Friday, February 13, 2015

Solo Skier Seeking Adventure

By Kristen Collins
Waking up before the sun rises is a bit of a rarity for me, but there’s something about the crisp cold air hitting your sunblock slathered face and the feeling of wool base layers against your skin that help ease you into an early morning. After I make a quick stop for a Venti 5 shot latte, my weekly trip to Tahoe will begin. I had always gone with groups of people because I thought skiing alone would be so boring. But the lack of a boyfriend, and the lack of friends with similar days off from work, made the hopes of group skiing nearly impossible for the 2014-2015 season. I’m not the kind of girl that lets things like that get in the way though. I wanted to ride my brand new ski set up. I couldn’t let my 2015 K2 Potion 90’s or Lange XT 90’s sit in my room any longer so clean and pristine. They needed to shred, to feel that rush I was craving. So the solo days began.
At first I was nervous to ride alone. I thought I would get bored of hearing my own thoughts, or just lonely not having anyone to talk to. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was liberating my first solo day. I hit more runs in half a day of riding than I ever had on a full day with a group of people. I rode what I wanted, when I wanted, every time. Armed with nothing more than my iPhone and my headphones, I was able to connect with music, Mother Nature, and even with God. There’s something about being alone on a mountain face, surrounded by trees and snow that make you feel connected again and completely alive. It was somewhat of an accomplishment. It empowered me to realize I didn’t need others to push me, I was capable of pushing myself to try new things.

After I rode Northstar alone, I felt like a bit of a bad ass.  I consider it my home mountain because I can get there in an hour and a half, so most trips to Tahoe land me in “The Village”. I thought since I could rip the front side, backside, and even hit a few things in the Burton terrain park, I was ready to challenge myself even more. It was time to try a new mountain. I felt like a confident skier but I’m still learning. I didn’t have the privilege of growing up in the sport or even discovering it in high school or college. I started skiing 3 years ago when I started working for Any Mountain, a Ski and Snowboard shop in Roseville. We got free season passes for being employees, and I took full advantage of the perks.
It only made sense to try riding Heavenly next. It was the next closest resort my pass worked at, and I had been wanting to see that view that everyone always talks about. I was not disappointed. This season most people have been talking about the terrible conditions in Tahoe, the lack of snow, and the lack of storm systems in the forecast. But for me this season has been about self-reflection and realization. I didn’t care that I couldn’t hear my music at some points of riding because the sound of ice was too loud under my skis. I didn’t care about the bare spots of grass and dirt I would have to avoid on some runs. I didn’t even care that most of the California side was closed at Heavenly. I was there, alone, and seeing all of Tahoe from the top of the mountain. It was beautiful.

After that incredible view, it gave me the urge to finally chase after some actual powder. Which left me with no other choice but to make the trip to Kirkwood. This time I armed myself with a GoPro and a friend… Well, two friends… Well, two snowboarders. Which really meant I’d be riding alone once I got there, so the company for the extended drive time to the mountain was appreciated. I had stopped checking weather reports because it had become depressing. So as we began making the drive and got hit with dark clouds and rain, we couldn’t help but get excited when it started turning to sleet, and then eventually actual snow. As we curved down highway 88 around Caples Lake, I’d look up through my moon roof at my ski racks and see my skis covered in ice and snow. Maybe it was a little wet, but it was exciting! There was going to be actual snow, powder, and at Kirkwood. When we pulled into the Resort and got out of the car it was pure bliss. It was snowing. I couldn’t help but send out a few Snapchats acting out the scene in “Edward Scissorhands” when Winona Ryder spins around with her hands out as ice shavings fall down over her head. And in my signature ‘snow bunny white’ ski pants, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a movie. It was incredible.
I bundled myself up, strapped on the chesty harness for the GoPro and started recording. I had the best time just chasing fresh tracks down every run. I could actually see my skis performing better, feel them float over the freshness, glide through the trees and dig into power through my turns. It was so amazing. I felt good, so good I decided to really challenge myself through the terrain park. I can’t help but be attracted to the thrill of catching air, and I hadn’t tried rails or boxes yet so I thought, eh, I’ll be fine. I was, and got some really funny footage out of it. I couldn’t have laughed any harder than that moment. I tried and I failed, but it didn’t matter because it was so much fun. That’s all that mattered to me. I didn’t want to leave the mountain saying to myself, I should have tried that. I wanted to leave saying, I can’t believe I did that. 

There’s been several other solo trips since and a few group trips too, which are always a great time. But there’s something about being alone that drives me to Tahoe every week. Maybe it’s because I know Northstar so well but it always seems to hit me when I find a hidden stump in the trees. I take out my ear buds and just sit there, soaking it all in. I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to even get a season pass, let alone be on top of a mountain. It’s always a little humbling to see how small you are and how big the outdoors around you is. These are the times I know I will always cherish when I’m older. These small moments I take when I’m challenging myself, and even at times inspiring myself, are moments I don’t ever want to forget or stop experiencing. When the snow snobs start saying things like, “why bother” or “there’s no snow in Tahoe” I can’t help but chuckle. Because sometimes it’s not about the snow, or fresh pow. Sometimes it’s just about being there to remind yourself you’re capable of anything if you give yourself the chance. Sometimes we need to take more small moments to appreciate what we have in front of us. What better place to have these reflections than on the face of one of Tahoe’s amazing mountains? Just in case you were wondering, I have mastered the art of hitting the box since my first attempt! See you on the Mountain, or in the village by the fire!
Kristen Collins is a guest blogger for Outside Adventure to the Max.  If you have an adventure to share, contact Nick Carlson at