We’re killing a few minutes waiting for Felice’s medication to kick in. The doctor said her laryngitis was just viral and she came this far to ski, so she should, but to lay low this morning.
It’s another sunny day in paradise. It was supposed to be snowing all day, according to snow-forecast.com, but I guess that shows that science is fallible, at least weather forecasting!
Yesterday they closed the Roca Jack. Because of falling rock.
The Andes are the mountains you’ve dreamed of. They tower in front of you the way a parent towers over a toddler. To say they’re imposing would be an understatement. And, the sun hits the peaks, they warm up, rocks start to fall, and to save our lives, they close the lifts. Not that Felice minded yesterday’s closure, she still hasn’t gotten the hang of the slingshot. And on Monday she lost a ski coming down the Roca Jack and it went…well, essentially all the way to the bottom. I had to ski down, retrieve it, then ride back up and ski down to her with it. Her body wasn’t injured, but her pride was a bit damaged.
So, with the Roca Jack closed and the sun beating down harder than any previous day we started exploring some newly softened slopes on the lower mountain. You see Portillo is completely above treeline. You can ski ANYWHERE! Assuming the snow isn’t rock solid, which is what the off piste stuff had been on Sunday and Monday.
You’ve got to ski the aspects, as they say. The slopes facing the sun. Portillo is two ridges, and in the morning the sun softens up one, and then in the afternoon shifts over to the other. And riding the lift, I saw a short shot that was just laying in the rays. I implored Felice to go for it. And she skied it like a champion, even bridging the gap where the two slopes met without incident.
So then, I told her we should ski down to the lake…
Yes, there’s a giant lake in front of the hotel, between the two ridges. It’s only half-frozen right now, you can’t ski across it. But the slopes come right down to it. You’ve got to traverse just before you hit the ice, avoiding a plunge to almost certain death.
Now once you commit, there’s no turning back, there’s no other way out. And on one hand I’m worried about testing Felice’s limits, but on the other I know she can do it. So, she agrees to make the short climb to the ridge, to the pristine corn snow. But before we push off I tell her two things. DON’T ski below me. And DON’T fall.
I debated telling her the second, fearful of freaking her out. But I didn’t want to have to say I TOLD HER SO at her funeral.
Needless to say, as we skied straight towards the rocks, Felice was anxious. For thinking of her adventure on the Roca Jack the day before, she could see in her mind’s eye losing a ski. And being FUCKED!
And when we got to the rocks, Felice was paralyzed. Because from there down…well, you could see nothing but the lake. The slope fell off so steeply you couldn’t see the middle.
Now’s when you’ve got to talk them into it. You’ve got to be light, and breezy. But to tell you the truth, I was a little caught off guard. I didn’t realize from the lift that it was QUITE this steep!
I pushed a few feet forward, over the precipice. From this point, you could see the slope. I told Felice to make two turns and come down. And I’ve got butterflies. Once false move…
And being able to see the slope didn’t help Felice much. She couldn’t believe it was this steep, and that at the end she had to abruptly turn and traverse out for more than a quarter mile.
I waited below. Watching every linked turn.
And then I led the traverse, fearing that Felice would be frozen and unable to move if we stopped for too long. And then, after rounding the curve signaling the end of danger, I waited, and she never appeared My heart sank. But then she showed up.
She told me she almost cried.
But I told her she’d skied it perfectly.