The best way to describe skiing in shorts is to say that it’s similar to skinny dipping. Both are liberating and exhilarating. In the water, you’re acutely aware of the fact that no material stands between body parts you’d rather not have nibbled on and sea creatures that might enjoy nibbling on them. On the snow, you fully understand that for your uncovered lower limbs, every turn, every bump, every unseen crusty patch and powder pocket could spell icy disaster. That’s the thrill. Going for it anyway is the freedom.
Okay, so it’s also just a lot of fun when the lady lifties let you cut in line thanks to your “nice legs” or when the out-of-towners look at you like “what the hell are you thinking?” and you ski by them without a care in the world (including the possibility of a massive snow raspberry on your keister if things don’t go right).
Either way, I love skiing in shorts, and make an effort to do so at least once every season. Thankfully, the opportunity presented itself on Sunday, April 3, 2016, at Copper Mountain. (Roan, you probably already noticed, hasn’t yet embraced the exposed gams game. Of course, he’s also the smartest person living at our house. Perhaps there’s a connection.)
The potential problem with shorts days is that great weather often means not-so-great snow. It’s the classic you-can’t-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too conundrum. Unless you’re riding Copper with Rob, who can not only navigate the area like a seasoned patroller, but also utilizes up-to-the-minute meteorology reports paired with a decade’s worth of barometric trends and a 1984 edition of the Farmer’s Almanac to pinpoint the mountain’s most optimal surface conditions.
So, once we’d met up with him, Stacey, Aidan, and Colin, along with Heather, Peter, and Sasha, at the base of the Super Bee chairlift, the conversation went something like this:
“We might as well start in Resolution Bowl,” I said. “We gotta do that.”
Rob looked at his wristwatch. “I don’t know,” he replied. “South Africa was just at low tide. Combine that with our waxing gibbous lunar phase and the sustained twenty-mile-an-hour gusts we had overnight, and Copper Bowl, with its more forgiving southeasterly orientation, is probably the way to go at this point in the morning.”
“He’s right, Dad,” Dade chimed in (we’ve been riding with Rob and his family for a while now, and Dade eats this stuff up). “Once those stratocumulus clouds build and push this low-pressure front farther east, Reso will soften up. It’ll be way better in a few hours.”
I glanced skyward. “But it’s sunny right now,” I said. Too late. Rob was already on the lift, Dade not far behind, and we were headed to Copper Bowl.
Which was cool with me, because, generally speaking, I think Copper Bowl is vastly underrated. It begins with a solid cornice, and then, whether you choose Bradley’s Plunge, Iron Mask, or Schaefer’s line (or the more southeasterly facing Six Shooter), there are countless outcroppings and cliffs and short chutes to explore. And it always surprises me how big it is back there. It’s an open bowl, but with all the obstacles and undulations, it’s easy to lose the crowd and make turns as if you’re all alone in a private winter wonderland (wearing shorts, I might add).
From Copper Bowl, we migrated back to the front side and to the Onion Roll, an unmarked — although, well-known — launch pad for those who enjoy defying gravity a few seconds at a time. Aidan and Colin are pros. Dade rarely does anything on skis half-assed, and even Roan, always more cautious, made a run at it.
I’m not sure if it was the moon cycle or the prevailing westerlies (or just some good old fashioned fucking sunshine), but Resolution Bowl did soften up by early afternoon. And we also made runs in Lower Enchanted Forest and Free Fall Glade. So, while I didn’t have any cake that day, I guess you could say that we got to wear our shorts and ski in them, too.