Like crows they hulk upon the mountain ridge, this dark-hooded clan of snowboarders. I stutter to a halt at the end of the line, shamefully inelegant, and scan the snow below us. What trails can their hidden eyes see through the pines, and yet I can only imagine? Suddenly, one is off, diving down the mountain with such speed and grace, his legs are fluid, the board part of his body, he crouches down before a small jump and there! Mid-air he pirouettes, landing soundlessly, arcing out of sight.
Every boarder craves ‘Bluebird days’, those glorious days right after a huge dump of snow and it’s nothing but clear skies and white-hot sun. For miles the magnitude of the Alps can be clearly marvelled, after weeks of clouds and poor visibility, the 3D sharpness is startling. The mountains transform into snow deserts.
I didn’t understand the power of powder when I arrived. I tried to explain to the manager of the chalet I’m living in that I didn’t mind the icy pistes, or the fact the mountain was more green than white, as long as I was on a board. He gave me a pitying look. “Soon you’ll be craving the powder, just like everyone else.”
On my first ever Bluebird day I followed my clan of helmeted crows through a secret forest, only reached by limboing under a red tape marked ‘DANGER’. We were on the spine of the bent-backed mountain, amidst the solitude and silence of the pines, the safety of the marked pistes long behind us.
We reached a gap in the pines to our left, where a valley of glittering snow lay untouched, save for two sweeping lines that twisted through the trees. Silently, the boarders dropped one by one into the valley – they seemed to glide above the snow, powder thrown up like clouds of icing sugar from the edge of their boards. They turn, with one hand carving a new line in the snow like surfers, hunting for jumps and trails through the forest.
I dive down.
It feels like flying. You are weightless. You’re not sure where you begin or your board ends, the mechanics of what you’re doing is a mystery and you have no idea what might be around the next cluster of trees or in the next gulley, but you know you’re more alive than ever, surfing the snow, sun blinding the path ahead. Flying.
Bluebird Day is over and that evening at home is the most subdued in weeks – the bar is empty, the lounge full of bodies recovering on sofas. I tip toe past the dark lounge, the latest Netflix documentary lighting up their zombie faces.
The Chalet manager was right. But it’s not the powder that’s addictive – it’s the feeling you get when you’re riding it. Until the next Bluebird Day…