It's the time of year when the sun stands still, and the earth in our latitudes sleeps under the snow. At the turning point of seasons, many cultures celebrate midwinter festivals of lights, feasting, and merriment to lighten the long nights. Skiers take it further, heading out into a landscape of snow white, pine green, and sky blue for recreation and solace.
It's the time we welcome the most visitors to Red Lodge Mountain--students on break, families on vacation, townspeople with a holiday tradition of getting out on the slopes. Thanks to modern snow-making machines, we have good snow and the chance to ski it. Lazy M is open, wide and smooth from the top to the face, with the prospect for making those long, swooping turns.
It's the time for caution, when ungroomed runs have obstacles, the groomers are crowded, and tail-burners careen downslope. After a day of ski patrol rescues, a longtime local skier told us, "Don't ski off-piste and watch out for people going too fast for their abilities and the conditions!" Defensive skiing is not a joke. I keep to the edges on crowded runs, look back to see who's gaining on me, and stop to let them go screaming by.
In the winter issue of Mountain Outlaw, S. Jason Moore writes about a study on the amount of snow coverage and ski injuries. It found that more than 65% of skiing injuries occurred when the snowfall of the previous 24 hours was less than one inch. As our friendly cashier in the Main Lodge always says before we go out the door, "Be careful out there!"
So, we don't have as much snow as we want, and it's the darkest season of the year. Winter has arrived, the days will get longer, and there's a snowstorm or two on the horizon.