Today was a rare and special day. I had the privilege to ski a few early tram runs with my friends at Snowbird, which meant getting up at O’Dark Thirty to get from Park City, to the Tram Building before the 8:00 am box left the dock. With still a little haze in my head from a great Thanksgiving celebration with good friends and family the night before, it was slow going getting out of the house, but I made it. Barely. Dave Fields was waiting for me at the sliding glass doors to usher me in. Time to go. It was 7:58 am.
On the first ride up, It was clear and crisp, but not nearly as cold as it had been the past few days. The talk on the tram was on a slight inversion that had temperatures at Hidden Peak registering in the high teens, rather than the -3 I saw when I pulled out of my driveway. I was overdressed, and halfway up, started reaching for the pulls on every zippered vent I had. After checking in at the top, we bombed down Regulator and had a magic carpet ride on the freshly groomed corduroy.
On the second run, led by our guide Dave, we were OK’ed by patrol to slide into Mineral Basin and attempt to get the elusive Photo of the Day shot. And maybe that was important because, I don't know, maybe they were getting ready to open Mineral Basin for the season, but you didn't hear it from me. Back to the story. We were instructed to drop in off of Path To Paradise, navigate through some chunky debris snow, then make a few turns in the untouched powder for the guys behind the lenses, then ski on out to the patrollers, the two dots in red who were waiting on a groomed ribbon below us.
I was the first one to get to Mongo and Dean, and after exchanging pleasantries such as “Good Morning” and “well, that DIDN’T suck,” Mongo got down to business. Are you guys wearing beacons? I said no, we were not, knowing what was coming next. Mongo said “Yeah, I can tell.” He was holding his beacon out in my direction, looking for a signal. I made a lame excuse about how it was so early in the season, and how I usually wear one, then I clammed up. Better just take the smackdown, I thought. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you “usually” wear one, only that you are wearing your beacon when it is needed, which of course you hope it never is, but it can’t hurt to make sure you are beeping when you go to a mountain like Snowbird. These guys take snow safety seriously, it’s their lives. Just the day before, Dean had been called in on a backcountry rescue, and this was still November.
I’m thankful for a lot of things, but today I was thankful to get the Mongo Smackdown and get my head in the right place for this ski season which again, thankfully, has gotten off to an amazing early start. And you can be sure the next time I get the opportunity to visit the Bird for early runs, I’ll be beeping.