Big Sky, Big Drama: It's Not Easy Being Dude

by Jules Older

It was — as skiing trouble so often is — intended to be the last run of the day. But hey, the sun was still shining, the snow was still soft and our legs still felt strong. Dick and Bud and me, we were dudes. Eastern dudes, old dudes, groomer-hugging dudes, but dudes.

We were also a wee bit lost. But everything on Big Sky’s Andesite Mountain had been so mellow, why worry? Why even consult the trail map? Real dudes don’t read maps.


Trails Named after Distressed Animals

We started down something called Crazy Raven. Which led to Mad Wolf.

Here's some free advice. Don’t ski trails named after distressed animals. You wouldn’t ski Hydrophobic Raccoon, would you? Or a route named Cow with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease? The same applies to Crazy Ravens and Mad Wolves.

What led us astray — apart from the inherent stupidity of dudehood — was the approach.

Crazy Raven lures you in with a broad and gentle approach that — once turning back is no longer an option — suddenly and sadistically narrows, steepens and bumps up.

Which, at the end of the day means big, mean, rutted moguls frozen harder than Dick Cheney’s heart. By the fourth or fifth awkward stem turn, we were feeling considerably less dudical.

Halfway down, when the moguls were dwarfed by jagged rocks, we decided to bail. The only option was crossing through a narrow stretch of woods to Mad Wolf, which despite its unpromising name, had to be better than the bloody Raven.

Uh, no.

What we hadn’t taken into account was that, though the snow on the trail had all the softness of stainless steel, the snow in the woods was breakable crust over deep and deadly sink-in. Quicksnow. Tar-baby snow. Death-to-Dudes snow.


Farewell to Dudehood

Dick made this discovery shortly after he lost both skis on his first quicksnow turn. Trying to give himself a base to click back into his bindings, he planted his pole. The pole disappeared. Then his arm disappeared. With Bud’s aid, he finally wrenched free of the sucking mire, then carried his skis to the icy world of Mad Wolf. Bud struggled along beside him. Finally, they reached the Wolf.

Whereupon, Bud fell and lost his skis. Bud’s skis bounced 50 yards down the frozen bumps. The former dude bounced past them… and kept on bouncing another hundred yards. He groaned loudly, then slowly sat up, checking body parts along the way.

Dick and I gingerly skied down to the abandoned skis. Dick said, “Let’s each take one and ski it down.”

I said, “Let’s each take one and throw it down. I'm just barely surviving without hossing an extra ski through these damned moguls.”


America’s Saddest Home Movie

Thus began the Big Sky Ski Toss. Points were given for distance, altitude and style. You were automatically disqualified for hitting Bud.

By now, the remains of the day were turning to night. The lift was still running, but we had miles of moguls to go before we reached it.

Dick shrugged tiredly. “We’ll get there,” he said, “but this was some last run!”

Bud was silent. At first I thought it was the bruises setting up camp all over his aching body. But even in the fading light, his expression said something else was troubling him.

“Gentlemen” he announced, in a voice filled with resignation and regret, “I’m afraid this is not our last run. If you’ll look closely at that lift…”

We looked at the empty chairlift.

“If you'll look closely at that lift, you will notice that it doesn’t begin at the base village. It appears to begin in a snow-covered cow pasture. We’ll be taking that one up and then taking our last run down.”

Our groans sounded very much like the cries of distressed animals.


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