OK, you did the bump runs all afternoon yesterday, practiced the moves that instructor Dan Dacey taught you many years ago — straight into the side of the mogul, beginning the turn just before, making the transfer then grooving down the front side, finding again the line you picked with your eye.
Over and over, you did this, trying to sharpen form, reduce wasted moves, polishing, polishing. So this morning you walk to breakfast a little gingerly on impressively painful quads.
Practicing moguls was yesterday. Today, something else.
Overnight it had snowed a couple of inches on Attitash. In the early dark I could make out the familiar lights of the groomers high in the slopes, so I decided what kind of morning it was going to be. A hero morning. All that quad-killing work the day before left me ready for some hero snow, and I knew I’d have it this morning.
So, I had my excuse, I had my snow, and I had my conditions. There are those mornings of such crystal clarity that remain in memory, and this was one of them. Also in my favor, this was mid-week (you don’t think ski writers ski on weekends, do you?), thus the mountain would be sparsely populated, especially early.
At 1,750 vertical feet, Attitash is rated a medium-sized hill, with 68 trails and glades. The base is at 600 feet, its summit at 2,350. It’s shape is fairly conical, flattish at the hips, and steepening as you near the peak.
After taking a few warmup runs among the green and blue flattish trails at the wide hipped runout of Attitash, I took the Summit lift for runs Northwest Passage and Saco, then made my way to the top of Upper Ptarmigan.
Why I zeroed in on this run probably had something to do with a day in the late 1990s when Attitash GM Jeff Lathrop invited Dev Jennings and I to make the official opening runs on Upper Ptarmigan.
Jennings, who ran a ski marketing company out of Campton, N.H., was a lifelong skier from Utah who competed in the 1932 Olympics. And though I was about 20 years younger than Dev, this 10th Mountain veteran was about to give me all I could handle just trying to keep up with him.
Upper Ptarmigan begins with a long, fairly wide and straight quarter mile, which I could see Dev tucking off ahead of me. Then a lip with a lefty, and we were off, accelerating, plunging down through the thick pine forest on either side. This trail is rated double black, but that’s only when they let it bump up. Today it was total hero snow we were flying over, hugging the inside of the curved trail where, at that speed, a little dip kind of plucks out your stomach.
As we were riding to the mountain that morning in Dev’s faithful old Volvo, he explained that he wanted to practice his GS turns. The compromise between downhill speed and slalom technique was just coming into competition when he raced, and he explained the attraction.
“The GS turn is the most natural way to turn, closest to the way most non-racers carve a turn,” he said, and I watched him take off ahead of me, linking turn after turn, accelerating out of each turn down the steep on that beautiful snow, his skis well away from his body, head and shoulders squarely down the hill, going really fast now.
Ptarmigan never gets too narrow, so as I tried to imitate Dev’s perfection of form, we could keep it up for the entire rest of the run, or until it flattened out to a runoff where I finally stood to relieve my spent calves as the old Olympian finished ahead of me … tucked, of course.