The first time I saw a flawless skin track occurred not too far from here, up the road a bit from Revelstoke, on Rogers Pass. Oh, there had been skin tracks before, but they were dodgy, messy things, unlike this symphony of a track there on Rogers. Or maybe it was just that my head was in a place to see it for the first time as a thing of beauty.
Whichever, there it was. A line of demarcation, a seam between two worlds. On one side, nature, natural, wild, untouched, pristine, virgin. On the other, adventure, risk, stoke, and uncertainty. The skin track struck me, in its own way, the same way that footprints on the moon did — as a kind of statement about hunger, exploration, and, this being powder, pleasure seeking.
It also struck me as a unique perspective into one person’s judgment, aesthetics, and mountain sense. There are infinite ways to interpret snow-covered mountains with your travel route, less so if you want to travel safely and efficiently but still more than enough to bring a highly personal signature to it. The skin track, I realized, was less about composing than about interpreting, as if the terrain was the score and the track was the conductor’s direction of it. Some interpretations are frenetic and discordant, some are simply uninspired. But some are so perfectly rendered it’s as if the trail breaker were simply sweeping away snow to reveal the line beneath and only they had the compass to find it.
That’s how it was that day at Rogers Pass, and I’ve been trying to set tracks like that since.
Photo of Revelstoke, British Columbia, by Garrett Grove.