First tracks in new-fallen snow

First tracks in new-fallen snow

It’s Sunday, January 10. At the Sierra Nevada ski resorts, the temperature forecasts are for highs below freezing and lows in the teens and single digits. The powdery snow, which settled as single lacy crystals, will stay soft, loose and unmelted.

This loose, powdery snow, newly fallen,  is a joy to ski or snowshoe in. The soft contours of the snow among the trees and across the mountains is beautiful to behold. It’s soothing.

Though more strenuous to break trail than in consolidated snow on the flat and uphill, when you reach a downhill stretch it’s another story. You push off and the snow is silky under your skis as you gain speed. As light as the snow is, it’s easy to turn in. Folks describe the sensation as if the skis are turning for you, effortlessly.

One February we camped at 10,000 feet in Sequoia Park, snuggling in our snow cave as a storm blew itself out. Around midnight a companion routed us out of our warm sleeping bags to enjoy the night–the clouds were gone, and the moon and stars were out in full force. They sparkled in crystals of hoarfrost, already beginning to form in the still, crisp air.

We skied a short distance to the top of a hill–the crest of the ridge on which we were camped. Stretched before us was the silent Sierra with 13,000 foot peaks gleaming in the moonlight. We gazed in awe. Finally, one by one we tried out the downward slope. Just as I had heard it described, in this brand new snow the skis almost seemed to turn by themselves; it took barely any effort to shift my weight and aim my skis. For the next quarter hour we romped up and down the short slope, savoring the feeling. I’ll have this memory for the rest of my life.

And to consider the indescribable wonder and beauty of this great world in which I live–to experience it and to remember that I have been made part of all this–it’s beyond comprehension.


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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