Fresh powder snow and running water in the Colorado back country call Lon like the moon calls the wolves. Belly-sliding to a good time on the weekends makes up for a workweek at a desk, and meeting Corey adds a whole new level of fun to snowboarding.
It’s easy to slip away for time alone in the woods without raising suspicion, but how’s Lon to entertain himself when bad snow and a worse spill force them off the mountain too early?
Never give an otter a box of Cheerios.
(This title is also available in the Out in Colorado anthology as Slip/Slide/Snow)
Excerpt: Tail Slide
Pulling the car into the wide spot beside the narrow highway, Brian said, “Sure you aren’t coming up to the ski area? They have lifts….” He trailed off suggestively.
“There’s two feet of freshies out here in the backcountry,” Lon told him, even if the country wasn’t very ‘back’ when it butted up to a road. Access to the newly-fallen, unmarked powder snow didn’t have to cost an arm and a leg and come with crowds. “You have fun cruising the groomers with the rest of the two-plankers.” He swung out of the little Dodge and popped his board out of the roof rack. “Pick me up about five o’clock, okay?” Five was about half an hour from true dark, and they’d both get plenty of runs in, but Lon was sure he’d have the better time.
“See you later!” Brian waited just long enough for Lon to click the rack shut before he rattled off toward Eldora.
Five or six cars might line up along this section of road, though none parked there now. That might change later, but at the moment Lon had a really decent snowboarding hill to himself. He stepped over the guardrail, into his bindings, and aimed down the untracked, unpacked snow. Who wanted to pay for groomed snow with all this champagne pow pow to schriff on for free?
Curving ever so gently, Lon bombed through the fresh powder. The chilly wind kissed his nose with the scents of pine, spruce, and with every curve, less highway and more deer. Trees loomed before him on more level ground—he threaded a path between them and ran out of steepness before he ran out of momentum. He sailed far into the stand of trees, close enough to hear but not see the stream that ran toward Boulder Creek. Stroking the green needles of a ponderosa pine, he considered trudging to the stream or heading back uphill.
Uphill won. He cut east toward the highway, and when he reached pavement, he stuck his thumb out. Some friendly driver, like this guy in the pickup truck, would give him a lift to the top. Lon threw his board in the back of the truck and climbed in after it. “Just to the parking area!” he told the driver, who grinned and said, “I know.”
Bet he played ski lift all the time. Lon hopped out with thanks, feeling his beard crackle in the cold with the movement of his grin. Wind was changing, too. He ran a hand across his face, smoothing the crisp brown hairs that framed his mouth but didn’t cover his cheeks. Felt good.
Still no others had come to his playground. Lon strapped on his board again to sail down the hill. Shifting weight to his heels, this time he carved a transverse path below the highway, first one way, and then with a sinuous turn of his hips, back the other way. Letting his arms carry his balance and his spine absorb the bumps, Lon slid downhill under the impossible blue of the Colorado sky, cutting toward the road again. One more run—he had plenty of time.
Another motorist collected him after ten minutes of holding out his thumb to the sparse traffic and dropped him at the top, leaving him to the solitude that might vanish with the next vehicle to round the bend. Taking the nearly straight path down, Lon let his speed wrap his senses, the wind slapping his jacket and pants against his body and taking cold nips around his sunglasses. He tasted the air and the emptiness—the deer had fled at his earlier foray into the trees.
Lon had enough momentum to pass his last stopping point, traveling into denser stands of growth where the snow lay in shallow drifts. He unbuckled his board and picked his way between the white hills, ducking below the branches and leaving as few footprints as he could. The creek babbled louder with each step, calling him more surely than the moon called the wolves.
Tucking his snowboard beneath a juniper, Lon threw some snow over the protruding edges lest its bright colors attract notice, though who would come so far on the flat? Time, oh, yes, it was time. He shrugged out of his clothing and bounded to the chuckling waters.