As you climb up the ski run, that you’ve skied downhill so many times, you begin to enter the flow state. The lights from the base area begin to disappear, and the darkness around the beam of your headlamp becomes the new normal. Without the constant alertness required when traveling in avalanche terrain, you can allow your brain to wonder. The climb begins to hit a rhythm as you find a good pace to slide over the icy surface. One foot, sliding in front of the other, and repeat. It becomes, sort of like a meditation.
Only when a fellow night skier or patroller passes by do you break from the zen-like state. As soon as the exchange of acknowledgement, via a wave or head node, is over, it’s back to the darkness. Up, and up I go, leaving the bright lights of Park City’s Main Street in the distance. Only stopping when I finally reach the end of my tour, the old Angle Station. Here is where I click the lap button on my watch and check the time. Each time I do this, I hope that I’ve set a new personal best on this lap, most times I don’t, but it doesn’t diminish the effort.
Of course, I’m referring to uphill ski touring at Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort. Come each winter, the resort allows skiers to head uphill on a single trail, Home Run, after the resort closes for the day. With the sun setting so early during the winter months, leaving no opportunities to ski at the resort after a long work day, night time ski touring is our only option. The trail climbs about 1,500 vertical feet in 1.5 miles. Unfortunately, this trail does not have any lights beyond the base area, so you have to completely rely on the light from your headlamp. And when you finish the climb, the descent is all you have to look forward to.
Once the transition is made, the real fun begins. By real fun, I mean trying not to out-ski the beam of your headlamp. See, for the longest time, I skied at night with my regular, 300 lumen hiking headlamp. On the way up, it’s perfect, more than suitable for my needs of climbing up an icy slope. On the down, it’s a whole other story. When you ski normally during the day, you never notice it but your eyes are constantly scanning out to 50ft in front, down to 2ft in front of your skis. Not to mention the side to side scanning you also do. Well, at night, darkness consumes the beam of light coming from your head, reducing visibility down to a dozen feet out and only a few feet wide. All of this to say, it truly is night skiing.
With the exception of the full moon nights, it was difficult to ski. You hoped the groomers had already made their pass down the slope you’re about to ski, but on most nights you take the gamble. As you point your skis downhill, and start picking up speed, you quickly enter a flow state. Skiing already forces you to completely forget everything else you’re dealing with, and focus only on sliding on top of snow. Now add the element of darkness to it, and everything is taken to a new level. I’d say its a completely committing way to ski, because you have to completely trust your skis and the snow in front of you. So when you make it down to the bottom of the run, chilled to the bone, it is more exhilarating than anything you’ve ever skied. It’s amazing.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.