Draw a mountain. If your artistic talents are anything like mine it probably looks like a triangle, or those Sugarloaf stickers that people from Maine stick everywhere.
Flip that sketch. Now, you’ve got Kicking Horse, an inverted pyramid of granite that fans out, its ridges stretching out into the Selkirks.
I’m standing on the edge of one of those ridges, CPR ridge to be exact, with my tips over the edge of a soft cornice, looking into Crystal Bowl.
“How do you feel about tight spots?” Dave asks me.
Dave’s a ski instructor, he moved to Golden from England, like a lot of people in the Kootenay Rockies seem to have done. He’s doesn’t have a lesson till this afternoon, but this morning he’s wearing his ski school coat so he can skip the gondola line, which wasn’t that long to start with. He said he’d show me around before he had to go teach four year olds to pizza/French fry.
“Yeah, OK. I think. How tight are we talking?”
Dave’s face is moon-round, and aggressively freckled. I think he’s wiggling his eyebrows at me through his goggle, but I can’t really tell.
“You’ll be good,” he says. “See that track over there, above the drop? We just have to hit that, there’s a pocket behind it.”
I don’t see the track, per se, and I think for a second that this guy has never seen me ski, so he has no idea if I’ll be good, but then I slide off the cornice and point towards the cliff band.
We billygoat around the rocks and slide into the pinched top of a chute.
“Stay right, it gets rocky on the left,” Dave tells me, before slashing a turn to the left, exposing a streak of granite.”
He’s gone, and I’m looking down my skis.
I make two angled turns on the right. The top layer of storm snow sluffs down with me, heavy and slippery. I pick up speed and so does the snow. I have no idea where the bottom is.
The chute aprons out, the snow stops moving beneath my feet, and I open up, making swoopy arcs instead of edgy jumpy ones. For a couple of feet, or maybe couple hundred, I link the kind of weightless, balanced turns that make you feel like you might actually be an OK skier.
The bottom of the bowl funnels, and Dave is waiting in the concave hollow.
“Good?” he asks, his eyes casing our tracks up towards the ridge.