From my house, at 9,800 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies, I have to run downhill first. Above is sealed under feet of unrunnable, soft, post-holing snow. So it’s downhill, passing beneath nine avalanche slidepaths on a snow-packed road, often in a howling, pushy wind that streams old snow around in phantoms. I wear neon colors so that drivers can see me emerging from those white squalls. Through my clothes, the blasts to my skin feel more like a burning than a chilling.
As I descend, the open valley drops between the ridges, and conditions improve. I can see the road underfoot now, though it’s dark because of my sunglasses, necessary only to protect my eyeballs from being pelted. While I can see, I step on the crinkled tracks from tire treads and chains, which provide traction, or I stay in the loose snow on the road edges where there is no ice. Still, a leg shoots out wildly and my heart jumps as I find a way to get it back under me and recover my balance.
[Above: Claridge descending between snow walls in the southern San Juan Mountains. Photo: Himay Palmer]