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Executive Summary:

Jim Crowley & I skied 7 laps on the 400' vert remainder of the East
Snowfields on Sunday under gradually clearing skies on gradually improving
(from fair/good to very good/excellent) corn.

Details:

Arrived at auto rd around 8:00 when they open.  Summit obviously socked
in.  Doubts as to whether Airplane Gully (or anything else up there) would
still have snow.  Contemplated just hiking up to Left Gully.  Friendly
stage coach driver reassured us that people had been skiing via the auto rd
recently, but cautioned us on the near-60-mph winds and 50-foot
visibility.

Driving up, Airplane & Great Gulf become increasingly unlikely:  winds were
ferocious and visibility so poor that I often stopped to ensure that I
would stay on the road.  From the upper parking lot, we could find the
summit bldg only by following the signs, and during that brief walk we got
quite damp, and almost blown off my feet.

Drove down a few hundred ft from the upper paved lots to a lower unpaved
lot.  Jim stayed in the car while I (equipped with radio link, GPS, map,
and compass, as visibility was now more like 15 ft) recon'ed for East
Snowfield based on my memory from skiing off the summit on May 5.
Fortunately memory served correct, since otherwise we could have stumbled
around only a few feet from the snow yet not see it.  Also, descending a
mere 100 feet (not even vertical, just plain old distance) from the rd
reduced wind to almost zero.

Back at the lot, out of the midst appeared two other well-equipped
backcountry skiers (who knew the owners of the ski house we had stayed at,
as well as some other ski buddies of mine - small world, etc.), and we
decided to join forces, given the bad visibility.  Hiking back up the well-
traveled boot ladder after our first run, we heard turns, then eventually
saw Him.  Having spent so much time in the early 90s hanging out with Him
at USSA races, when He was just another random skier like myself, and
having paid a fan visit to Him at Stowe this December, even behind His
sunglasses and yellow climbing helmet I recognized Him as...
"Hey, Mark Courville!"
And He not only remembered me, but skied with us.  His presence made the
skiing seem much more hardcore, especially when all the alpine-downhill
skiers showed up, as well as the pot-smoking boarders.  He was enjoying the
relaxed skiing after Airplane the previous day and Tucks the day before.
And He'd gotten a ride up w/ a van, which meant we had the privileged honor
of giving Him a ride back down the rd.
We should have recorded the conversation, both for skiing venue insights
and for documenting His ski mountaineering heroics.  Jim and I were utterly
enthralled.
And then, we reached the auto rd parking lot.  Much additional
conversation, followed by . . . the Sanctum Sanctorum!
You might think, what's the big deal?  You've seen the pics of His
straightlining, you've seen the Powder Mag photo essay on His epic first
descent, carefully studied the Powder Mag pics of His apartment (maybe even
set up a room in your house where before a big trip you too can curl up in
your sleeping bag on the floor against the wall, eat out your mini fridge,
cook on your hot plate, and cozy up to the milk crate home entertainment
system...), maybe even seen Him in person.
But He's never invited you inside the Sanctum Sanctorum (i.e., full-size
van) for a guided tour, has He now?!?  The five (or was it six?) pairs of
tele skis, the three ice axes, the two pairs of crampons, the ropes, and
all sorts of other ski mountaineering gear that I can't even identify.  All
stored in a wooden box that also serves as His bed.  (Sleeping on top of
your gear - how perfect is that?)
Oh, and the dialogue:
"Mark, how did you like the Silvretta 404s on those fat skis?"
"No, those are 300s."
"Uh, isn't that a non-releasable approach binding?"
"Yeah, I don't want my bindings releasing when I'm skiing those lines."
****
"Oh yeah, I had that with me when I set off an avalanche and slide 500 feet
down a 10-foot wide chute in Smuggs..."
****
In summary, spending so many hours with Mark yesterday made me realize how
completely He has dedicated His life to the pursuit of extreme ski
mountaineering.  The rest of His existence is merely a support system for
extreme ski mountaineering - no family, no career (Jim: "He skied 180 days
this year" Me: "but that's easy at Stowe, b/c the lifts open at 8 allowing
you to get in some quick laps and return to work" Jim: "that would be an
important factor if He hadn't gone the last four months w/o a job"), and
given that He skis 75% of the time by Himself, probably no close friends.
(Even though He's quite social:  I related Jerm's version of their
encounter to Mark, and, while presenting His viewpoint, definitely no hard
feelings, and if anything slightly apologetic.)
Furthermore, His pursuits are entirely in the Northeast (though a Cham trip
is planned for next year), and almost exclusively at two mountains:
Mansfield and Stowe.
I think I'll go by something from skiershop.com (His new employer) now in
his honor...

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