Epic Dream Trip Snow Skiing In Chile – With Terrible Weather

I remember being a teenager and reading in ski magazines about how you can ski in South America in the summertime.  Well, it’s summertime where I live, in Durham, North Carolina, USA, but in South America, it’s winter.

The seasons are flipped.

In North America in August it’s the middle of summer, in South America, the middle of winter.

My birthday is in August and I always thought it would be cool to snow ski in August in South America.

Not only that, but once I moved to Lake Tahoe, in California, I caught the wine bug.  I’ve traveled the vineyards and worked in the wine business for 10 years.

So a exotic land with huge Andes mountain, the opposite seasons, and lots of vineyards in Chile and Argentina, that a powerful recipe for me.

My 40th Birthday

I’m very close with my Mom’s brother.  He’s always been the favorite Uncle.  Uncle Rob.  Uncle Rob was the first person to visit me when I moved to Lake Tahoe after college, when I didn’t know anyone east of the Mississippi.

Uncle Rob came out to ski and he brought his old friend and business partner Jim Allen, the founder and winemaker of Sequoia Grove vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California.  Uncle Rob and Jim Allen introduced me to Napa Cab, and I got hooked and that changed the entire trajectory of my life.

Anyway, Uncle Rob asked me what I was going to do for my 40th birthday.  He asked if I wanted to travel anywhere.  He said he’d buy me a plane ticket.

I told him how I always wanted to go to South America to go snow skiing.  I had dreams of skiing powder on my birthday, August 4th.

Uncle Rob offered to buy my plane ticket.

I thought, holy shit!  This might actually happen.  It’s hard to think something is really going to happen, when you’ve been thinking about it for 25 years or so, and not thinking it was very realistic.

That was sometime early in 2019 and even though I thought I had a chance to go down to South America, I put it in the back of my mind and just went about my business.

Then the summer came.

I started to think more about what I was going to do for my birthday.  Next thing I knew it was July.  I tried to reach my Uncle and ask if he was going to be able to buy my ticket.  If he wasn’t, I’d probably just go to the beach in North Carolina for a few days.

Problem was Uncle Robert was traveling to England.  He went to watch the Wimbledon tennis tournament.  I couldn’t get a hold of him while he was over there.  I finally spoke to Uncle Rob when he got back. My birthday was only a couple weeks away.

He said it’s amazing how much champagne the spectators drink at Wimbledon.  Apparently you can walk in with your own champagne bottles.  He said you can hear the spectators popping corks right there inside the stadium.  And he said he was going to buy the plane ticket to Santiago, Chile.

My plane ticket was for a departure to Santiago de Chile on August 22nd.

Holy shit, I thought, I’m actually going.

Then I flew out to the middle of nowhere to my sister’s house on the Fall River in south eastern Idaho and hung out with her family for a week.

While I was in Idaho, I needed to start planning my Chile trip.  I’d never been of the North American continent.  I’m not a savvy international traveler.  I don’t speak Spanish.  And I hadn’t done any research on Chile. And I was going solo.

I knew the Andes where there and they have a lot of vineyards.

One of the most interesting facts I learned is, even though Chile is on the west coast of South America, Santiago, and I’m guessing most if not all of the country, is in the same time zone as the East Coast of the US.  I live on the east coast in Durham, North Carolina.  So that meant no jet lag.

Growing up reading ski magazines, I’d hear about this ski resort in Chile called Portillo.  It’s the most famous ski resort in Chile and it has a large yellow hotel that is surrounded by tall mountains.

I figured I’d go there.  It turns out Portillo is expensive.  But they have these 2 lodges, next to the main hotel, that have shared rooms, that are much cheaper than getting a regular room in the main hotel.

I figured I’d stay in the cheap lodge.  I didn’t care about luxury bullshit.  I wanted to ski big mountains and steep terrain.

Portillo is also great in terms of logistics.  The hotel is only 1.5-2 hour bus ride out of Santiago.  They even have a bus that can pick you up at the airport.

So it seemed pretty easy.  Fly to Santiago, pick up the bus to the hotel.  Ski for the week, take hotel bus back to Santiago and fly home.

Just one problem.

Portillo didn’t have any snow.  It was mid-August, which as far as I can tell is equal to February in North America.  The Andes were experiencing a drought and Portillo had 2 runs open.

This is famous Portillo.  In August famous world class skiers come to Portillo and hold steep ski camps.  But this year they didn’t have snow and many of those skiers cancelled their trips.

I confirmed this by searching on social media, and particularly Instagram, for photos of Portillo.  Yup they didn’t have snow.

And that’s a Pro Tip.  If you want to know current weather conditions for somewhere, do some searches on social media, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

No Snow In The Andes

What the fuck?

I didn’t know what to do.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains.  I understand droughts and low snow years.  Timing is huge and you just can’t plan perfect weather.

My main goal for traveling to South America and Chile in the summer was to go snow skiing.  I’m sure it would have been nice to tour Chile and do sightseeing, but that’s not the cool shit I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid.

I dream about adventure and skiing big mountains.

I reached out to my childhood friend Adam.  Adam lived in South America after college and has traveled the continent extensively.  Adam put me in touch with his friend, Ian who runs a snowboard tour company in Chile.

I got super lucky with Adam making that connection.  Ian turned out to be a great source of information.  When I told him my situation, he said to go south to Nevados de Chillan or El Coralco.

The southern Andes had snow.

That’s where I’d have to go, to the snow.  Problem was I didn’t know anything about how to operate on my own in Chile.

Planning Transportation in Chile

Nevados de Chillan is a 6 hour drive south of Santiago.  The mountain doesn’t have it’s own convenient bus that will pick me up at the airport in Santiago.

So I started research how to get down there.  It wasn’t easy because most of the websites for things like buses and trains and hotels were in Spanish, and I don’t speak Spanish.

My family was a bit concerned about me going on a solo ski trip to Chile because I didn’t do any planning, I hadn’t traveled much internationally, I was going solo, I didn’t speak Spanish, and I was going skiing.

The skiing part was hard on my Mom and my sister due to my previous experience dying in an avalanche in the Sierra Nevada.  I’m a very conservative guy when I’m traveling in the mountains, and that avalanche was a rare occurrence, but it did happen, so I can understand that my Mom and sister would be unreasonably worried about this.

I decided that I’d go to the ski resort Nevados de Chillan.  It had snow and it looked big.

Now that I’d made that decision, I had to figure out how to get down there.

There were 3 options to get to the mountain from Santiago, which was 6-8 hours of travel away.  I could fly into Concepcion and take a private transport to the mountain, which was 2.5 hour drive from Concepcion.  Or I could take a bus to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.  Or I could take a train to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.

The plane was out because I wouldn’t see Chile, it was super expensive, and it seemed like it would not save any time.  So what was the point?  No plane.

I wanted to take the train because I thought I’d see the country and I like trains.  The problem with the train was, it only had 2 trips to Chillan the day I was arriving. One in the morning, which I wasn’t going to make in time, another at 5:30 pm, which required me to wait around Santiago all day.

So I went with the bus option.  Chile has a bus culture.  Chile is the longest nation in the world and to move folks around in a reasonably priced manner, a bus industry developed.  Once I landed at the airport in Santiago, I’d need to get myself to the Terminal Alameda Santiago.  At the bus terminal there are many different bus companies and lots of routes, every day, down to Chillan.

There were so many options, that I didn’t even try to buy a ticket ahead of time.  I’d just arrive at the terminal and pick the bus that was leaving the soonest.

Once I got to Chillan, there was another bus that would take me to the ski mountain.

I’d also decided to stay at the Hotel Nevados, which is at the bottom of the ski resort.  The stay included the room, 3 meals a day, and lift tickets.  It was the expensive option, but the easiest one considering I wasn’t renting a car and had limited options due to mobility.

Catching a Plane to Santiago

I got confirmation of the hotel stay a few hours before I was headed to the Raleigh Durham airport.

I was at the airport with 3 pieces of luggage.  My ski bag, my ski boots, and my large red ski/climbing backpack.

Ski gear for Chile

I would learn very quickly, that traveling with my large 195 centimeter long ski bag, in a country where I didn’t have a car and didn’t speak the language, would be a huge pain in the ass.

I was surprised that American Airlines didn’t charge me for checking my ski bag.  I thought it was a mistake, because when I fly in the states, I always have to pay for checking my luggage.

The airlines make a lot of money charging for this.

I later found out, on international flights to many South American countries on American Airlines, you get to check 2 bags for free.  I recommend checking with the airline before you fly to see what the checked bag policy is.

I didn’t check my ski boot bag because you never check your ski boots going to a ski destination.  If you ski boots get lost, you are screwed.  Boots are the most important part of your gear.  You can rent skis, but you can’t rent custom fitted ski boots. Never check them on the way to your destination.

I did check the boots on the way back home, which was nice.

My Uncle Was Sick

While I was waiting to board the plain in RDU, I called my Uncle to say Thanks for the plane ticket again.  He didn’t answer so I left a voice message.

My Aunt called me shortly after.  Aunt Carmen said that Uncle Rob had just had open heart surgery the week before and he was in the hospital recovering.  He didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to cancel my trip.

He didn’t tell anyone about his surgery and he wouldn’t let anyone see him, except my Aunt, in the hospital.  He’s a very private guy.

My Aunt told me not to worry and that my Uncle wanted me to have fun.

I started getting nervous.

It was a short flight from RDU to Miami.

Once in Miami, I found out that the flight was delayed.  It was supposed to leave at 10:30 pm, instead it would leave at 11:30pm.

I tried to get a little bit of work done on the computer while I waited.

Finally the plane arrived and we got boarded.  I am impressed with these big ass planes that do the longer flights.  This thing was huge and decently comfortable.  I didn’t have one of the nice seats, just one in the main cabin, but I was comfortable enough.

The flight took 7 hours to Santiago.

I was sitting next to this nice woman from the States that spoke English and Spanish.  Since the flight was a redeye flight, after they served dinner all the lights went out.

The woman I was sitting next to offered me a melatonin pill to help me sleep.  I usually don’t like to take any pills, especially to help sleep.  But melatonin is pretty benign.  Your body naturally makes melatonin to help you sleep.  It’s not a hard core drug like Ambien.

So I took her up on the offer.  The melatonin started working quickly.  And it worked.  I passed out for 4-5 hours of the flight.

I actually liked it.  I recommend trying a melatonin if you are on a redeye flight.  It worked so well that I decided to take a melatonin on the flight back home to the states.

When we landed in Santiago, I thought, “Oh shit, here we go.”

I got of the plane and saw a bathroom.  I went in and washed off a bit.

Then I looked around and couldn’t figure out where the customs office to check my passport was.

It sucks not being able to read or speak Spanish, in a Spanish speaking country.

The End…..

Definitely not the end of the story, but 2,300 words, this is long for a blog post.  So I’ll break this up into 2 parts.

 

 

 

 

It’s Not a Ski Vacation, it’s an Adventure

skiing Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood Ski Resort

I just arrived back in North Carolina from spending 2 1/2 weeks in Nevada and California.

I go to Lake Tahoe for 2 weeks, then head down to Napa Valley for 2 days, then fly home to North Carolina.  I take this same trip every year in the second half of March.

This is a very important trip to me.  I take it seriously.  Yes, I go off and visit some of the most beautiful places in the world, but I don’t treat it like a vacation.  I treat it like an adventure.  And all good adventures take a fair amount of work and preparation.

You might disagree and think that an extended trip to visit world class ski areas and vineyards is a the definition of an epic vacation.  But, it’s really just me visiting my old homes.

You see, I lived for 3 years in South Lake Tahoe, specifically, I lived on the Nevada side of South Lake in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.  And I also lived in the town of Napa for 6 years.  During my time in Napa, I’d drive up to Tahoe every weekend for 6 months of the winter and spring to go skiing.

I’ve been fortunate to have lived in some of the world’s great vacation destinations.

Because I’ve so much history in these areas, I put in the proper amount of work in preparation for this trip.  Since most of my time on this trip is dedicated to snow skiing, I start training for the trip as soon as it ends.  For this years trip, I started weight training the day after I left in 2018.

Here’s my first deadlift session after last years trip:

Why do I work so hard for a vacation? 

Well, it’s not a vacation, it’s adventure, and if you want to have a great adventure, you need to be prepared.  I have a lifetime ski pass to Kirkwood, CA.  It is a big crazy mountain with challenging and potentially dangerous terrain.  I also like to climb up and ski down mountains in the Lake Tahoe area, as well as other mountains on the East Side of the Sierra Nevada.  These mountains are not ski areas, they are just big mountains.  It takes a lot of work to get up and ski down these mountains, safely.

To navigate these mountains takes skill, muscle, and endurance.  So I train all-year-long.  Seriously.

You might ask, “Why?”  Good question.

I’m drawn to skiing in a  way that is out of my control.  I think about skiing everyday of my life, even those hot sticky days in the middle of the North Carolina summer.  And not just any type of skiing, I dream about the fun, adventurous, challenging type of skiing.

I work to build and maintain strength all year long.  I also have the challenge of living at sea level.  It’s much harder to perform athletically at 6,000 – 11,000 feet, where most of my skiing happens.

Also, I like to ski with friends, for both enjoyment and safety.  All my friends are better riders than I am.  And all of them live at altitude and ski regularly.  I also have many friends on the Kirkwood Ski Patrol (I highly recommend following @kirkwoodrescueavalanchedogs on Instagram).  As you can imagine, the Kirkwood Ski Patrol is filled with talented skiers.  If I want to keep up with these folks and not seem like a complete tourist, then I have to work extra hard, just to have somewhat acceptable “on mountain” abilities.

So for 11 1/2 months of the year, I put in the work.  This is a way of life for me now.  I’m grateful for this trip.  I value this experience so much, that I’m willing to put in the work to make sure my body can handle it.  This is also how I want to live for the rest of my life.  Constantly putting in the work, to be ready at any moment for adventure.

But, there is only so much that I can do.  There is no substitute for “mountain fitness”.  There is nothing I’ve ever found that can replicate how your muscles are strained and activated from the odd bumps, angles, and accelerating and decelerating that comes from snow skiing.

The first 2 days of my trip are always the same.  I struggle.

The first day on skis I focus on not getting hurt.  I usually try to get as many runs and turns in as I can.  This wakes up my muscles or activates my muscle memory, and lets my body know what will be required of it for the next 2 weeks.  I end the day tired and in desperate need of a couch and a beer.

The second day on skis is usually similar to the first, except I try to work harder.  This year, I hiked up the 99 Steps on the backside of Kirkwood.  It’s about a 20 minute hike to the top of the mountain.  I do this hike, not because of the awesome skiing or the views.  The views are great, the skiing is ok.  The real reason I do this hike is for fitness and exercise.  And again to let my body know that there will be more of this work in the coming days. strength

K2 backcountry snow skis

Hiking 99 Steps at Kirkwood

On this trip, on the second day, I randomly found my friend Isaac, and his fiance Geneva, at the top of Chair 10, also known as The Wall, at the top of Kirkwood.  It was great to see Isaac and Geneva.  I stay in touch with him and try to visit on every single one of these trips.

Isaac and Greg were the first ski patrolers (after Chewy the avalanche rescue dog) to find me when I was caught in the avalanche.  It’s important to me to spend time with folks like Isaac and Greg when I’m in town.

I ran into Isaac and Geneva on what I thought was going to be my last run of the day.  But, since I ran into my friends, I wanted to ski some runs with them.  Both Isaac and Geneva are better skiers than I am.  It was difficult to keep up with them.  After 3 runs, my legs were weak and my turns were wobbly.  This is a good recipe for injury.

I told Isaac and Geneva, “My legs are so tired I can’t see straight.”  We said our goodbyes and I headed for the car.

Again, I end the day tired and in desperate need of a couch and a beer and as many calories as I can stuff in my face before passing out.

By the 3rd day, I’m pretty much good to go.  The first 2 days are about getting acclimated to the altitude, drinking tons of water, and waking up my muscles.  Then, I’m ready as I’ll get.

I skied for all 16 days I was in Tahoe.

At the beginning of my trip, one of the Kirkwood patrolers asked me what I was I was going to do for my 2 weeks in town.  I said I was going to ski, everyday.

Ski everyday if the weather permits.  I’m there for the skiing.

I was having dinner at bbq joint in South Lake with my buddy Brandon.  I told him about the skiing conditions at Kirkwood and he asked me if I’d been chasing any Cougars.

“Ha! No.”, I replied.

I wake up early, ski till I’m tired, and then go back to my buddy Mike’s house, open a beer, and start stuffing calories.  There are no women in that routine.

I’m all for chasing women, but I can do that anywhere.  I can only ski the goods, when I’m in Tahoe.  So no, there were no Cougars.  In the mountains where I hangout, you mostly see sweaty hairy dudes.  Not pretty.

Then, as always, my time was up.  I’d skied 16 days in a row.  No injuries thank goodness.  But, I never know.  Injuries have happened before and will likely happen again.

This is another reason for the continuous strength training.  The muscle will protect you, and help you recover faster from injury.  It gives you a “margin of safety.”

Skiing, and Adventure, motivate me to push myself all year long.  If I want to have a good time in the mountains, I need to train and build strength to travel in the mountains.

If I want to spend time with my friends who are all great riders, then I need to put in the work to keep up with them.

If I don’t, then I’m just like any tourist that flies in, skies an hour or so, goes to the bar to get a few drinks and just looks at the mountains.  Then they get off work and look for a good apres ski scene.  Then they look for a party at night.  Then they wake up hung over and still don’t have energy to ski anything fun.

Fuck that shit.  That’s not what I’m into.  That’s not what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid.  NO.

I’ve been dreaming about ski adventures.  I’ve been dreaming about skiing what I’d look at the posters on my wall of Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, and Doug Coombs skiing.

If I want to follow in the footstep of my heroes, if I want to ski the dream, then I have to put in the work.  I’m willing to put in the work all year round just for a short 2 week window of adventure.

It is always worth it.

 

 

 

Today I lost a homie.

My homie and my hero.

My homie and my hero.

He was the first rescue personnel I saw after a wall of snow crashed on me. The first time I ever laid eyes on Chewy, I felt a burst of Hope. I thought I might actually survive. He was a good omen.

Two years passed from that day before I was formally introduced to Chewy. When I finally returned to the mountain I was asked if I’d like to meet the dog that rescued me.

OF COURSE!

We were introduced at the top of Chair 6 the “Cornice Express” chairlift at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

It was an overcast February day. Chewy’s owner Fredrick and I were disembarking the chairlift and walking up the short hill to the Ski Patrol shack.

Lounging in the snow outside the shack was a Golden Retriever. He was a beautiful dog. He had that classic Golden look… the shaggy brownish goldish hair, the hairy paws, and the big dark nose.

“Do you remember this guy?” Fredrick asked Chewy.

Chewy sauntered over and sniffed me. He rubbed up against my leg, then looked around for someone to play with or a ski pole to chew on.

I kneeled down and started petting the guy. “Thanks Buddy.”

It was as if Chewy recognized me but was nonchalant about our initial introduction. It was as if he said, “It was no big deal. I was just doing my job.”

It was a big deal to me.

The trauma from the avalanche was so great that I began to question some of my memories of the experience. I thought I remembered seeing a dog, but I wasn’t sure. I thought it was a Golden Retriever, but I wasn’t sure. As time distanced me from the trauma I began to think that maybe I was dreaming and I’d fabricated seeing a dog come right up to my face. Maybe I had fabricated the wash of relief that came over me from seeing the rescue dog.

Now that I was finally there petting the guy that found me, I knew wasn’t making up memories. Chewy had charged into dangerous terrain that had just avalanched and could possibly slide again. He charged in with significant risk to himself.

He found me quickly and that is why I’m here today.  I was stoked to meet him.

I loved that dog that I’d just met.

Chewy was as cool as they come. His favorite chew toy was a ski pole.

How cool is that?

He loved to be outside in the snow. He loved to ride up the chairlift.

And he loved to shred! Chewy was a better skier than me. Chewy could handle the rowdiest terrain at Kirkwood, which has an abundance of.

And everyone on the mountain loved him.

I got to know Chewy and Fredrick over the next few seasons.

It was always a privilege to me to get to spend time on the mountain with the two guys. I learned a lot from them and gained a tremendous amount of respect for the way they handle themselves in such a wild environment like Kirkwood.

Last season I asked around to see where Chewy was. I was told that he hadn’t been on the mountain for a few weeks because he had surgery for cancer.

I was stunned. Cancer is always scary.

I was informed that Chewy was ok, that he’d visited the mountain to say hello and would be back to work in a week or so.

The next time I skied at Kirkwood, I met Fredrick and Chewy at the base of Chair 10 or “The Wall”. Chair 10 goes to the top of the mountain. Every way down from Chair 10 is steep. Very steep. I figured if Chewy was good to go up The Wall, then me must be ok.

Chewy loved to ride the chairlift.

Chewy loved to ride the chairlift.

It was always special getting to ride the chairlift up with Chewy. There is a special procedure. The chairlift slows down. Chewy walks under Fredrick’s legs that are spread wide for the pooch. Everyone must be extra careful, the sharp edges of skis would hurt Chewy’s feet if there was accidental contact. That’s why he stays under Fredrick.

When the empty chair arrives Chewy hops on, lays down on all fours with his head looking forward. Fredrick took the seat left of him and I sat to the right.

It was amazing how calm Chewy was on the chairlift. He’d done it so many times, it was no big deal to him. No fear of heights. He was in his element and he loved it.

Fredrick told me how Chewy had cancer in his jaw and part of his jaw had to be removed. It took Chewy some time to recover, but he healed well and the cancer was gone. His tongue would flop out of the side where he had surgery.

I was surprised to find that Kirkwood has good health insurance for the avalanche dogs. All Chewy’s operations were covered.

When we disembarked from the Chair 10 at the top of the mountain Chewy was playful. He seemed like his old self with plenty of energy. He wasn’t allowed to chew on ski poles anymore because of the surgery, but other than that he seemed normal. He was ready to charge the mountain.

The three of us started down the top of The Wall. The top was icy and I had a hard time getting through the beginning section. Chewy dropped in effortlessly. He stopped 100 yards down the mountain, followed closely by Fredrick and waited for me.

These two can shred.

These two can shred.

It looked like a good shot with the two of them next to each other on the steep slope. I asked them to wait while I took a picture of them.

When I caught up to Chewy and Fredrick we resumed a leisurely cruise down the mountain. Chewy would zig-zag across the slope letting lose the occasional bark of joy.

Kirkwood was his playground and he loved it. I’ve never met someone that loved their job as much as Chewy. And it was his job. He was an avalanche rescue dog. It was his job to go into dangerous areas and look for avalanche victims. It was his job to be out in the weather even when the weather got nasty as it often does on that untamed mountain. It was his job, he loved it, and it did it well.

That ride was the last time I saw Chewy. He seemed healthy and strong. I thought I had many more visits with that cool character. I thought I had more time with him.

Even though I didn’t get to spend much time with Chewy he will always have a special place in my heart. I can’t describe how bad I felt after the avalanche. When I saw Chewy I got a little bit of Hope. Like if someone had reached out and grabbed my hand at the last possible moment before I fell into the abyss.

I couldn’t thank that dog enough.

I won’t be able to tell Chewy “Thank You” again because the cancer returned and flooded Chewy’s body. He held on and endured an incredible amount of pain. Now he is in a place where there is no pain.

I’m sad that Chewy is gone but I am grateful for the opportunity to have met him and spent time with such a heroic figure.

This Drought Sucks. The Skiing Is Great.

Camping with Chris and Mike in The Scamp.

Camping with Chris and Mike in The Scamp.

It’s April in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.  The weather is great.  There wasn’t much snow this year.

We decided to travel south and search up high for snow.  We found a nice little range a couple hours south of Tahoe.  We camped at 9,700 ft.  It got to 20 degrees at night and we froze our asses off.

The next day we climbed a mountain in the warm beautiful sunshine.  You can watch a short video my friend Chris put together here.  I’m in the red jacket.

This was my first real backcountry trip since being injured in 2012.  It was awesome to get out and get my butt kicked climbing up a mountain.

I’ve repeatedly said, even in this epic drought… there are still some good days though.

Where are all the Dragons?

I don't see any dragons out there.

I don’t see any dragons out there.

IT HASN’T BEEN SNOWING

Again. The weather has been nice mostly in the 50’s and a few days in the 60’s here in Reno. Clear sunny skies. The jogging was nice. I tried playing disc golf but the high desert wind kept stealing my disc. This is all fine and good except… it’s January!

This is the fourth winter in a row that has been way below average in levels of snowfall. It just isn’t snowing out there. It’s as if someone has stolen the winter season. Again! Four year in a row now.

The first season of this drought I somehow managed to get broken by an avalanche on the first powder weekend of the year, which was until the middle of March. That was a shitty season.

Season 2 of the drought wasn’t quite as bad as the first season. I was slowly learning how to ski again and terrified of powder snow because I thought it would attack me. I didn’t mind that it didn’t snow much that year.

Season 3 of the drought was about the same as season 2. It was more fun because my body was stronger. I was able to ski better. I returned to the scene of my devastation, Kirkwood, and got to know the great people of the Ski Patrol that saved my life that day. That was special to me. And it was awesome to be skiing at Kirkwood again because Kirkwood is fucking awesome. But the season ended early again because of lower than average amounts of snow.

Which brings us to this: Season 4 of the drought. The West is dying from dehydration. Tahoe skiers are begging for an average season. Average in Tahoe is 300-500 inches of snow. Average is awesome. We are once again way below average. It’s January but people are thinking more mountain biking than snow skiing.

What do you do when you can’t do your passion? What do you do when you are denied your life’s pursuit?

This is a good question for ski bums to ask themselves. Unlike football, basketball, or baseball players, ski bums can ski most of their lives’. They don’t get too old and have to retire. In times like these it’s good to think about what you would do with your life if you couldn’t ski.

For me, if skiing were out of the question, I’d be gone. I’d move back to the East Coast to be with my family and friends. I moved to the West Coast, and recently to Reno, to live the dream. To feed my skiing addiction. It has cost me a lot. But when it’s good, it’s worth it, if just for that moment.

I sit around waiting for storms that don’t come.

Laird Hamilton, the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer, once explained to his wife what it was like when there were no waves to catch. He said imagine if you were a dragon slayer. What would you do if there were no more dragons?