Up and At It Early

Early season for me is more about a walk in the woods and a good leg burn. My friend, Luke, and I are making a habit of weekly Wednesday dawn patrols in the Cottonwoods before we each hit our respective offices in Salt Lake City. Luke works a classic 9 to 5 with the University of Utah, and I have a weekly meeting at Telemark Skier's headquarters above the Freeheel Life Shop. That is one of the many nice things about where we live. We can be on skins before sunrise and get a few laps in before work in the big city. It's a nice perk! 

^The sun is just starting to light up the scene and we are on the skin track in this picture above. Luke leads the way through the early season weeds and scrubs towards our morning objective. The snowpack is still really thin, and as I mentioned, the real objective of the day is just a good brisk walk in the woods to get the legs into some uphill burn.  

^Also, some good views are a bonus too. As we get higher and the sunrise peeks up over the ridge the views of Little Cottonwood and Alta ski area start showing themselves. Some good crisp air, a good buddy, and a view like this is a blessing of its own that I appreciate more then ever as I age more and more in this kind of terrain. Don't get me wrong, I still love to rip, but now-a-days even the ripping turns is more like bonus for me in the backcountry. A walk in the woods alone would still be a good day for me. Maybe I am turning into a saltier crusty old dog then I care to admit, but with a smile on my face walking through the woods in the mountains I really don't care anymore what I am. Out there… I just am.

^Higher yet and it is starting to fill in a bit more. Changing the aspect to a north face helps even more as we slog towards a mellow grassy slope just above us in this picture. A quick skin and quick laps is the recipe for early morning turns that we were hoping it would be. The slope had filled in some more from the week before, and we were getting stoked on our approach. 

^Luke approaches me as I rip skins off to get ready for the first lap of the morning in this picture. Luke and I went to college together. Back in those days we made a lot of backcountry mistakes together. Then he left for almost a decade, and in those years I took my skill set to a new level becoming a professional backcountry telemark skier. When Luke came back to Utah just over a year or so ago telling me he wanted to get back out into the backcountry I was super pumped to have him back. Both of us have drastically busier lives now then we did all those years ago at Weber State University, but I am so grateful to have my buddy back that even if he and I only get to ski together on these Wednesday morning dawn patrol missions I will still be smiling ear to ear at my buddy as we walk through the woods together with a sunrise emerging over the ridge rewarding our morning efforts with another beautiful day.