Two years ago we set out to ski all the named runs on Red Lodge Mountain in one season. I have a history of standing at the top of ominously named runs, asking that old boyfriend, "Are you sure I can ski this?" This was his idea, and I reluctantly agreed, fearing the unknown, but sensing the challenge would be worth it.
The names of some runs truly signal their terrain. In other places, I have skied Vertical Challenge, Exhibition, Sugar, and Chipmunk, knowing what I was getting into. I have learned to be wary of runs named with words like Park, Glade, and Meadows unless they are preceded by Bambi or Tinkerbell. Likewise, I don't trust anything that is prefaced only by The, as in The Wall, The Face, The Cliff. The End.
How did the runs at Red Lodge Mountain get their names? One long-time local skier answered, "Marketing." Some of them honor people like Harlan Thompson and Kenny Hancock. (See Skiing Red Lodge by Mark Edwards and Ray Masters.) Some are local, such as Westside and Eastside Mines. The too accurately named Rock Garden and Stump Run do not appear on recent maps. We have our own names for the three chutes that lead into Barriers, "Papa, Mama, and Baby." A friend refers to Buckin Chute as "Bouncer."
This season we're seeking out the runs that are unnamed or no longer on the Trail Guide, legendary spaces in the steeps and trees. In that spirit we've skied into The Kitchen with its soft snow and West Nosedive where I did just that. We have not yet braved the one we promised not to reveal. Recently there were tracks down the spot indicated as Talus Area. They weren't ours.
The quest to ski the named runs took us all over the mountain. It gave me a reason to not only try the hardest runs but to take on the unknown. As for the words represented by HFNT? Old-timers laugh and answer, "Hope For No Tracks." I'm suspicious.