I'd ventured down there one winter almost a decade ago to meet a guy who'd been stranded down there talking with his volleyball, and ended up meeting a world of wonderful people, some of whom I came to consider among my best friends.
These folks liked having fun, and most of them liked skiing in the backcountry. Almost everybody was single, and almost everybody had weekends off. There was a fun local bar that had good beer and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Thursday night was good for volleyball and beer. And, so, the mountains and the town beckoned.
I spent a lot of days wandering the Schell Creek Range, the Duck Creeks, and Ward Mountain with Dan and Joshua in particular. They were explorers who weren't afraid of long tours and were savvy and experienced mountain folk, and so we spent a lot of time playing in the snow together. We'd climb all day, do some great turns, have Mexican food back in town, drink and dance ourselves to exhaustion, and then do it again the next day.
Times, of course, have a way of changing. People moved away, the bar closed, the good band moved next door. Dan, Joshua and I all got married, bought houses, and generally became respectable. Dan and his new bride moved to the other side of the state, and for some really silly reason I stopped driving to Ely to ski.
I have to wonder - why?
The stars all aligned this weekend and I was able to drive down to Ely again to spend the day skiing with Joshua. We enjoyed amazing and endless terrain, beautiful aspens, a gorgeous day and good company. After it was over, we had dinner with some good friends, and with Josh's wife and new little girl. It reminded me of why I used to make this drive every weekend. And I guarantee - I won't stop skiing in Ely ever again.
Eastern Nevada is, if anything, even more snow-challenged than the Rubies are these days, and the high Schells were about the only place left holding good snow. We opted for a trip up Timber Creek, and really hit the conditions jackpot.
This beautiful apron can be pretty slide-prone earlier in the year, but this trip held beautiful chalky powder covered with a couple of creamy inches of blown-in fluff. Gorgeous turning. There was an old wet slide in there that made us thankful for the somewhat cooler, partially overcast weather. Josh opted for a shorter lap. I figured I'd hike up a little farther.
We hiked up again and over the little ridge to a bunch of fir trees that fed into some chutes. There was some breakable on the way in, but the powder in the transition area had Joshua grinning in anticipation.
Unfortunately, conditions in the trees looked better than they actually were, and we quickly dove back out into the big sunny slope. And - lucky us - the aspens softened up for some really sweet corn skiing for the trip out. OK, a little mank from time to time. But mostly it was tree sweetness.
What a great weekend. What a great range. What a great reason to drive south for the weekend.