An Ode to the Secret Stash

Every true ski bum has one: That go-to spot that holds snow, even on the most desperate days.
An Ode to the Secret Stash

I grew up skiing in New England, and my stash there was well hidden. It had to be: A stash is part powder gluttony and part love affair. But it’s not just some cheap thrill—the stash delivers time and time again. You develop an affection for it. You understand its nuances with regard to wind, snow, and wretched spring sun exposure.

I should explain that, in New England, I went out of my way to hide my stash. Oftentimes I would create a phony track on my way into it, so that anyone who followed would get suckered into a jail of super-tight trees. Ruthless, perhaps, but an East Coast skier has to resort to some desperate measures to ski powder.

These days, I ski at Alta, where a stash need not be so hidden. There are countless micro–terrain features here, many accessed by traverses and side-steps, and they hold deep powder. Winds can deposit snow and re-buff zones multiple times on any given day, providing nooks of well-preserved pow for those who are willing to poke around for it.

Just on the opposite side of a place I’ll just call “Sponsor-Me-Bro Hill”—a zone where pros and aspiring pros wait for their chance to be one-turn-wonders in front of cameras—lies a slope that spills into Snowbird, the neigh boring resort. Here, powdery slots between cliffs will deposit the adventurous skier into a snow globe of euphoria. For whatever reason, the snow is deeper here. There are countless lines, and fear of the unknown keeps numbers down—and the probability of a fresh line high. As some older locals like to say, “It can be like skiing in another universe.” They don’t lie.

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This is my stash, and it delivers no matter the snow report. There have been sleeper days, when its steeps were surprisingly deep. Days when I putter around making breakfast at the house and then arrive to find my stash a glorious, untouched canvas. And, of course, there are the days when it’s just plain blower and I prowl around the gate, waiting for the stash to open, when others don’t have the patience.

Today, two feet have fallen and the storm is still churning a few final inches. I know the stash is setting up to be nuclear. Then, like a powder prophet emerging from the hills, a patroller scoots across and flicks the sign to open. He looks at me. “Have fun,” he says. I offer him firsts, since the snow gods appreciate manners. Then I am cascading down the fall line. The feeling is serene, that gray storm-day tranquility. It’s like skiing in your dreams. I head back for more.

Erme Catino is a freelance writer based in Salt Lake City. Originally from the East Coast, he is now a committed Alta powder junkie.

(Photo: Reuben Krabbe)


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