Powder - - INTRO - By Matt Hansen

THE FALL LINE DROPS AWAY STEEPLY, at least 40 de­grees at the crux. The top of the north-fac­ing chute is full of bumps be­fore it nar­rows into an hour­glass-shaped couloir lit­tered with rocks and stumps that don’t quite get cov­ered up un­til late Jan­uary. But none of those things re­ally mat­ter. What mat­ters is that the run is di­rectly be­neath the chair­lift. You can pre­tend not to care that ev­ery­one is watch­ing. You’re cool like that. But there’s a rea­son you make those turns ex­tra sharp as you cen­ter punch the choke as fast as you can, scream­ing out into the fan at the bot­tom as the hoots and hollers rain down from the chair­lift above.

In the world of ski­ing, we tend to glo­rify far-flung places that ex­ist pri­mar­ily in our dreams, for­get­ting that some of the best ski­ing around is lit­er­ally right un­der our noses. We ro­man­ti­cize the courage of go­ing out of bounds, and heap praise on the stamina re­quired to ply the back­coun­try. We tra­verse far and wide to ski a few scrappy pow­der turns along dis­tant rope lines, when some­times, all we re­ally need is right there un­der the chair.

Be­cause lift tow­ers are pri­mar­ily built di­rectly on the fall line, some of the best ski­ing you’ll ever find is be­neath the chair­lift: Chairs 22 and 23 at Mam­moth; Gad II at Snow­bird; the Fin­gers at Squaw Val­ley; the Alta Chutes at Jack­son Hole; the Chal­lenger face at Big Sky; the Moth­er­lode Chair at Red Moun­tain;

the Sin­gle Chair at Mad River Glen. These lines are fast, steep, and the crowds are of­ten ap­pre­cia­tive. Of course, the burli­est lift line of all is the Mal­lory Route, be­low the Aigu­ille du Midi tram in Cha­monix. Talk about one run to rock your world—if you have what it takes (not many do).

Ev­ery day all win­ter, some­body some­where is ski­ing un­der the chair, stick­ing their butt out a lit­tle bit more, keep­ing their knees a lit­tle bit tighter, grunt­ing a lit­tle bit louder when they hit a bump. It’s the glo­ri­ous hall­way of fall lines and freaks, moguls and mishaps, chalk and chow­der, and the best place to walk the walk, with­out ever hav­ing to talk the talk. For ev­ery­one rid­ing on the chair, you are the en­ter­tain­ment, you are the show. But thank­fully, chair­lift rides don’t last for­ever, and nei­ther does your pres­ence un­der­neath it. It’s like In­sta­gram be­fore In­sta­gram: scroll down and let it go, maybe give a thumbs-up if you like what you see.

If you hap­pen to snag first chair the morn­ing of a big dump, there is no bet­ter place to be than right back un­der it. No sidestep­ping. No boot­packs. No avalanche pro­to­col. Just SFD. It also hap­pens to be a bit­ter­sweet re­minder to ev­ery­one rid­ing above why they should not have hit the snooze but­ton. Bit­ter be­cause they are not you, and sweet be­cause only a black-hearted cynic would fail to ap­pre­ci­ate your joy as you go neck-deep into the fluff.

Of course, there are some peo­ple who sim­ply won’t ski un­der the chair. No mat­ter how good it can be, they will al­ways avoid it. Too many dis­crim­i­nat­ing eye­balls. Too much judg­ment. It’s like pub­lic speak­ing, or step­ping up to the plate with the score tied in the bot­tom of the ninth. Some peo­ple don’t want that kind of re­spon­si­bil­ity. I sup­pose we have them to thank for farm­ing stashes far from the mad­den­ing crowd, but con­versely, I sus­pect there would be fewer daffies or threes with­out a sick lit­tle bump line un­der the chair. For if a daffy or three isn’t wit­nessed, did it even hap­pen?

Per­haps the best part of ski­ing un­der the lift is the fact that it is im­pos­si­ble to fake it. Whether you are a hack or rock star, ski­ing un­der the chair forces you to own your abil­ity. As pas­sen­gers on the chair, it feels great to watch some­one rip it, but it’s just as sat­is­fy­ing to watch an­other skier back­seatin’ and not carin’. They are who they are, to hell what any­one else thinks. And in an era full of fak­e­ness— fake snow, fake doobs, fake ba­con, fake tans, and fake on­line per­sonas—ski­ing un­der the chair­lift is a jolt of au­then­tic­ity that might just make 2018 a bet­ter place to be. That’s a stretch per­haps, but at the very least, it’ll serve as a re­minder of what life is all about: fam­ily, friends, and soft bumps that ex­plode when you ski into them re­ally fast.

If noth­ing else, ski­ing un­der the chair is the quick­est way to the bot­tom for an­other lap—a one-way ticket down the Hol­ly­wood Line.

Skier: Sam KuchWhite­wa­ter, British Columbia Photo: Steve Ogle

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