Friday, April 11, 2014

Montana Postscript 2014: Lone Peak, Mon Amour


In any other culture, say India or Japan,  Lone Peak might be a holy place. A reverent place that is the subject of meditation, paintings, and woodcuts. I like to stare at it, about as much as ski it.

It's not the tallest mountain around (11,160 feet); there are plenty of taller Rockies, particularly south of it in Colorado. But the peak has a perfect conical shape and is covered, now and for much of the spring (given that it still has a snowpack of about 8 to 10 feet), with creamy, flawlessly white snow.

It has a Mt. Fuji-like prominence and vibe.

I took one of the tamer runs off of it on April 9. I've skied from the top every year since 2011, except for one when the tram to the peak was temporarily out of order (I'm only there for a few days, but try not to miss a year). It's one of the places I use to keep me honest as I get older, and I try to do something a little harder every year.

But I also realize, and upon moments of reflection disapprove of, using grand mountains primarly for Type A-ish, competitive proving grounds. As in all high mountains, Lone Peak can be a hazardous place. You wake up in the morning and hear charges going off, as ski patrollers do Avy (avalanche) control.

They do this so that inbounds skiers don't trigger their own avalanches. The ski patrol released one a couple of years ago that roared down the Marx (named trail) flank of the mountain and wiped out a chairlift shed. In commemoration, they've left a toboggan up in a tree to show the power of the avalanche. The mountain, and nature, is always in control.

I always feel better in the winter after skiing, and I always feel better after skiing Lone Peak, so I think this is a physical/spiritual dynamic. If you want to stay fitter and healthier in body and mind, consider taking up downhill skiing, and paying homage to Big Sky. Just don't forget to meditate, or if so inclined, pray.

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