Leaving Alta was an emotional experience. Descending out of Little Cottonwood is always a tough move (especially after a storm), but this time was different and more complex. After ten days on the road, we had finally hit a groove: the stresses of our professional and personal lives had magically dissipated, our legs and lungs were finally working for us, and our purpose for being on the road was clearer. We were living the skiers’ dream. We had, aided by the accrued wisdom of obsessive skiing and road-tripping over our combined 54 years, become real life American Heroes.
It was also a signal that our trip, and the many co-benefits of the Mountain Collective experience, was coming to its inevitable end. Ames, the important man that he is (or takes himself to be), jumped on a cheap flight from Salt Lake back to the East Coast to attend to his various important matters, and Sesko took to the road solo, with nothing but Manifest Destiny and the Mountain Collective pass guiding the final leg of the journey. Having raffled off the lions’ share of our Liftopia swag at an Alta 75th Anniversary party, and with Ames and his skis high over Kansas, the Subie was considerably lighter. The drive on I-80 took me through the Salt Flats of Nevada and by the time I climbed into the mighty Sierra, the car was coated in a salt-encrusted matte patina. I thought it was symbolic of the trip’s bittersweet end, as if the car itself had shed a tear.
But this is not a blog about sadness. The Mountain Collective Pass has brought only joy into our lives (and maybe a bit of frostbite), so I decided to forget about Ames pretty quick and turned my thoughts to the bluebird day at Squaw Valley that awaited me. I made a few calls to friends in San Francisco, and found an old college buddy who agreed to make his own hard sacrifice and meet me in the Sierras midweek. For the sake of anonymity, we will call him the American Guru (the AG).
For the uninitiated, Squaw Valley is a righteous, bodacious and radical mountain all in one. It skis well on both powder and groomer days, with plenty of resort accoutrements to make everyone, from the ski family to the ski brah, fat (in the California sense) and happy. The gnar on the upper mountain is complemented by trees and ubiquitous rollers. To celebrate our good fortune, we skied fast and feasted on a healthyish lunch at Squaw Creek, concluding the day with an iconic après at the Chammy. I’ve done my fair share of après-ing, and I must say that the Chammy, marked by its technicolor enthusiasm and really, really ridiculously good-looking people, is hands down the best après scene in North America. There, I said it. Please address all contentions in the comments section of this blog.
After a long but rewarding day, we feasted again at Tacos Jalisco in Truckee and fell asleep mid-conversation at our friend’s mountain abode only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. Leaving Squaw was just as hard as leaving Alta for many of the same reasons. But this time I pushed on to my new life in the Bay Area with an appreciative glow, knowing that Squaw was to be my new local mountain. Squaw Valley was not the end. It was the continuum.