Holy smokes. This was a rather awesome assignment! I mean, I knew back in November when I was asked to join a group of adaptive skiers and snowboarders on a cat skiing trip that I would be in for an insane adventure. But having actually gone and done it, and now being able to reflect on it, it's so much better. As with any assignment, one of the best parts is the curiosity and nervousness that exists before it starts. This project was no different.
My drive to Whitefish was super relaxing, and I was super curious about what I was getting into. With reports of icy roads, crazy avalanche conditions, and upwards of 4' of new snow in the previous week, I just had no idea what to expect. When I arrived, I met up with my crew - 7 adaptive athletes and several "powder hosts," who would helping out during the week - in a nondescript room in the lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Coming in a bit late, I missed some of the introductions. But it meant I was right on time for a brief on-mountain avalanche refresher class. Never hurts. Also never hurts that the snowy peaks of Glacier National Park were the backdrop for the class.
The next two days were spent with Great Northern Powder Guides, riding in their insanely cool cat, up mountains, down roads, and all over the damn place. I kept pinching myself, saying "If the 23-year-old version of myself could see me now ..." This of course was in reference to all the damn days I spent boot packing or snowshoeing around the hills. Riding in the cat with the crew and hearing all their stories was beyond words. Humbling. Moving. Inspiring. Fun. Hilarious. All of the above.
Our runs were fun, although the snow had settled a TON and got kind of heavy under 50 degree temps. (Even though, there were plenty of stashed to be found). But the rides back to the top were the best. They allowed time to give (and receive) each other shit, talk, listen, laugh, close my eyes, and even watch some pretty great air keyboarding. Other highlights included: insane scenery, warm weather, blue skies, a fridge full of beer in the middle of the woods, the whole cat experience, fun dinners out with the crew, and meeting some of the coolest people I've had the good fortune to be around.