For those of us who grew up without mountain ranges as our back yards, the idea of hiking into the back country in the middle of the winter to ski or snowbaord is not a natural one. Sure, you see this sort of thing on the TV or have the occasional friend who escapes the frozen Midwest to hit a ski resort, but the people who undertake such adventures are looked upon in great awe.
Since moving to Montana in 2002 and learning to snowboard, I've slowly learned to take on more difficult terrain and enjoy it. Saturday was no exception to this trend as I tagged along with a group of friends and they showed me all kinds of terrain I hadn't boarded before. The biggest treat of all was an end of the day journey out of bounds that involved a 25 minute hike up the mountainside through forests full of fresh snow (powder). By the time we got to the top my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear their instructions on what to do next; we had to traverse across the top of a small cliff area to get to the drop-in point. By the time we reached this area I had fallen, hit tree stumps, veered off course (to calls of, "you don't want to go right, don't go right") and otherwise got myself so frazzled that I was spent. All I really wanted to do was find some easy way down and get back to civilization. But the drop-in point looked to me like a wall of trees and bushes...my friends called it "manglies" and suggested I get some speed up and power through the small bushes popping up everywhere. At another time I might have accepted this challenge with a smile, unfortunately for me I was so nervous that I became hesitant, soemthing you really can't be in situations like that. So I struggled mightily just to get down the mountain. Luckily these people are all very experienced and were very patient with me; two people stayed back and watched out for me, cajoled me and gave me tips on how to get down the mountainside. Probably the most fun for me was when I was standing still, watching one of them jump off a cliff or weave thorugh the tight trees with the greatest of ease. They have some amazing skills and I was just happy to be along for the fun.
We ended the day with some wood-fired pizza and laughs...it was my first experience of the kind and hopefully not my last!