Hannah Lafleur skis through Resurrection Pass on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska on March 29, 2021. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)

Tangled Up in Blue: Passing through

I started writing this column 17 miles into a three-day, 38-mile ski. We had just reached the pass part of the Resurrection Pass trail, where we were met with what had to be 1,000-knot winds and swirling snowstorms.

So, instead of focusing on how deep my skis sank with each movement, I toyed with opening lines, themes and things to include in the column I would eventually write about the ski trip. The original lines are long gone in the wind, but there are certain points I wanted to be sure to remember, like how unfettered our optimism was.

After our first day of skiing from Hope to the Fox Creek Cabin about 12 miles along the trail, we warmed up the cabin and read logbook entries. Spanning across several years, we read horror stories and disaster trips of people getting lost in the dark, sinking to their waist in snow or, worse, mud.

We lamented for the cabin’s former occupants, and how they struggled to get to the cabin, or with starting a fire once they got there. We read with sympathy, and wondered at how easily our trip had started out.

Everything went great for us the first day. All we had to do was ski and eat, and we did both. We had lunch halfway through, with the sun shining on our faces, before we continued on following a well laid ski track in the snow.

Eventually, we pulled into the cabin just as a light snow started to fall. Spirits were high.

They continued to be so as we started the next day, heading up through Resurrection Pass and down to Swan Lake Cabin. It was 14 miles of skiing, and we cruised through the first 5 miles. Our constant refrain was, “Wow, this is great!”

A group before us had towed a sled, lending tracks to our trip, and with a nice coat of glide wax our skis were zooming.

Then, we crested up closer to the pass itself, and a gust of wind chilled me to my core. I realized quickly that my single, long-sleeve layer wasn’t going to be enough. My short-sleeved adventure buddy felt the same.

With our first stop, we put on a wind shell. Then, just a few minutes later, we put on warmer gloves.

We skied down the trail a bit, and the wind continued to pick up, so we put on our ski goggles. Just a bit farther, and we stopped to put on another layer. Our refrain had been replaced with, “Oh crap, it’s windy.”

And that’s when I started writing this column. I didn’t want to think about the wind, or the snow that was being pelted our way with it, and once we lost the beloved sled track, I couldn’t look at anything but my own skis.

Instead, I thought of the different ways to describe the landscape. The peaks that surrounded us were drenched in white, with just a speckle of the tops of trees to add depth. The sun was covered, with light beaming through only when the clouds decided.

We picked small brushes to guide us, aiming for whatever landmark we saw in the distance, a pin prick on a pingpong ball. We trudged along, sinking to different depths every few strides.

I thought, “Well we won’t get to write this bit of excitement in the cabin log, so I guess I’ll write it in my column,” and kept skiing as I reworked the opening sentence you just read.

And eventually, we had Devil’s Pass Cabin in our sights, and a long haul of downhill in our future, and a new cabin log with a page or two to fill.


For the Clarion

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