Choose Your Objective
Make sure it sounds cool when you tell other people about it, like the Apocalypse Couloir in Death Canyon (good job on that one, Jackson). We’re looking for names like Ultimate Armageddon Shaft and lines that face town and look extra steep.
Assess the Hazards
Get hyped up looking at other people’s photos on the internet and visualize yourself center-punching it right down the gut. Now visualize looking all steely-eyed into the distance while you tell everyone at the bar afterward about how it’s all a calculated risk.
None of the regulars want to mission Mount GnarGnar the day after a storm—but you need warm bodies to break trail and take photos of you. So apply the Spray and Pray technique at the bar. Buy a few beers and talk about how sick it’s going to be tomorrow, while everyone else is skiing tracked-out at the resort or waiting for it to “settle.” Put on that expert halo—it looks good on you.
Possible last-minute partners: That guy who always brings his hyperactive Labrador retrievers; a goal-oriented climber who’s super fit but doesn’t have a lot of backcountry experience; anyone who just bought a splitboard and “really wants to get out there.”
Make a Plan
This should be exciting enough that you dig out your ice axe and fondle it when you get home from the bar. Visualize yourself thwacking it into the ice, mantling onto the summit, slaying the pow, and being cool as fuck. Set your alarm for 4 a.m.
Rise and Decline
Ugh, 4 a.m. Address that hangover with coffee and maybe a one-hitter as a precautionary measure.
Dial your Rig
Recall that your BC gear has been marinating on the garage floor since last spring. Scrape garage floor detritus from skin glue with ice axe, then flex skis experimentally. Flex, flex. Is that binding making a clunking sound? Whatever. Get sidetracked by meticulously wrapping duct tape around your ski poles. When your partners start texting, just toss everything in the truck bed and hit the road. Leave your probe at home because it’s heavy and someone else will bring one.
Get the truck stuck trying to rally it an extra hundred yards closer to the trailhead. Burn the clutch before deciding to dig it out later. Once you’ve got your skins duct-taped, note that there’s some play and definitely a weird clunking sound in one binding, but rationalize that you’ll ski with them locked out all day.
Attack the Mountain
It’s cold so start with all your layers on and skin really fast for 10 minutes before breaking into a soaking sweat that forces you to stop and reconfigure everything while the dogs shit in the trail. This is a great time to ask your partners if they brought a probe; they will assume you did. When you resume skinning, everyone should put on their headphones, crank the jams, and beeline toward the objective for, oh, about four hours.
If you chose a proper goal like Ultimate Armageddon Shaft, you probably won’t actually summit, but you may reach your Personal Summit. Mine often involve climbing gradually steepening couloirs until I realize there’s no way we’re topping out on this thing without the crampons I left at home next to the probe and now I’m hanging off a 50-degree wall by an ice axe with no leash and I need to get my skis off my pack and onto my boots with one hand and why are these goddamn Labradors always underfoot?
Once you achieve your Personal Summit you can huddle with your partners and make a descent plan. Or you could just find a sweet playlist for the run. Because now it’s time for the one percent of your day that the other 99 percent was for and you’re going to crush it all the way down to happy hour with your phone in the chest pocket of your jacket right next to your beacon.
After you get the truck unstuck. And find the other dog. And Dave. Hey, did anyone see where Dave went?