Wild Wild West Adventure: part 6 – The Final Episode

April 7th: The morning started out with the roar of avalanche blasting in the background. It’s our last day and I feel the nostalgia creeping in already. It’s been fun hanging out with the locals, meeting like-minded people and exploring a new area. My sore feet will appreciate a short break but my heart will miss my new made friends.
I planned to meet up with riders from the party, Corey and Jacob.  Jacob never showed up but Blair joined us again. We met up around 10:30 and headed straight off towards the tram line. It was a New Englander crew: both Corey and Blair are from the east coast. We had a blast together.
We took a few new lines from the summit which was cool. The light and visibility had good patches amid the bad but the snow felt better. We were able to get 3 top to bottom laps in, which doesn’t sound like much everything takes forever on that mountain! You need a series of lifts even just to get to the bottom of the tram (which always has a line). On the second lap, we ran into Michele in the patrol hut: we had met 2 days ago at the Lib Tech test stand and invited her to join us. Michele has fantastic technique; it was nice having another female boarder along since the boys both ski. She could only take that one run with us before leaving for work. We took one last nice long tram run in, the Mullet. For whatever reason, that was the only line name I could remember. It is kind of funny how they have a name for every possible line… Even during the competition they asked me where I intended to ride:I said “over there near those trees” pointing to it… he started rattling off names, oh you mean Three Forks or Elbow or blah blah blah… and I thought, “hey man, I have NO idea of what these names are, I arrived in Montana yesterday!!” They don’t generally name the runs in Europe, you just go.
The snow was getting sticky and warm again; the last two descents back to Six Shooter chairlift were essentially boarder cross style… following the ideal line as fast as you could go. I felt the snow grabbing the base of the board and sort of slowing me down in jerky motions. In retrospect, the winter wax was the wrong choice 😉 .
Our final run was down the Mullet. When we got to the top of the tram, the Montana sky was actually clearing up a tad offering big panoramic views… we snapped a few pictures and sucked the view in. My last day provided the first real glimpse of the area. We followed the ridge to the backside of the mountain called, Lost Lake. I’m guessing there must be a lake at the bottom of the face?
It was one of the longest runs possible off the peak and required a short hike back to the resort, which was totally worth it. The ridge it was so heavily windblown that it exposed the sharky volcanic rocks everywhere. A scratch-free passage on a snowboard was not possible. The skiers could kind of sidestep around them but I had to hike. Below us was essentially a long and rocky steep slope. If I messed up here carrying my board walking, I wouldn’t have stopped falling til the bottom. So I strapped one foot into my board and felt better. In general, I actually feel so much safer on my snowboard than on foot, that might sound strange but I think most riders would concur. After navigating the rocky entrance and as Blair had promised, it turned out to be our longest descent by far.Interestingly it didn’t appear that long. First watching someone go and go and go, while you wait to drop in yourself, is what lets you appreciate the magnitude of it. It had to be a good few minute run, Blair just kept getting smaller and smaller but still wasn’t all the way down. The little black speck at the bottom of the hill, finally come to a stop and it was my turn. The sun had started peeking through the clouds during his run and stayed strong for mine. The face was not really steep but still a long couloir you don’t want to mess up in, for sure. The snow was hardly tracked and therefore so much smoother to ride. It was still rather solidly wind pressed and kind of spongy, but you could really dig an edge in. Grippy snow makes for some fun jumping carve turns. Around the middle, I found a fresh patch of snow on the right. I got to slash around a little and even found a small knee high wind lip to jump.
I just know that I was grinning from ear to ear when I reached the bottom… regardless of my cracked, sun and wind burned lips, it just beamed out of me. I mean, man!! I am in God’s country here, with 2 cool dudes, doing what I love, laughing it up and feeling connected to the people, the place… life is good. That’s all I can say! I got to the bottom and rode over to Blair, who was just emitting the same happy, peaceful, charged… surfers call it “mana”… the good vibes of life.
We watched Corey just eat up the face on his run and he too, was beaming absolute satisfaction. We crossed over to the bottom of the boot pack hike leading back to the Moonlight Basin side of the mountain. The sun was out strong by now and the short 15mn hike turned sweaty. We took our time and ran into friends of Blair’s who were sitting in the snow at the top of the hike, relaxing in the sunshine and having a beer to toast to the great day of riding. We joined them and watched others hike and ride the face opposite us. We enjoyed the wind protected, sunny spot, chatting, reflecting and relishing.
After a short time, we all returned to the valley. The snow had become super sticky by now… not even the skiers could avoid pushing in the flatter sections. It felt like carpet boarding, even getting stopped by the snow going downhill! I think I sweat more riding down than hiking! We made our way back to Big Sky where we joined others outside at the picnic tables and enjoyed more sunshine. The guys grabbed a beer and I opted for a fudgsicle… something I’ve only ever seen in the US. We hung out there until the shadows became longer before fleeing to, big surprise, the hot tub. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it 😉 . One last session of soaking in the bubbly.
The group joined 2 girls up from Colorado for the weekend in the jacuzzi, who as it turns out, had mutual friends with Blair. This is the snowboarding and skiing world though, it’s so small. We even figured out that Blair played soccer against one of my best friends back in the high school. Life can be so crazy! A few more guys joined the hot tub session and we had a crowd of random people just having a blast together until we were so hungry and waterlogged that we went our separate ways and headed for some dinner. It was already 9:30pm by the time we got to the restaurant but it was all about savoring a nice long meal and good conversation.
It has always been hard for me to pull the plug on such a situation to go to bed… you don’t meet “brothers from another mother” that often in life, and when you do, you just want to hang out and talk about everything possible until the cows come home… We would be leaving for the airport in about 3 and a half hours so reluctantly had to say good night.
The end of a trip or a vacation is always difficult for me, as I’m sure it is for most everyone. You are in this situation, which is essentially, exactly what you want in life; but it’s only fleeting before you get back to reality. The opportunity to even have moments like these, is pure fuel for your soul and ambitions and dreams in life, in my opinion. It’s like the most addictive drug in that regard, you get a taste of it and you just want more and more and more. Good times with good people, on that same wavelength you’re on, they UNDERSTAND you and share the experiences with you. No jealousy or envy, no false pretenses or intentions, just people sitting together sharing their time and living the dream for that moment. That’s all you have, those few precious moments of connectedness in an otherwise haywire and messed up world. I can’t emphasize it enough to people I meet: life is too short to be shy and scared and reserved. It’s too short to be concerned with what others think about you, it’s too short to be bitter and upset though ups and downs. Follow your heart and risk being too open in life. Aim for those moments that just leave you completely fulfilled, peaceful and in good company and you will never regret a day in your life.

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