Monday, November 28, 2005

Epic (ep'ik) n. [Gr. epos, a word, song, epic] a long narrative poem in a dignified style about the deeds of a hero or heroes- adj. of or like an epic; heroic; grand

I heard this word many times on Saturday as people tried to describe the day. It got me wondering, what exactly does epic mean, and what makes a day on the mountain epic?

I am sure many of you, well, maybe some, first learned of an epic in grade school when studying Homer, and reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. I know I remember making dioramas from that famous epic. Mine was on the golden fleece. Those stories are Epics. No doubt about it. The Slaying of cyclops, stealing sirens, sleeping with sheep, the kind of material that they teach for centuries.

So when it comes to skiing, what makes it all epic? Instead of writing a nice Epic about it, I did some thinking and developed 3 criteria that you can use to determine if a day on the mountain is epic. Before I delve into it, I need to mention the "the Dude's principle of epic relativity" simply put, epic conditions in one place may not be epic in another. Two inches of slush on a sloped field may be Epic in Florida, but don't try that here. This is important as we look at the three factors of Epicicity:

#1: Snow- Seriously! I know, it's as obvious as THC in a boarders blood, but hear me out. There are two facets to a potential day of epic snow. The first is new snow fall. You have to have some nice fresh snow to ski. For the NW, I would say that a minimum of 18" of fresh since closing with a max temperature of 26 deg., in the Rockies, you better have over 2 1/2' and no warmer than 15 degress. The other side of the snow facet is the base. You can have a lot of snow, but if all you do is ski over rocks, forget it. (note: this eliminates any and all day last year, even if I said they were epic last year) So here we want atleast five feet of solid snow below the fresh.

#2: Weather- The conditions for the day must be good all day long. I think there are two possibilities here. One is a crisp Blue Bird day, where the snow stays cold and light and but the sun shines, one that is very rare here. The other is a continual dump with a light wind that covers almost all the tracks, but not so bad as to limit vision. How hard it has to snow depends on the third and final factor:

#3- Crowds- For a truly Epic day, one of Homeric proportions, there must be minimal crowds. This is a fine line, no pun intended, you don't want it so empty that all you do is ride right up to the next chair. No one can last all day in epic conditions like that, and it can get a little lonely. What is ideal is just enough people that you have to wait in line for no more than 2-3 rows of people, just enough to get a rest and rave how good it is with the other skiers around you, and you can hoot and holler while skiing and hear others doing the same all day long, because you will all know you are experiencing something special.

When, and only when all three of these conditions exist, will you be able to tell all your friends honestly, that it was an epic day on the mountain, and one where you will be telling your grandchildren about as you sit in your nursing home rocking chair. Most of us will never see an an epic day, but I just know that when it happens, I'll know, and you'll all be the first to hear about it.

As for the forecast:

Things are looking good this week. Snow levels are low, real low, below 300 almost all week, and decent precip to go with it. Could be a nice weekend, so free up your schedule and get ready to ski. Looking to next week, it may warm up a bit, 4-5500' but looking wet still. We'll have to keep an eye on that snow level, it could go either way.