The excuse I'm going with is that I was away from Jackson Hole for over two weeks and I was probably travel-lagged when this occurred.
A week ago, there was a really big early-season snowstorm here in the Tetons. Apparently, one of the snow stations at the ski resort reported a total of 38" of snow during the course of the storm. I, of course, was back in Iowa for family things and wasn't here to ski the huge dump but I was HEARING about it from several friends.
So, I drove back into Jackson early (REALLY early, if you know what I mean) Friday morning and got a few hours of sleep. By Friday afternoon, I couldn't stand the idea of all that snow up there so I went up Teton Pass with the intent of just skinning out to the Black Canyon Overlook and then skiing the trail back to the car.
That plan was working fine aside from the fact that I was pretty tired. I was about halfway to the overlook, skinning along the side of Olympic Bowl, when I heard somebody call my name. I looked up a little ways and there was Theo Meiners digging a snow pit. For those of you who don't know, Theo is one of the Alpine Guides at the JH Mountain Resort and also happens to be the owner and head guide at Alaska Rendezvous Lodge on Thompson Pass outside Valdez, Alaska. You can read a report about my outstandingly incredibly GREAT trip to Theo's operation at this Wiki: http://www.epicski.com/wiki/alaska-heli-skiing-trip-report
So anyway, I talk to Theo for a few minutes and then head on up the trail to the overlook. Once there, I took the skins off and just skied back down the skin track toward the car. When I got back to where Theo was, he was still working on his pit so I stopped to see what he had found with the snow layers. He was very excited about how well the crystals were bonding down near the bottom of the snow, and he said "You gotta come see these crystals! I've got a field microscope and these bonds are really cool."
So I sidestep my way up to where he dug his pit and take off my skis so I can get to where I can look through the scope. As I'm doing this, I set one of my skis down and accidentally kicked the tail so that the tip pointed downhill.
What happens next?
Of course you know the answer to that question.
The ski just took off down the hill.
Theo and I look at each other and we both go, "Oh, sh#t!". As we stand there watching, that ski just surfs along the top of the powder, straight down the fall line, leaving a nice little track. The bowl we were at the top of is about 500 vertical feet. It starts out pretty mellow and then rolls over to very steep before ending in a terrain-trap gully with trees to the far side. Well, the ski was REALLY zipping along when it disappeared over the rollover and Theo and I are standing there looking at each other in complete silence.
Now, this is a major bummer because the sun has gone down and I'm not exactly fresh and rarin' to go as far as slogging down the bowl looking for my stupid ski.
Since there's no alternative, however, I put my remaining ski over my shoulder and started booting down through waist-deep snow following the ski track. I could follow the track pretty well until the rollover, where some skier tracks kind of broke up the nice smooth surface. I was able to spot the track from the ski further down, though, and could see where it intersected a skier track and disappeared. Once I floundered my way down there, almost at the bottom, I could see that the ski launched off the downhill mound of the skier track and sailed over the surface for about thirty feet. Below, there was about a 6 inch wide indentation in the snow where the ski had dived in. I went to that spot fully expecting to find my ski, but nothing... Ten more feet of digging and probing and nothing... 20 feet, nothing. My spirits are starting to go seriously downhill at this point because I really, really didn't want to lose that ski. Finally, about 35 feet below where the ski dove back in, I found the stupid thing right on the ground under about three feet of snow. I would never have believed it would go that far under the surface.
Once reunited with my ski, I had to skin back up out of the gully and make my way back to the car. Theo had very courteously dropped a ways down the bowl and put in part of a skin track for me so it wasn't quite as bad a slog as it might have been otherwise.
So, it's a good lesson to ALWAYS pay attention to your equipment when you take your skis off - no matter what the terrain is like or how many distractions there might be.
The whole experience DID make an otherwise routine afternoon into something really memorable.