Acclimating with Leah: Crashing through my first 17-inch powder day |

Acclimating with Leah: Crashing through untouched slopes on a 17-inch powder day

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — I’ve caught a number of days I considered powder days, but nothing quite like what I experienced Thursday morning.

For the first time since I’ve lived in Steamboat Springs, I got up early to catch the gondola when it opened at 8:30 a.m. and experienced the thrill of waiting in line at the bottom of Storm Peak lift for it to open at 9 a.m.

I’ve never been the person to carve the first tracks on a trail, but my roommate insisted that I would “absolutely love” skiing The Ridge off of Morningside lift in 17 inches of fresh powder.

Now, I’m a decent skier.

As a Texan, I’ve been skiing twice per year since I could walk, and I learned to ski at Crested Butte. My family had a place in Breckenridge for awhile, like typical Texans. But we’ve been all over the place, skiing Copper, Cooper, Keystone, Winter Park, Beaver Creek, Steamboat, Telluride, Snowmass, Aspen, Aspen Highlands, one mountain in New Mexico I didn’t really fancy and Norquay in Banff, Canada.

I ski blacks and usually leave my Texas friends in the dust on ski trips.

But, after my first wipeout on The Ridge, I figured out that I was going to literally eat the dust.

I started fairly confidently, dipping through the trees and following my roommate, a Colorado native and Steamboat resident for almost two years.

We stopped once and she asked, “How are your thighs?”

“Oh, they’re burning a little but not too bad,” I said.

I took my first fall shortly after that, mostly because I just sunk into the snow by a tree and fell sideways. I struggled to stick my pole through the snow and balance myself up to a standing position. I stood there, panting, watching my roommate ask if I was OK, then proceeded to shred.

My second fall was similar, and a result of desperate pizza crusting, trying to keep my skis afloat in the sea of untracked powder. I swear, we were the first people to touch this slope.

I’ll also add that my ski boots are eight years old, minimum, and my mom bought them used eight years ago. Even tightening to the last notch wasn’t enough to keep me anchored in my skis, but I insist on waiting for the big spring sales everyone talks about to get a new pair.

My third fall on The Ridge was kind of like a batter’s third strike at the plate. My batting average was nothing, and I was facing a pitch that was way out of my league.

I was shredding, kind of. I found this groove, staying to the left of the slope and finding my roommate’s tracks, but as I gathered speed, I lost control. My ski got caught in the snow and my foot ejected, sending me flying downhill, face first into a pile of snow with one ski still attached. I turned over looking for air, since I had somehow acquired a mouthful of snow upon impact. It felt like I was drowning.

I desperately dug through the snow, trying to find my other ski.

I yelled my roommate’s name, but after waiting on me during the entire run, she probably gave up. There are no friends on a powder day, as the locals say.

After about five minutes of panicking on my own, I saw two skiers uphill and waved them down with my poles, yelling, “HELP!”

The two men came down, and I explained to them my situation.

“Do you remember where you fell?” one asked.

Ha. Nope.

They used their skis to strategically slide downhill, searching for my ski above me. In a matter of minutes, one of them found the ski and helped me back into both of them.

“Now, how good of a skier are you?” he asked.

I wanted to say I was good, but at this point, I felt like Bambi on skis.

He pointed me to the left, saying that I should pop out on Buddy’s Run, and I thanked him for his guidance.

Later that day, I’d venture back to the Morningside lift and ski Alarm Clock, like I had many times before. I crashed right by a tree and decided that my first 17-inch powder day was over.

I want to thank the two men who helped me on The Ridge, so if anyone in town remembers helping a girl with a black jacket, blue helmet, bright blue pants and red hair on Thursday morning, please reach out.

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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