Vail Valhalla

One rider achieves fresh-pow dreams and snowboarding enlightenment at Vail's women-only snowboard camp.
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Taking Vail's fast track to snowboarding supremacy  (Jack Affleck/courtesy, Vail Resorts)
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Professional snowboarder Megan Pischke barrels down a snowy hillside and soars off the lip of a cat track, spinning and performing an easy grab mid-huck. The women around me hoot and holler as she lands in a small burst of powder, riding out smoothly.

It's amazing. Not just the jump, which is effortless, but the snow she landed in. I'm here, at Vail, and there's a half-foot of fresh snow.

Snow—its presence, absence, consistency, and depth—can become something of a mania for addicted skiers and snowboarders. At the beginning of the season, the faithful often light bonfires to Ullr, the great Norse god of the white stuff, tossing in sacrificial skis and snowboards for good measure.

Before I head to Vail, I have one disquieting thought: someone should toss me in the bonfire. It seems that wherever I am, snow isn't. Several years ago, I left a barren Tahoe for a two-week trip to Hawaii. It snowed ten feet.

Then, a move from rainy Eugene, Oregon, to Santa Fe trapped the high-desert town in a midwinter drought, while Eugene, at a whopping 426 feet above sea level, got an unexpected snowstorm. Of course, my return to Eugene heralded a winter of heavy snow for Santa Fe.

Now, it's January and I'm in Colorado with fellow snow-obsessed acolytes as a rider on Vail's ReTreat Yourself snowboard camp, an annual five-day, women's-only gathering hosted by Barrett Christy. A former Vail resident, she holds the women's record for most X Games medals and competed on the U.S.'s first Olympic snowboarding team.

Given my propensity to be where snow isn't, I boarded my flight for Vail with some trepidation. While my friends had been tossing aside the snowboards for other outdoor pursuits (brought on, unsurprisingly, by a local drought), I was looking to get re-inspired in the Rockies. If there was any snow left once I showed up.

Published: 12 Aug 2005 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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