I am overwhelmed with excitement for the ski season approaching; the visions of snowflakes float around in my mind, reminding me of the snow-filled times of last year.
While at Mammoth Mountain over the holidays last year, my dad challenged my cousin, brother, and me to ski the face of the mountain in a complete snow storm. My heart pumped with exhilaration as the word “yes” left my lips.
This run was called Cornice Bowl and is one of the longest runs on the mountain. My body was shaking with every step as I walked closer to the building housing the gondolas. My vibrant white ski boots squeezed my feet, and my blue Patagonia jacket clung to my body as if it was giving me a hug for support. Carrying my skis in my right hand and my poles in the left, I trekked up to the big cinderblock building, awaiting my next challenge to overcome in life. Slowly but surely, I walked up the metal steps and entered a big room with doors leading to numerous rooms on the left, and the rotating gondolas on the right.
We walked up to the ticket scanners and, just like clockwork, the season passes we held so dearly in our pockets dinged, leaving a slight buzzing in the air. We then walked on big black mats that covered the concrete floor up to the thin yellow and black line that kept us from crossing. Finally, the tall man dressed in the iconic bright green and black Mammoth snowsuit waved us forward. With swift pace, we walked up to the gondola entering the crowded room.
My heartbeat accelerated quickly. I could hear it in my ears, it felt like an elephant in the room. Suddenly, the man wearing the distinctive green suit directed us to enter the moving gondola.
I hurried as fast as I could, slid my skis into one of the plastic slots on the outside of the gondola, and hopped in. I slid across the fake leather seats all the way to the far right. The doors slowly started to magnetically close as the gondola slipped away from the crowded room.
The blur of white snowflakes overtook all sides of the gondola. I thought I would never know this feeling, but for once in my life, I was blind. The winter wind left ice kisses on the side of the gondola, crystallizing the windows.
The dismal weather warped us into a white wonderland, with swirling snowflakes and drafts of wind occasionally blowing by our capsule, leaving a sudden crisp chill inside. McCoy Station was seen like the light at the end of the tunnel. Our tiny world entered the big picture again as we entered McCoy Station. As we crossed the threshold into the dim cinder block building three more men boarded our gondola and then we continued on the path to the summit.
The snow became thicker; each individual snowflake doubled in size, making for utter whiteout once again. The temperature grew colder as the summit approached us. The snow had fogged up the windows, leaving us surrounded by a kingdom of white.
The gondola seemed to slow as we traveled up, finally reaching 11,053 feet. Our carrier entered the small building at the top of the mountain. The kind men helped me release my skis from the moving gondola as I waited for the rest of my family. We hustled into the closed doors that held warmth inside, just to step foot outside again into the treacherous weather.
My ski boots hit each stair with a loud clunk. The temperature was extraordinarily low, resulting in frostbitten faces or ones which were almost completely covered in masks. After posing by the nearly frozen trail sign for a few pictures, I stepped into the bindings of my skis. My dad reassured my cousin and me that this would be no harder than what we were doing previously. The only downfall would be the steepness factor and weather. Then, my dad had a short but sweet conversation with my brother that this was not the proper hill to bomb down at mock-ten speed, but to go slowly and practice his turns.
We headed down Upper Roadrunner, an easy blue run, which was short ways to the Cornice Bowl, our first Black Diamond of the season. Once we reached the edge of the drop-off, I could see dismal looks plastered on everyone’s faces. My dad told us only people with great amounts of courage would ski this run in a complete whiteout. Then, he went first to show us where to turn. My brother followed with the same energy he normally had, but at a somewhat slower pace. I followed him, or at least I tried as I couldn’t see anything but white and the hints of blue coming from my K2 skis.
I started my first turn; slowly, I placed my pole, and my skis swiveled. Soon enough I started to find a rhythm of turning. My dad stopped every once in a while to check and see how we were faring. One by one, we would emerge out of the white bliss, regroup and continue down. In my head, I listened to the rhythm of the pole turn and repeated this motion as we made our way down the precipitous slope. Then, I could make out the end of our run.
My cousin and I made it to the flat, where my dad and brother had been patiently waiting. We decided to take a sharp turn to the right and head down a piece of uneven terrain on the side of a somewhat small cliff and start powering our way down the mountain to McCoy Station. At McCoy’s, we headed back to the main lodge, where the main gondola station is located. As we slid into the crowded area of people, we all announced at once that we wanted to go again.