A POWDER MORNING AT THE CANYONS
by Alfred Millikan, Jr.
It started out as a simple favor for a friend. It turned out to be one of the best powder day of the year. My friend Karl knew of a visiting family in town who needed ski lessons, and since I am a ski coach for The Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, he recommended them to me. We skied together for three days during a crowded President's Day weekend and following Tuesday, and I suppose they enjoyed my ability and company, because they hired me for the upcoming Friday as well.
So far, the week had been sunny and warm but on Wednesday night a low pressure system socked in on the Wasatch mountains and gave us almost three feet in the next two or three days. Being a ski coach on a big powder day is rough, because, usually, unless you are leading an upper level clinic, the client is not developed in the necessary skill areas and cannot ski the deep stuff with confidence. I say usually because on deep days, unless you have a client with experience skiing waist deep powder, the skiing is usually spent choosing the right runs with enough pitch to stay moving, and then being patient with struggling clients and missing some great turns. ARGG! We all remember those first powder turns! Sometimes all those days one sacrifices as a ski coach pay off, as I am about to show you.
Luckily, for me, my three clients all were very competitive and not about to let 25 inches of Wasatch fluff deter them. After a couple of mostly successful runs on some of the steeper blue runs here at The Canyons, I decided it was time to let them explore some of our awesome glade skiing.
We are blessed to have so many wide-open aspen groves to teach new powder skiers the fun and freedom of floating in the trees! This particular morning was a Friday and the weekend's crowds were non-existent on this forecasted stormy day. Cruising past Red Pine Lodge to the chair we found a friend of mine, Doug, getting ready to hop on the chair solo. He is the manager of the on mountain photo service and is a great snowboarder as well.
We took a connecting run over to my special stash and when we got to the next lift there
was Doug also getting on the lift again. Doug rode up the lift with one of my clients and I
talking of a special line he knew of up here. We never really discussed its location fully,
but I knew some other time I would probably find it or I probably knew about it already!
My clients and I dove into a stash of aspens near the top of the Snow Canyon Express
and evidently Doug was right behind us. It was snowing really hard and I was not
thinking that Doug should take some pictures, but fate had such things in mind for us.
We stopped short of the edge of the aspens at the top of a nice open bowl and talked
about planning the run down. I reminded my clients to stay near the trees to gain more
visible definition and to stay centered in their stance. As one client took off down this
virgin bowl of beauty, she made about 10 linked turns and fell head over heels. The next
thing I see, over to my right, Doug launches about 15 feet off of a stump out of the
woods, carves a few turns and stops to help the girl. Doug then looked up the hill and he
realized a great photo opportunity as he yelled up the hill to my clients and I. My
girlfriend, Christian, says I am a "camera ham" and I have to admit, I do enjoy seeing
good pictures of me. Perfect face shot pictures happen rarely, and even rarer, in uniform.
The picture you see here is a result of that accidental photo shoot. I can't thank Doug
enough for taking the best picture of the year on the biggest snowfall day of 2000! And I
guess this is a lesson teaching me that all my patience does indeed pay off!