This is the final installment from What Inspires You to Ski Tour video contest winner, Tim Oliphant.
The last day came way too soon I was not ready leave these mountains, these people, or this experience. Luckily, we had a few more hours to spend touring in the backcountry. So we packed up and headed out. This day was perfect! The skies, clear; the powder, fresh; the temperature, warm; and the view, stunning! It was as if the folks at CMH had saved the best for last.
Another aspect that made this day even more enjoyable was that Greg Hill was able to accompany us on our final runs. He initially had planned on going home and skip the final day, but some pesky troublesome birds flew away with his truck keys…I’m not making this up…some birds actually found the spot where he had hid his keys and took them. His keys are now probably the prized centerpiece of some sparrows’ nest way up in the mountains. It was very inconvenient for Greg to not be able to leave as planned. But while someone drove his extra set of keys from his house to the lodge, we were able to enjoy an extra day of touring with our “Personal Professional Guide” or “PPG”, as I liked to call him. Greg’s presence on this tour was instrumental in helping me understand the incredible adventure of ski touring. He also had a profound impact on our group through his personality, knowledge, and abilities. This is why we were excited to have him around for our last day.
This day was also special because my friend Pat unfurled Joseph Chonko’s flag for a tribute run. Joseph and Pat were roommates several years ago. Joseph was a well-respected backcountry boarder and enjoyed attaching a large flag to his backpack and ripping down the mountains with the flag flapping behind him. One day while boarding in the backcountry alone, Joseph had an accident and tragically died. After the funeral, Pat received this flag from Joseph’s parents. Since then, Pat has been waiting for the pportune time to take the flag back into backcountry in memory of Joseph. Today was that day! Pat attached the flag to his pack and shredded down the mountain as an amazing tribute for an amazing friend. Joseph was honored and it was beautiful!
I took my time on the skin track hoping that my procrastination would somehow keep my adventure from coming to an end. Eventually I reached the top. The end of this skin track was the most breathtaking of all the amazing places I had seen over the last 7 days. Our cameras and camcorders were constantly snapping and rolling in an attempt to immortalize our final moments on the mountain. Taking the photos and video was somewhat therapeutic because even though we would be leaving soon, we would at least be leaving with some memories captured on our digital devices. That thought made it a little easier to face the inevitable end. Hundreds of photos later we geared up and headed down our closing run smiling and laughing the whole way.
Writing and reflecting back on my trip has been fun, but also difficult. I’ve struggled to highlight a few experiences when every moment is truly worth telling. The bottom line is that this holiday exceeded my expectations on every level. The skiing was truly exceptional. After a long day of skiing, Pat walked into the lounge with his eyes wide open shaking his head in amazement, “Best day of my life!” And he was dead serious. I know what he meant, but good skiing is to be expected when you sign-up for a trip with CMH. What wasn’t expected is what I will call the “secondary experiences”. These are the things that you don’t see in the videos and that can’t be captured in the pictures of brochures. They can only be explained in writing or by word of mouth. The indescribable bonds of friendship, emotions felt, and spiritual awe are all brought to light deep in backcountry. It was these secondary experiences, mixed with skiing, that made this trip the most unforgettable adventure I have ever been on. I can now see why so many of the guests return to CMH year after year and in some cases multiple times a year.
I am now home and the memories of ski touring live on in my mind but the relationships I formed are not limited to my thoughts they are still active. Initially, I formed friendships with people based on a shared love of skiing, but now those relationships are deepened as we correspond and share what is going on in our lives. I hope to get back up to CMH for another adventure because it truly was a remarkable experience. Thanks to CMH, Greg Hill, ARC’TERYX, Paul and Hans (our mountain guides), Matt, Mary, Stephanie, Thomas, John, Pat, Wade, and Ellen for playing such a critical roll in my understanding of what it truly means to be “Inspired to Ski Tour”!