spare before the lifts opened at 9am so we hit the lodge for a coffee which according to Kev tasted burnt and strong, but it would perk him up for the day. Hydrated and buzzed, we went out into the snow to hit our first lift.
We went straight into blue runs on the right side of the mountain since that was the lift closest to us. I won’t lie, I was nervous. My ski career consisted of four days of powder at Mammoth Mountain over a year ago and the conditions at Flag were not going to be the same. I managed to get off the ski lift without binning it and we took the easiest way down, sliding side to side to try and get the feeling back. Kevin, annoyingly, was instantly on form, tearing down the mountain at great speed while I kept getting my tips crossed and binning it on turns. Kevin told me he could tell I was struggling with the length of the skis. I also wasn’t a fan of holding the poles. So, after one run, I ditched my poles back at the rental place and also dropped a layer while Kev did another run. Kev, being competitive as ever, kept giving me shit, laughing whenever I ate snow, which was fairly consistently on each run. I was frustrated, but I was hopeful it would all come back to me and I wouldn’t remain completely useless.
We stopped for a snack at the lodge and a beer for Kev. I was still feeling the effects of the night before so I was sticking to water. I was a bit quiet over lunch, trying to zero in on the skier in me, hoping it was in there somewhere. We did a couple more runs on the blue stuff, me still completely sucking while Kevin was full of form sliding down the slopes. I was preoccupied with people going past me and getting in everyone’s way, especially when I was sliding down the hill on my arse out of control. Grrr. We had another lodge stop and swapped phones so Kevin could call his girlfriend while I went up for another run. This is where my day really turned to shit. I was attempting an ungroomed run below a ski lift when my left ski came off my boot. I thought it a bit weird since I hadn’t really stacked it. There was something wrong with my bindings, my boot was barely attached to the ski. I struggled to lock my boot in to the ski, but every time I got back up to ski again, the bloody thing came off. I was totally isolated on this run and had no idea how to fix the problem. It didn’t help that the ski was covered in snow so even if I had a tool, I wouldn’t have been able to find the screw to adjust the bindings. Agonizingly, I slid down the mountain sideways on one ski, putting no weight on my busted ski. It was a long drawn out ordeal. All the while I was thinking that Kev would be worried I’d killed myself somewhere in the snow.
Once I got onto the groomed stuff, I was able to ski but very slowly. I had been on the hill for about an hour. When I got to the lodge, Kevin was nowhere to be seen, which confused me since we were supposed to meet there. Anyway, I went over to a tools bench to try and resolve my issue. I couldn’t figure out how to shift the rear part of the binding so I just shifted the front clamp backwards as a halfway-fix. When I got back to the lift entry to look for Kev, he still wasn’t around. I resolved to wait for twenty minutes, hoping that he hadn’t gone off looking for me or something. Just as his phone died in my pocket, he skied up to me, full of speed. I explained what had happened and he didn’t know how to adjust the bindings either. Just as he said that, my fingers found a pair of levers that loosened what I was after. All fixed, but what an ordeal.
Together again, we went to the lift entry only to find the lift had stopped. Apparently there had been lightning in the area which means automatic shut down of the lifts for half an hour. Another beer then! I was in a foul mood after my ski ordeal but Kevin was on cloud nine, over the moon to be skiing and hanging out with his best mate. I struggled to share his enthusiasm because I just wanted to ski better! After one beer, it became clear that the top lift was shut for the day so we skied down the hill to the bottom lift which was also closed, but due to open in a few minutes since the lightning had cleared. It was past 4pm and we considered bailing but by giving it another five minutes, the lift started up again and we were up the mountain. Kevin was half-drunk by this point so took it fast down the White Lightning run resulting in a spectacular stack. He slid and slid and slid. All I saw was snippets of his hair, then a ski, protruding out from the spectacular cloud of powder he was making. I skied hard to get down to him once he stopped because he was motionless, I feared damage to his knee. When I got to him, there was nothing to be worried about. He was covered in snow and ice from head to toe and was in complete hysterics. He’d laughed the whole way down the mountain, knowing he was powerless to stop himself, so he just let go and I really mean he let go.
Eventually he got himself up and dusted himself off and carried on. At the next steep incline, Kevin momentarily left this earth. He threw his arms and poles up in the air, gave a yelp and straight skied right down the hill, laughing all the while. A mad man on skis, he blew past the few people on the mountain and out of my sight very quickly. I was in awe. Back down at the lift, he still couldn’t contain his joy, unable to prevent fits of laughter taking hold of him. Back on the lift for one more run, he continued to laugh, explaining that he was wet and bloody freezing, but happy to be where he was. I was incredulous, but couldn’t quite share his ecstacy.
We did one more run down the hill, this time at a more modest speed and detached from our skis for the last time of the day. I had made progress, hardly falling at all in the afternoon and I was getting my balance without the poles. I still needed to work on my speed though. We de-robed back at the car and put all the wet ski gear on a tarp on top of the bed. Kevin came down off his high on the drive down, falling asleep, head back, mouth open, within minutes of us leaving the mountain. He stayed that way all the way back to the hotel when I woke him up abruptly.
Kevin had first shower since he was covered in wet clothes and by the time I’d had a hot one, he was asleep on the bed still in his towel. “Kevin!” He woke, dazed and declined my offer to bring him dinner so got himself dressed. We didn’t want to go far tonight so stopped at the Himalayan Grill that we’d smelt the previous two nights when we walked past it. We weren’t sure as we walked through the door because of the place’s location in an ugly carpark, but as soon as we sat down, we weren’t to be disappointed. The owner was a genuine customer guy, always checking on us and the price was right on the menu.
We ordered a mixed appetizer which was almost a meal in itself with lots of little bites with a yoghurt dipping sauce. I had a couple of strawberry margaritas to wash it down while Kev stuck to beer, though he enjoyed sipping my cocktail. Our main of Lamb Thuptka, which was a lamb noodle soup with garlic naan was beautiful. It was a nice change from the crappy lodge food and unhealthy meals we’d been having recently (pizza and wings from last night). Best of all, the whole bill only came to around $50. We left, thoroughly satisfied and dead tired.
Kevin was asleep as soon as we got back and I followed shortly after.