I love MG’s Mountain Dog issue. Inter-species friendships, particularly with dogs, cats or horses, assume an importance in rural lives far beyond the concept of pets. They often become an integral member of a family, working partners, familiars whom we come to love deeply and depend on. The mother of my oldest son had a wonderful mixed breed named after one of the sites at the Navajo National Monument. We called her “Seel” for short. Although nearly blind, she was an incredible fetch hound, and would begin a scent-led spiraling circle search if she lost sight of any stick thrown — something that happened a lot. Nevertheless, she’d invariably come up with the stick, having never stopped looking. I still dream about that wonderful playmate and companion.
For the last several years, I’ve had the good fortune to participate in a gathering of Ish poets at Shi Shi beach in the Olympic National Park and just outside the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay. The late poet Robert Sund had a cabin near Petroleum Creek at Shi Shi, and he was the one to give the name Ish River Country to the Pacific Northwest’s coastal bioregion, since so many of its rivers ended in the suffix “ish” (Duwamish, Snohomish, Skokomish, etc.).
This month we’re featuring one of the finest Ish poets, Tim McNulty. An award-winning nature writer and essayist, his books of poetry include “Blue Mountain Dusk” (Pleasure Boat Studio) and “Pawtracks” (Copper Canyon Press), as well as some nine chapbooks. His natural history of the Olympic National Park is the definitive guide to this national treasure.
— Art Goodtimes
Sunset, Sourdough Mountain Lookout
Late flush of evening cloudlight
glowing through rippled window glass.
Steam curling from teacup
in cool night air.
Only the mountains are still.
— Tim McNulty,
At the waterfall gorge
in Tai Lam Chung valley
a sprig of wild pears.
Fruits no bigger than mountain berries,
but sweet and chewy —
same taste as the crisp
from the market at Kowloon Tong,
where each small globe is wrapped
in delicate paper mesh…
— Tim McNulty
No One’s Ark
I have squandered
the beasts of the earth
& must remake them.
It is enough.
Otter, platypus, snake & dove,
Zebra, porcupine, elk & dog:
Once you were only photographs,
Now you are only words.
— Quinten Collier
Mark Fischer Prizewinner
Your poems shock
the way water lilies burning in a museum
shock the moneyed. With fragrant treason
you begged even the rich,
to understand, as you spoke
to each generation as that generation,
your dark hair curled in the Thirties
by a passion electric for justice.
— Jackie St. Joan
Excerpt from “Letter to Muriel Rukeyser at the End of the 20th Century”
a dozen howls.
a thousand cows.
a million stars.
a billion cars.
— David Feela
the eastern sun licks
ice crystals from my front door
— Carol Bell
Luthiers — makers of stringed instruments — speak in lilting tones of curves and tapered bodies, of deep waists and cantilevered necks, perfect action, sparkling highs, low profiles and how she sits in your lap. They focus on taking care of the desires of the player who is seduced by the dark smoothness or the glow of a golden face. The performance repertoire can vary from a sensuously rich timbre to a blues wail or pop and bark. Musicians have been known to refer to their beloved instruments as feminine and often bestow the title of “soulmate” on them. Although many don’t have the bucks to shell out for one of these handcrafted guitars, mandolins or fiddles, they might consider the advantage of having a single perfectly customized instrument that reflects their particular sound … and it beats lugging several cases to gigs.
In a converted carriage house tucked on the alley behind his downtown Paonia, Colorado, home, luthier Louis Hayes was hand working tiny pieces of wood for struts, the inner braces for the guitar — sanding, chiseling and fine tuning each one to exactly fit into the precise place for perfect tones and resonance. Exotic and beautifully grained woods, both cut and uncut, were stacked ready for transformation. Louie explained that different woods produce different sounds — warmer, brighter, fuller — and so the face of the guitar was usually different than the body. Holding up an unfinished and unattached guitar face, he tapped with one finger. “You should hear four tones … here … and here,” his finger rapping the wood in two different spots, the unborn guitar singing in sweet resounding vibrations.
Hanging on walls were molds and clamps, woodworking tools and guitar blueprints — the entire studio garnished with corkscrews of wood shavings in loose piles on the floors and worktables … a twisted sculpture in themselves. Like walking through the telltale aroma of a kitchen with a fine chef at work, the smell of wood hung thick in the air. Louie’s guitars are sold to musicians across the country, through music festivals and word of mouth. (On Facebook at Hayes Guitar Lutherie or call 970-527-8977.)
Heading to the southern mountain town of Crestone, Colorado, from Glenwood Springs, Don Paine and his son Josh, are multi-generational builders of Pomeroy Mandolins. Their shop specializes in F-5 Gibson archtop replicas, archtop mandolas and octave mandolins whose sound has been described as an old Gibson on steroids. Don, who also builds exquisite fiddles, says his Crestone shop in a town at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where 14,000-foot glaciated peaks are graced with stands of Engelmann Spruce, is an inspiration for any luthier. (pomeroyinstruments.com)
A short jaunt from Monarch Pass, in Salida, Colorado, Jeff Bamburg says it was like jumping off a cliff when he chose to become a full-time guitar luthier. In Jeff’s world, it takes around 150 hours to build a basic guitar, a more customized one can take up to 250 hours. Jeff also teaches classes for aspiring luthiers, where a complete guitar can take two weeks of 12-hour days. “Every builder has his own signature sound and trying to build a guitar that resonates what the luthier wants that voice to sound like can take decades to develop,” he said of the technique. (bamburgguitars.com)
Brian Deckeback of Deltoro Guitars, has been building electric basses and guitars since 2001. He notes that there’s a little difference between creating a guitar and a bass, but the lower range frequencies are a consideration. Crisp, clean sounds translate into harder, heavier woods like ash and maple for clarity of the low end, while the lighter, airier dynamics would sport, for example, mahogany and alder. He feels the anticipation and fun about building is that you never know what the instrument is going to do until you string it and play it. “They sound better as they break in and develop their own personality. A guitar will sound completely different a week after you string it than when you first play it,” Deckeback says. (deltoroguitars.com and Deltoro Guitars on facebook)
There are basic rules of relativity that affect these stringed wooden instruments. Don’t expect to jump off a plane and start playing immediately since, most likely, a guitar, mando or fiddle will wonk out of tune. For acoustic pickers and strummers, air conditioning and the outdoors will be really tough on your ax, along with wind, sun and temperature changes, which affect it more than a solid-body instrument. There are many luthiers to be found throughout the mountain states who all have the same hope that their creations are played and not just kept in a case in a closet. All of the builders agree, it’s always a great feeling when you match the musicians with their perfect instrument.
Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living on an alley at the end of the road in Crested Butte. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I have seen the future, and it’s dark. Not in a cataclysmic, greed-driven economic meltdown kinda way (been there, done that), nor in an apocalyptic end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kinda way (the peculiarity of an 1,100-year-old Mayan astronomical cycle ending in 2012 of the Common Era IS NOT a harbinger of the end), but in the sense that trends old and long forgotten often become new again.
According to some estimates, as much as 75% of beer produced in London in the mid-19th century was Porter-style ale. First produced late in the 18th century, the brew had caught on among the workers of London, and through trade had become a rampant success across Europe, on order of the beaver-pelt hat. While the latter faded from fashion around 1850, Porter continued to be produced by British brewers until grain rationing during the First World War forced the beer to be brewed with lower alcohol content, on the order of Stout. This, along with the increasing popularity of Stout, nearly led to the demise of the style until a number of breweries began producing Porters again in the 1980s.
Porter is dark ale, brewed with heavily roasted malts to create a rich body balanced with dry flavors of coffee and nuts or sometimes a sweet character of caramel or toffee. Porter is commonly brewed to finish at 5-6% abv, with its heavier cousin, Baltic Porter, finishing between 7-10% abv. Hopping rates vary, with many Porters using modest amounts of hops to compliment the astringency already present from the darker malts. Some domestically produced porters, such as Deschutes Brewing Co.’s Black Butte Porter and Avery Brewing Co.’s New World Porter, hop to much higher levels, on order of a Pale Ale or India Pale Ale. (Avery has even been so bold as to lay claim to their New World Porter being the first Black IPA, thus entering an ongoing dispute among Pacific Northwest brewers and the Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, CA, over the origination of the style). Occasionally, breweries choose to add a small amount of smoked malt to the grain bill. This is roasted malt that has been placed in a smoker or dried over a wood fire. Generally found in bigger Baltic Porters, a modest touch of smoke can be an excellent addition to the overall flavor, and hearkens back to a time prior to kiln-drying of malt, when all beer would have contained some level of smoke flavor from the use of fire-dried barley.
Today, Porter is readily available at the package store, and is offered by many craft breweries. For a baseline example of the style, one can’t miss with a bottle of Fuller’s, or Samuel Smith’s Old Taddy Porter. The latter was a crowd favorite in parking lots outside of music venues in the ’90s, and while drinking a bottle in preparation for this article, a friend reminisced fondly that it and a piece of paper had been dinner on more than one occasion before seeing a band.
For a smoked variety, pick up a bottle of Smoked Baltic Porter from Great Divide Brewing Co. or the excellent Smoked Porter from Alaskan Brewing Co. Alaskan has chosen to add their alder-wood smoked malt to a base brew of modest (5.5% abv) strength, allowing the smoke to play a more prominent role in the flavor profile than it does in the offering from Great Divide. The brew is released annually and labeled with the year of release. I was lucky enough to find a bottle from 2009, and was happy to find that it had mellowed nicely in the bottle with little loss of body.
And so, will darker beer, like Porter, become the norm again? I don’t know, but for every beer, there is a person who drinks it. The two major international beer producing conglomerates, (AB/InBev and MillerCoors together controlling 265+ brands between them), are making quite a bit of money selling the likes of Michelob Amber Bock and other filthy poisons of a non-yellow color to someone. This was unheard of 15 years ago, and as the craft industry continues its impressive year-over-year growth, I can’t help but hope for a mass change in consciousness away from lite “beer.” Perhaps this time, it can be done without the beaver-pelt hat craze and the near extinction of the hapless beaver from North America.
Style. It’s how we define ourselves. It is also a fine method of establishing a common ground on which to meaningfully discuss beer. Tucked under the category of Strong Ales* lie three of the most beguiling and gnarly of all the creations in brewdom — the elusive Strong Ale (discussed in MG #184) and the fraternal twins of British- and American-style barleywine. As the name implies, these concoctions are created using an enormous amount of malted barley, which allows the final product to finish with an alcohol level akin to beverages produced from the fruit of the vine. British-style varieties feature an intense malt body and bready sweetness, with extended aging leaving a characteristic dried fruit signature on the palate. American varieties add piles of high-test domestic hops to the equation, aiming for a full-throttle mix of heat from the booze, sweet from the malt and a citrus hop rip to finish. Born brash and bold, subtlety of flavor comes with age for barleywine. The high level of alcohol and heavy hopping rates allow the potion to weather the ravages of time. Where a lesser brew will lose body and flavor complexity, the slow magick that yeast and malt begat in barleywine evolves over time, changing the flavor in a strange and persistent manner. Sharp hop notes and cloying sweetness may dominate a young brew, but the same bottle a few years later may exhibit sherry or port-like notes, with a moderate sweetness balanced by a subdued dryness from the hops. Barleywine is meant to be savored, and is best served on a cold winter evening where the stars shine hard and bright like diamond nails hammered into the midnight of heaven, and the icy light of the full moon echoes from the stellar blue blanket of snow covering the peaks around you.
A celebration of all things barleywine occurs in Vail on the 5th of January when the 12th Annual Big Beers, Belgians, and Barleywine Festival takes place at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa. Featuring the “A” list of commercially produced beer over 7% ABV, paired with dinners, seminars, tastings and a home-brewing competition, this event is the festival to attend to experience all that is happening with high-gravity brewing today.
If you are lucky enough to ride at Wolf Creek this winter, do not miss the chance to stop at Pagosa Brewing Co. in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Doing this prior to or après soaking in the hot springs is your choice, but either way, a glass of the gold-medal-winning Nipple Mountain Nip barleywine ale is required. Brewed each year, the 2011 release is in the American-style and comes in at 10.5% ABV. To celebrate its 5th anniversary, brewer and owner Tony Simmons tapped kegs of the “Nip” from each of the five years he has produced it as a commercial brewer, and offered this side-by-side in a vertical tasting event that was a privilege to attend. Some of these prior-year releases may survive through ski season and should be asked for at the bar. Tawny, dry flavors of raisins and fig came through in some, with toffee and sweetness lingering in others. The 2008 was particularly well rounded, with each year exhibiting remarkable vitality in body and flavor complexity despite their age.
On a larger craft-brewed scale, the wizards at Full Sail Brewing Co. in Hood River, OR, have released the 2011 batch of Old Boardhead Barleywine Ale. Prominently featuring a bold palate of Pacific Northwest hops, the Old Boardhead is a heady hop treat to pour in the glass now, and should develop nicely if stashed in the cellar. In particular, the bright, faintly metallic notes from centennial hops accent the caramel flavor of the malts, and while tasting it, the thought of examining the changes that occur in the bottle to be opened next year is intriguing.
Head brewer Alan Simmons (no relation to Tony) at the Backcountry Brewery in Frisco also brews an American-style barleywine, which he named after the “beater” van that has proudly served as the Backcountry Brewery distribution workhorse since its inception. The Olde Beerwagon Barleywine is modeled after a West-Coast-style brew and features big-hop notes to balance the 10% ABV. Alan also has 50 gallons of the ’wine aging in an oak bourbon barrel and set for release during the ski season this winter. Aging in bourbon barrels imparts a lot of character to a beer, rendering vanilla and smoke components from the toasted oak itself, along with a solid dose of bourbon esters from the liquor remaining in the wood.
*All style references in this column are based on the Beer Judges Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines found here: http://www.bjcp.org/stylecenter.php
Erich Hennig lives in Durango, CO. He is an avid home brewer, a hobby for which he was recently awarded “Area Man” status by the local newspaper. Further musings about all things beer in and around the San Juan’s can be found at beerat6512.blogspot.com
Thanks to the forbearance of our long-suffering editor, I’ve been given the opportunity to forego the pittance in recompense that passes for reward to our star-studded (and variously tatted) mountain bards — whose work avalanches into these pages with all the ragged energy of an out-of-control skier but with the compact wallop of a lyric two-by-four. Instead of issuing barely enough bar bucks to buy a good night’s drunk, we’ll be entering each poem accepted for MG’s pages into two annual $100 awards — the Way of the Mountain Prize (to be selected by yours truly for the year’s poem best representing Dolores LaChapelle’s “Way of the Mountain”) and a Karen Chamberlain Prize (for the year’s best poem as voted on by our readers). Send your nominations from any poems from 2011’s issues of MG to: email@example.com
And for those of you who live outside the distributed reach of our tireless bicycle pedalers, we’ll promise to toss you a hard copy of the issue with your piece in it. For official submission guidelines, click here.
— Art Goodtimes
Parched and staggering,
I have swallowed sweet draughts
from trickling desert springs,
the liquid’s own journey
through cloud, stone, and sand.
Water, like smoke, like music,
moves between worlds.
There is no religion
like water in a dry land.
— Eric Walter
Morning Sun Through Glass
Segmented glasses on the sill,
yellow, red, green, blue,
pouring coloured light to spill
and drip on things beyond my view.
Like this, my heart, be pieced together,
pooling colour where you will
shine through, shine through like this forever
— yellow, red, green, blue.
— Cally Conan-Davies
Australian poet visiting U.S.
The Buddha´s Life
He shoved off gently from
the river bank and glided
through the water soundlessly.
The fish would have been
hard-pressed to bear witness
to his passing.
In truth if it were not
for this poem it
never really happened.
— Larry Grieco
Hope you all had a good time.
I was babysitting a genius.
Stupid young people.
Despite the signal fires of love
& intelligence by you all,
this Age of Endarkenment keeps
lapping at my feet.
Arab Spring, Occupy, are
sweet reactive threads…
But still, G. Benn may have
had it right:
“to live in the dark,
to do in the dark
what we can.”
— Jack Mueller
Creator of Budada
Log Hill Village
Head upside home fried
Champagne powder, I lip-smack
Fatback and ignore
Scores of dive judges above
Grinning from slack chair front row
— Uche Ogbuji
Why The Man Wore Red Shirts
Fred carried a weasel under his jacket.
His friends thought its heavy
breathing was his heart.
But at meetings it would
gnaw on him, and in bed
it would hang from his left nipple.
— Jared Smith
“Path of Beauty: Photographic Adventures in the Grand Canyon,” by Christopher Brown
When you read a biography of a person, you hope that the writer has done his or her research enough to really know the subject of the book, the person he or she is telling you about. If you want to read the biography of a place, especially a monumental place like the Grand Canyon, you want someone like Chris Brown to write it: More than 30 years of hiking, rafting and guiding in the canyon, totaling 35 trips through the canyon on a boat, with a camera at his side all the time. His 115-page book is a love letter, filled with 75 photos and five essays on Encountering the Canyon, Adventure, Beauty and First Sight, Photography, and Reflection — my favorite of which is Adventure, about a mistake Brown made as a raft guide, requiring the rescue of everyone in his boat from a rock in the middle of a rapidly rising Colorado River, and his subsequent redemption. The photographs are stunning, and many of the scenes and colors will surprise anyone not intimately familiar with all the corners of the canyon. Brown is no slouch as an essayist and storyteller, and his passion for a very special place shows in his writing: “While it is always impressive, it is typically spectacular only for a few moments each day when the light is right and then it is sublime.”
“100 Years Up High: Colorado’s Mountains & Mountaineers,” by Janet Neuhoff Robertson, James E. Fell Jr., David Hite, Christopher J. Case and Walter R. Borneman
If you ever forget how much you love Colorado’s mountains, pick up a copy of this book. “100 Years Up High” is a photo-filled history of the Centennial State’s High Country, and the human involvement in it — from early exploration to later conservation, the fun of climbing and skiing and the hard work that resulted in our national parks and national monuments. Each of the bylined authors take on a topic or two in this six-chapter book: Creating a New Club and a New National Park, Reaching Higher, Climbing Harder, Borrowing from Our Children, Carving the Snow and Painting the Peaks. The book, partially funded by the Colorado Mountain Club and published on the CMC’s 100th anniversary, intertwines the story of the club with the history of Colorado’s mountains — a natural combination, given the club’s involvement in all aspects of Colorado’s outdoor legacy, including the 1915 establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park, and finding the original Arapaho names of many of the geographic features in and around the Park. The book’s 176 pages are filled with historic and scenic photos, making the reading very easy on the eyes.
“All That Glitters,” by Margo Talbot
Margo Talbot didn’t take a typical path to becoming a renowned ice climber and guide: childhood abuse, depression and drug addiction, drug smuggling and drug dealing, jail and finally sobriety and therapy. I’m a sucker for a good climbing story that’s more about life than it is about climbing, and Talbot tells her climbing and life stories with unflinching honesty in “All That Glitters.” Beginning with an emotionally abusive and traumatic childhood that led her into substance abuse, and following her into the Canadian Rockies, where she eventually discovered ice climbing, Talbot literally climbs out of the darkness of her depression over the course of several years. But not without a few bumps in the road — during her years of partying, then addiction, she found herself making bad choices, dabbling in drug smuggling and selling, until she finally hit rock bottom in a jail cell after one particularly serious mistake. Talbot eventually begins to find redemption through climbing and her friendship with climber Karen McNeill, whose 2006 death on Alaska’s Mount Foraker dealt a tremendous, traumatic blow to Talbot, but led to the writing of the material that formed the basis of “All That Glitters.” Her writing is without self-judgment, as she lets the reader interpret the events that form the arc of the story.
You won’t admit it, even though your bluegrass friends might be more understanding, but you are secretly amused by the emoto-schlock lyrics served up by classic country music. Country music vocalists are basically soul singers, but what is it that makes country lament in ways that are deeply rooted in the same stuff as the blues? Hardship … hard luck in life, love and unfulfilled expectations. Traditional country is a romance novel rolled into a reality show and set to music. Clever, vengeful, heartfelt and notoriously comical, the lyrics span content ranging from d-i-v-o-r-c-e and the habitually jilted to countrified patriotism and redneck validation. There are love songs about pickup trucks, philosophy for raising children, memorials for grandmothers and odes to dogs.
No other music genre does love songs, splitsville and misery better than country, except maybe Italian opera, where someone is always betrayed, lied to, murdered or foreclosed on, with spectacular flair. La Scala’s country cousin is in Nashville and called the Grand Ole Opry. Achy-Breaky as it is for diehards, the old genre morphed into mainstream Americana acoustic rock and the lyric writers of the three-minute joke became noticeably more poetic a decade or so ago.
Craig McManus, a knowledgeable country DJ of both camps, explains the transformation of the music. “What you’re not hearing anymore are the silly lyrics that country music was known for. It wasn’t catchy, it was just silly and contrived. Most of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson stuff was that way during that time. What it’s evolved into is from the real heart of soul.” Craig still sees two factions. “It’s almost split into one wing that’s God, country and family and the other has gone into actual human feelings that are more honest, more down to earth. What they used to call down to earth back then was a little lofty and not down to earth at all. In country, folk and rock today, some of the music is so similar, you can segue between all of those styles. The genres have blended so much that alternative root is alternative country, which is now a combo of folk country and acoustic rock.”
This month, you can witness the contrast of both modern and classic country up at the end of the road in Crested Butte. Although they’re calling it an inaugural event and even changed its name to the Crested Butte Songwriters Festival, the town hosted the wild hootenanny called Country in the Rockies for well over a decade. In 2008, during a remodel of the main accommodations for the performers, the hoedown was moved to the champagne snow slopes of Steamboat Springs and then to Nashville for 2009. However, by 2010, the clamoring arose to bring it back to CB with much of the hooting coming from the musicians themselves … perhaps it was all the local ladies unabashedly gyrating on the bar tops, coaxing donations into their collective cleavage to help the stars raise upwards of $50k in a single evening for the fundraising breast cancer research sponsor T.J. Martell. The newly renamed Crested Butte Songwriters Festival will stir up the sequins and glitter in a sea of cowboy hats, January 13 and 14, 2012, and build on the popularity of its former self without sacrificing the caliber of talent or fun, and still continue to raise big bucks for breast cancer research.
Country in the Rockies brought hundreds of visiting big spenders and jovial locals out to cruise the many different acts throughout the liver of Crested Butte. There were songwriting seminars with the stars, celebrity bartenders and concerts in the round for almost a full week. The stars got to shred the slopes alongside the town clan. The new event is starting out smaller for its first year, but will undoubtedly expand back into a party of extended workshops and concerts in the coming years as it gets rolling again.
This year’s raucous soiree has an impressive roster that includes some heavy hitters, all BMI-affiliated artists, like Texas roots country hero Robert Earl Keen (robertearlkeen.com); veteran troubadour Dean Dillon (deandillon.com); country icon, hit writer and actor Mac Davis (myspace.com/themacdavis) and Marti Frederiksen (myspace.com/martifrederiksen), who has penned songs for the likes of Ozzy to Mick and Sheryl Crow to Pink. There are newer talents being showcased, like Jake Owen (jakeowen.net), who happened to nail one of the coveted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive slots; Kristen Kelly (kristenkellymusic.com); Nicolle Galyon (nicollegalyon.com); Emily Shackelton (myspace.com/emilyshackelton); Kristy Lee Cook (myspace.com/kristyleecook); and modern country hit songwriter Rodney Clawson (myspace.com/rodneyclawsonmusic). They’ve thrown some local music into the mix, with Tyler Hansen (myspace.com/tylerhansenmusic), Steve Snyder and David Paulik — aka Dobro Dave (myspace.com/560454056/music).
The entourage starts at 8 p.m. on Friday the 13th at the rowdy Kochevar’s bar and moves to the Eldo Brewery at 10 p.m., with the admission a reasonable pay-what-you-can. If you prefer the less boisterous, Saturday night will feature a real concert ($50, crestedbuttearts.org). It’s just fine if you only have a few bucks to toss into Friday’s kitty because others will toss several thousand into the hat. So get on up and take an honest look at the real country music of dirt roads and hollow body guitars through its singers and songwriters. And the locals will even invite you up to dance on the bar.
For more info head to: www.bmi.com/events/entry/555143
Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer, traveler and musician living in Crested Butte. She can infamously shake it dancing on the bar. A feature writer for the Crested Butte News-Weekly, her musings and photography have been published in numerous mags and rags around the planet. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
After this picture was taken, Narcisse had the misfortune of skiing into a crevasse-like chasm created by creep of the entire snowpack. He fell eight feet onto the wet grass at the bottom of the crevasse. He landed on the point of his shoulder, which separated, and had to be reduced on the spot by one of the guides, who, in his turn, had to churn uphill, sidestepping rapidly through the deep snow to reach him.
I, for my part, skied too close to a tree-well, collapsed the shoulder of the well, and tumbled out of sight and head first into the snow-free column of air next to the trunk, one ski below, with a twist in one ankle. With a teeth-clenched lunge I was able to reach one binding and release it, only to find myself hanging upside-down from the ski above me, dangling by an Arlberg strap and the full length of the front-throw cable, which had come free of its side-hitches.
I was able to pull myself upward slowly and carefully, hand over hand, until I could reach the ski itself. Then I hauled the other ski up from below, and began to build a platform using both skis, which might be able to support my full weight. I could hear the sounds of the second group skiing past, but realized that I would never be able to make myself heard through the thickness of the snowpack, even though I could hear them.
As I thrashed around with my skis, I was suddenly inundated by a cascade from above which threatened to choke off both air and light. At first I thought it must have been some sort of slide set off by passing skiers, but when it finally stopped, I could tell it was caused by one of those enormous, snow-burdened branches above me, unloading its full weight all at once. Coughing and spitting, I first knelt, then stood up on my shaky skis, and began to climb out of the hole.
I knew that the first group, of which I had been a member, was long-gone down the hill, and that the second group, although they had just been here, was also not waiting for anyone. If I could follow just the right set of tracks, at least I could hope to get to where the helicopter had been, even if it in fact was not still there.
It was there, alright, with everybody aboard except for a couple of the guides. I had been in the fast group, and then the slow group, and then the fast group again. Now they took me aside and told me that they had decided that, if I wanted to continue to ski the way that I skied, on the skis that I skied on, that I should get my own helicopter, and my own ski guide.
Not such a bad idea.
Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.