Low Tide: An Ode to Early-Season Skiing

  • 2 min read

Words and images by Nick Xeros. 

I guess this isn’t your typical backcountry blog. No big powder slashes, epic face shots, or incredible views. In a world so filled with lives that look perfect online, I felt it my duty to add a bit of transparency to the everyday life of a backcountry enthusiast.

A splitboarder laughing beside patchy snow

For skiers, early winter brings the stoke—but not necessarily the snow. That makes it easy to jump the gun on ski season. 

It was late on a Friday night, and shoulder-season temperatures left me and my partners Courtney and Greg in a toss-up between mountain biking and splitboarding. So, we flipped a coin and let destiny decide. 

Destiny, however misguided, decided on skiing.

backcountry skiers hike through early-season mud

On Saturday morning, we started up the skin track with hope in our hearts for good snow cover and beautiful views. Instead, we were greeted by a sea of clouds and patchy snow cover.

“Oh well. At least we’re outside,” Courtney said. Her optimism paid off: Eventually we were able to take our boards off and start skinning. Coverage was bare, but we were just happy to finally have some snow under our feet.

Jokes and banter made the trek speed by, and we soon made it to our stopping point. We cracked open a beer to celebrate our not-so-snowy summit. This definitely wasn’t going to be the descent we’d hoped for, but we toasted to making the most of it. 

two backcountry skiers share a beer on a snowy summit

As we strapped on our boards, we noticed the snow had softened. And as we started down, we realized the turns weren’t too bad. (Nothing like low expectations to set you up for success.) 

Whooping and hollering, slashing slush, we made our descent. Using a pair of Rocky Talkie radios, we were able to warn one another of exposed rocks, sticks, and patches of dirt the whole way down. Well, almost the whole way. 

a backcountry splitboarder makes turns through trees a backcountry skier makes turns in shallow snow

Near the bottom of our descent, we may have forgotten to radio up to our friend Greg about the line’s abrupt end. He came flying down the slush, headed straight for the boundary between snow and soil. 

a backcountry skier skis a thin strip of snow on a muddy trail

Unable to slow down, he hit the dirt full speed. It stopped his board right in its tracks, but he kept going—straight into the mud. 

We all screamed with laughter as we helped him get his skis off and started making our way down the mountain. We arrived at the car still laughing.

a splitboarder lies on his back in the dirt  two backcountry skiers help one another stand in the mud

The turns were fine, and the beers better, but this wipeout—so fitting for our early-season, over-stoker ski day—became the cherry on top of it all.

For us, it was a good reminder: Every spent outside in the mountains is a good day—even if you do eat a little dirt. 

a splitboarder smiles despite sparse snow coverage a backcountry skier smiles despite sparse snow coverage

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