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  • Torey Lee Brooks

'20/'21 Ski Season Recap

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Well, I think it’s officially safe to call the end of ski season for me. I would like to begin doing season recaps for some of my main activities, both as a way to share with others and for future self-reflection. So here it goes!

Photo by Chase Brooks

I started into this winter with a rekindled fire I had not felt in a long time. Since I had hung up my racing boots (the first and second time), I had lost any true ski ambition. Outside of the occasional resort tour to clear my head, coaching young racers, and the obligatory spring Tuckerman Ravine trip, I didn’t actively seek out ski adventures or set any goals.

This season skiing regained its sparkle for me, and I found a desire to explore more of the winter backyard I had grown up in. I started making a habit of sneaking in early morning laps up Gunstock and fitting in some low-angle ski tours with friends. I was invited on a trip to Mt. Katahdin in Maine (link to trip report) and participated in Last Skier Standing (link to lessons learned), which cemented my love for type 1 ½ fun and really set my season in motion.

I knew I wanted to delve into more steep lines on Washington and the remote areas of New England, so I began to really look at my skill set to do so. I felt comfortable in my downhill ski ability from my racing background, I was building my uphill stamina with more time out, and I was finding familiarity with navigating areas outside of Tucks. I knew that my biggest weakness was my avalanche knowledge and general winter mountaineering skills. My Avi education was not non-existent -I had had some basic avalanche training while living out West, had the safety gear, and read MWAC religiously- but I knew I was in that dangerous category of knowing just enough to get myself in trouble.

I decided it would be a season of skills acquisition. For my birthday Steve and I signed up for our AIERE 1, and I hired old ski racing teammate turned badass mountain guide, Jordan, for a day on Washington to practice self-arrests and mountaineering skills. I did some ice climbing, dug some snow pits, and did the hard work of assessing my comfort levels with risk and my personal views on the separation of ego from decision-making.

Photo by Kam Mitchell
Photo by Kam Mitchell

This winter provided ample opportunity to practice patience. Questionable weather and/or snow conditions seemed to curse any day I had free from coaching (which were few and far between due to COVID restrictions spreading our coaching staff thin). The result was that I truly didn’t do a lot of steep skiing. I would have expected this to bother my overly ambitious self more than it does. When I look back I see far more positives than negatives. In an effort to contain my tendency to ramble, here’s a list of my biggest takeaways from my 20/21 season:

Sense of ski self: I feel like above all, I really solidified how I like to explore on skis. I answered questions on why I enjoy being out in the mountains in the winter and what types of objectives I look forward to most. Skiing has been a part of my entire life, but at 26 I feel like I am now starting to figure out where I truly fit in this sport- which is exciting.

Decision Making: Apart from one locked-toe, ax in hand run on some boilerplate snowfields, I can say I am proud of every go or no-go decision I made. I had a decent amount of days I chose low-angle terrain or not to ski something despite doing the work to get there (no shame in taking your skis “for a walk”). As my knowledge grows so may my ability to choose safe areas and lines, but staying true to my own definition of risk tolerance is a huge win in my book.

Gear: Skiing is an insanely gear-intensive sport and backcountry skiing takes this to a whole new level. Though I rolled into the season with plenty enough gear to get me up and down the hill safely, I spent much of it dialing in, expanding, and simplifying my kit. I think I am almost there but still have a few key pieces I’m on the hunt for (good women's touring bibs?!). In seasons to come I will be putting out my gear lists to share any good finds, so stay tuned :)

Confidence: I found the courage to ski with passion again. From the ashes of a sport that I had subconsciously “retired” from, I formed goals that I feel more in tune with than any I’ve had before. To top it off I used these goals to redefine the meaning of “failure” from not achieving something, to never going for it in the first place. This season I finally found the wind in my sails.

Gratitude: I have a lot of people to thank for such a great season of growth. Some of these people are new in my life, others have watched my journey from the beginning- all I hope to thank in person as well. Here are a few general thank you's I want to get out there:

  • To my many, valued ski partners- thank you for the hours of skin track chit-chat, snack sharing, and decision-making in the mountains.

  • To Steve- thank you for putting up with having a ghost of a girlfriend in the winter months and for the endless support to continue to do what I love.

  • To the strangers turned friends who have followed along this season- thank you for showing me the value of sharing my journey.

  • To my friends and family- thank you for the encouragement in all my endeavors and for the support on and off the mountain.

  • To the many organizations that make backcountry skiing safe and accessible, especially MWAC- thank you for doing the hard, thankless, and often scary work.

I am a bit of a numbers gal, so I thought I'd wrap this up with some stats:

  • Ski mileage: 145 miles

  • Ski elevation gain: 49,000 ft

  • Days on snow: 50 ish

  • New Ski Lines in the Presi’s: 5

  • New NE Ski Tours: 4

That's all for now- time to go climb some rocks, run some trails, and enjoy the warm weather. CHEERS!


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