by Ryan Salm
Line and Words by Adam Ruscitto
As we rode up the chair, passing over the Fingers, Ryan asked me, “Have you skied this line often?”
“Yeah, dozens of times,” I responded, “though it’s been three or four years since the last time .”
I thought to myself, “Miles side slipped down it at least ten times last year and smoothed out all the rocks for me. I’ve got this.”
Scrambling up the short hike on the backside, my stomach began to turn. My head was already pounding, a not so gentle reminder of how much tequila I had taken down the night before, and now with the reality of the situation setting in as I reached the top, I was getting the stomach ache to go with it.
This was the first time I’d been to the top of McConkey’s since it had been renamed, and as I peered over the edge, I came to the stark realization that all those runs down Eagles Nest were nothing like the one I was about to take. It had been a relatively smooth, snow covered ramp all those times before, and now there were protruding rocks everywhere. I’d be lucky to find a path to straight line, let alone make turns down. But, after heckling a yellow jacket clad skier just days before, for side slipping the entire face top to bottom, I was determined to make as many turns as possible on my descent.Scrambling up the short hike on the backside, my stomach began to turn. My head was already pounding, a not so gentle reminder of how much tequila I had taken down the night before, and now with the reality of the situation setting in as I reached the top, I was getting the stomach ache to go with it.
I began to whack at the cornice with my pole, not just for GNAR points, but I actually needed to knock a chunk at least a skis length off, so that I could slide in off the top. My pole wasn’t working as well as I might have hoped though, and I decided to just stomp on the cornice with my right ski, which completed the job perfectly and also nearly took me careening off the edge. I glanced to my left, towards the KT patrol shack, and for the first time saw the crowd of nearly 50 spectators that had gathered to watch. They wanted to be entertained and probably didn’t care whether I flashed the line or rag dolled over the rocks, as long as it was exciting. A quick shout to Ryan to make sure he was ready, and I dropped in.
As I began traversing from left to right I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the snow, what little there was. Grippy and predictable the snow was confidence inspiring. I just needed to make it to the second spine on skiers left and I’d be home free. I negotiated the first move, a sideways hop of about 4 feet, off a ledge, with relative ease. Reassured as my skis gripped the snow upon landing, I continued on my journey towards the beautiful fluted spine to my left. Crossing over the first spine, I became hung up on rocks, momentarily halting my progress. Then, the moment I had been waiting for. A smooth, bottomless turn back to the right on a sixty degree spine, quickly followed by an equally exhilarating left. The run was over as I came off the lower cliff and stuffed it, going over the handlebars.
Shaking off the snow at the bottom, I had overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction, which was quickly replaced by my hangover again. I pretty much butchered the line from top to bottom and I’d give myself a grade of a C-. I can’t wait to get back up there and take another crack at it though.
The Line of the Week will be a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest skiers skiing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. For more of Ryan’s work check out www.ryansalmphotography.com or http://ryansalmphotography.photoshelter.com/