Written by Alex Roberts

Backyard backcountryAn early season system dropped enough snow in my canyon to pique some stoke.  My dog Tahoma and I step out the backdoor and survey the fresh coating of white on the trees and hills.  I slap my skins onto my rock skis, and my backyard becomes my backcountry.

We follow a ridge line that ascends our forested canyon.  The snow under my skins makes a muffled crunching sound that only wet snow makes.  My home and our farm grow smaller each time I glance over my shoulder.  The fields, verdant and productive weeks ago, now wait in dormancy.

Except for the ravens, the birds have departed in search of warmer climates, leaving the woods in spectral silence.  I do not migrate or hibernate.  I strive to get the most out of the sunlight during these short winter days.  If each day is a blessing, then what do you call the days when you get to ski out your backdoor?

tahoma in snowTahoma lopes ahead, making first tracks in the crunchy snow.  Her nose follows a hare’s track to its den.  She flops down onto the snow, paws up, and spastically flails.  She rights herself and smiles at me, pink tongue lolling out of a muzzle encrusted with crystals.

The day’s colors narrow to ever-greens, woody-browns, and snow-whites; all under a sky of slate.  The air is a pungent mixture of sweet sage and spicy pine steeped in snow.   I use my knowledge of this canyon to find pockets where the wind has collected snow and hidden it from the sun.    Most skiers would sneer at my backyard tour; cringe at the countless sticks, bushes, and logs protruding from the paltry layer of snow.  The concept of bringing a beacon, probe, and shovel out here is laughable, but a helmet comes highly recommended.

We reach the summit and gaze into the gathering murk that shrouds my view of the neighboring mountains.  We have gained the elevation of a mid-west resort.  I prepare for some turns that will stand out clearer in my mind than so many of the powder turns I have enjoyed in the higher reaches, for I am skiing my home, and that is a blessing.


Alex RobertsAs a Washington Native, Alex Roberts has a tremendous amount of pride for the Pacific Northwest.  He occasionally finds time to write between his other occupations of raft guiding, environmental education, ski and mountain bike patrolling, hosting weekly pub trivia, gardening, and teaching Special Education at the Tierra Learning Center, where he lives, just north of Leavenworth, WA.  He received his BA in English – Creative Writing from the University of Montana and attended the Leadership Education and Cultural Learning Graduate Program at Portland State University. Find more of Alex’s work at http://alexanderroberts.weebly.com.