The Daily Pow, November 5, 2012

Let me tell you a little personal history about me and the snow called powder. I learned to ski in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. One time over spring break, I got snowed in at Snowshoe when something like 18 inches fell. Powder! I became mad for skiing, mad for snow. For my Jeep CJ-5, I got a personalized license plate that said POWDR.

Yeah, I know. When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.

Then I moved to Vermont. The next winter was epic. Powder at Mad River! Powder at Stowe! I started hiking for turns. All I wanted was soft snow and untracked.

The Jeep caught fire one night on the way to Stowe to write a story about the groomers. It burned on the side of 89 between Duxbury and Waterbury, but I saved the plate. Then I bought a pale blue Subaru station wagon.

Then I was offered a job as an editor at a magazine called…Powder.

I moved to California and went from a kid who’d never been on an airplane until age 16 to flying all over the world to ski. New Zealand. France. Italy. Powder powder powder!

Three years into the job, I was sent to Trout Lake, British Columbia, to cover a cat skiing operation. As I drove a rental car through the night, snowflakes scuttled across the windshield, and snow banks towered into the darkness aside the road. At the lodge, I found a note directing me to a dormer room. In the morning, there was bustle but no hustle, and when I stepped out of the cat at the top of the mountain, I sank into snow up to my waist. The guide scooped a palm of it and gave a puff; it swirled into the air like eiderdown and seemed to take forever to succumb to gravity’s gentle pull.

It was there at Trout Lake that I finally, for the first time, skied powder.

The snow billowed at each turn, created contrails in our wakes, and hung in fine crystals in the air after our passing, sparkling in the sun anew. We launched ourselves down pillowed boulder fields and trusted that the effervescent surface would yield to progressively denser but still gentle layers of cushion; we choked and gasped on face shots.

Not all fresh snow is created equal. Not all fresh snow is powder. Fresh is fantastic, untracked is wonderful, but there is a line separating the merely good snow from the transcendant snow. It’s a line drawn by moisture content and humidity and temperature and wind speed and slope aspect. It’s a line that redraws the trajectory of your life.

Beginning today and running every weekday between now and the end of January, Adventure Journal will bring you the Daily Pow, a photograph and some words about the finest form of skiing there is, the kind of skiing that Dolores LaChapelle, dear friend and powder savant, called “ecstatic,” where “obeying the earth results in perfect freedom.” We’ll primarily be sharing the work of five of the world’s best deep snow photographers — Lee Cohen, Mattias Fredriksson, Garrett Grove, Jordan Manley, and Christian Pondella — along with a smattering of others. I hope you take the kind of time I do with each image, to imagine the scene, the sounds, the snow itself. I hope you enjoy.

Photo: Chris Davenport in Chamonix, France, by Christian Pondella

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