The storm presented itself differently as it moved east and arrived at Powder Mountain, encountering new topography; we, like the cloud of concentrated moisture, connect with nature and change ourselves over the course of that journey.
Oceanic vapor rises, heading eastward from the California coast in narrow, concentrated strips of moisture: referred to as an atmospheric river, this natural phenomenon bombarded the western U.S. with surreal amounts of precipitation from December into January. For those of us down in the arid California lowlands, it brought some much-needed rain. You may have expected this during last year’s El Niño, but this season brought more snow, sans social media hashtag. Parts of Tahoe, for instance, got the most snow they’d seen in 45 years.
Nobody planned for these conditions. Coastal cities experienced mass flooding for lack of adequate drainage. Mountain resorts from California to Colorado got hit hard by the heavy snowfall, forced to temporarily close doors for avalanche safety concerns, not to mention several actual avalanches blocking main roads. The Terasu crew, too, was caught off-guard: we had booked some cheap flights to Utah, expecting the new-normal of an underwhelming winter at home. In view of the generous dusting that blessed the entire west, we were simultaneously eager to get out to Powder Mountain yet tempted by nearer offerings.
Upon arriving at Powder Mountain, now known as the biggest ski resort in North America, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones taken by surprise. Chatting up a local lifty, he told us that the mountain had been experiencing an unusual amount of traffic — that day was apparently the only time he’d ever witnessed upper, middle and lower mountain parking lots full to the point of overflowing. The weekend before, they had even run out of paper and ink for lift tickets. Part of Powder Mountain’s draw is that they limit the amount of skiers and snowboarders admitted at once, effectively promising fresh tracks. And yet, paradoxically, this promise is precisely what attracts hordes of adventurers in pursuit of perfection. The ideal is something we always seek out, but we’ve learned to be skeptical when it’s promised. Expectations will always be disappointed to the extent that an experience never conforms precisely to one’s preconceptions. But these “disappointments” of our expectations are themselves far from disappointing — in fact, with the right lens, they’re more worth living for.