Sometimes a person gets lucky. The storm clouds obscure the sky on a day the lifts are not running, and a foot of fresh powder falls. The next day dawns clear and happens to coincide with a day off from work or school or other responsibilities.
Whenever I happen to have this much good fortune, it’s Silver Mountain that’s calling my name. Forget winding, icy mountain roads: the Silver gondola is right off I-90. I can adjust equipment during the ride to the top, and by the time it unloads, I’m ready to go. As quickly as possible, I make my way to chair four. I don’t like to share: I want Wardner Peak.
On my best-ski-day-ever, I left home in the dark, picked up a friend en-route, arrived at the gondola before the masses, and was among the first in the lift line. We were willing to work for solitude and first tracks: we made a beeline for the Wardner Peak Traverse.
Our reward was completely untracked powder. On the traverse, we trekked through snow that was higher than our boot tops. Even if we hadn’t been a little winded from pushing ourselves across, we would have needed to take that moment to pause at the top of The Meadows to behold the incredible sight. We had a blank canvas. We were probably not worthy, but we were not going to let that stop us.
The tracks we set that morning would have been unimpressive to anyone viewing them from afar, but to us while we were skiing, we were in our own ski film. By the time we got to the Assay Road for our long cruiser back to the lift, our legs were as leaden as spring slush, but somehow it doesn’t take as long to recover when fresh powder abounds. Back on the lift and without a moment’s hesitation, we agreed that we were doing it again. And again.
We got in three runs that morning before anyone else managed to find “our” run. By then we were so fatigued that we were willing to share. Even so, there were hidden pockets everywhere. After lunch, we booted up Wardner Peak to enjoy the aptly named Sheer Bliss before dropping down to the Silver Basin. Once we were thoroughly exhausted, we made our way back to the lodge to enjoy hot cocoa before reloading the gondola for our return to the parking lot.
Later that spring, we returned for a Silver Saturday – one of those wonderful spring days when the mountain transforms into a giant ski party. People were skiing in shorts and tee-shirts, there was a band playing outside Mountain Haus Lodge, and plastic lawn chairs were planted firmly in the snow for skiers to sit back and listen while resting tired legs. So often in the Silver Valley this time of year it seems that when deep powder is elusive, there’s always a sunny spring day waiting to take its place. //
Holly Weiler is a freelance writer and distance running coach who volunteers her time as co-chair of the Spokane Mountaineers hiking committee and volunteer coordinator for the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.