Letter from the Editor: Winter’s Toll

For some of us, winter’s toll sounds when it’s time to collect firewood and stack it high. Others say it’s when first snow tips the mountains white. A few mark it with the jingle of sleigh bells and Christmas carols. Or the day when the lifts open at the local ski hill.

For me, the sure sign of winter hits when I get my first whiff of ski wax. I love the smell of it, warm and silky, the waxing iron not-quite smoking as it is pressed into the bases of my skis. I’m immediately launched into both nostalgia and urgency.

The aroma of it conjures memories of my high school Nordic ski team days in Wyoming, traveling hundreds of miles for races every weekend — Jackson, Laramie, Cody. After a long bus-ride, my teammates and I would wax our skis to prepare for the early morning race. That balmy scent punctuated every late-night laugh, every inside joke, every boy I liked and what seemed like the highest ambition of the moment: to win. Just a hint of ski wax brings back the awe of being dwarfed by the Tetons, race-time be damned, it was a beautiful thing to be skating across the course in the presence of those mountains. I will never shake the scary sensation of full moon skiing outside West Yellowstone, nor the freedom of launching downhill, relying only on those sticks and muscle memory to arrive safely at the bottom of a mountain.

More directly, that ski-wax scent gets me excited for the upcoming ski season. I get the Alpine boards down from the rafters, pull out the winter garb, say a little prayer to the Saint of Snow and double-check the Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast.

This issue launches winter by showcasing the activities we all pursue to embrace this long, fun season. Early winter is peppered with hunting opportunities for upland birds and big game; check out Chris Dombrowski’s “Shooting Tutorial.” Mid-winter brings skiing, whether it’s extreme racing (“Local Knowledge”); the business of custom-made boards in “A Passion for Powder: Montana Ski Company,” or the Equinox Ski Challenge (“The Big Sky List”). Deep winter is punctuated by the prospect of ice climbing (“Roundup”) and exploring Yellowstone via snowmobile, which tops our annual “Big Sky List”. We hope this collection of stories is your signal for the coming season.

Even now, the snow is falling outside. It must be time to wax the skis. Winter’s coming.

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