The Powder Hound
Steve loved the Alpine Trail. It was the best thing about working at Mount Hood.
The Alpine Trail was an unmarked run that started at the bottom of the lowest ski lift at Timberline Ski Resort and continued on down the mountain for 3 miles, ending at the small village of Government Camp, where the majority of Timberline employees live. The end of the trail was less than 100 feet from the front door of Steve’s apartment, allowing him to literally ride his snowboard from the rental shop (where he worked as a ski technician) to his front door. Pretty fucking cool.
Employees are warned about The Alpine during their training period. It is not a part of the resort and is very dangerous as it is not maintained. It is the definition of ’ski at your own risk’; sections of it are quite steep and the run is very narrow with dense forest on either side. Several people have died on the trail throughout the years for various reasons; but most common cause of death is due to people straying from the trail and getting lost and freezing to death. Although people are warned about the trail, it is well used by Timberline workers, but they are about the only ones to ski it as visitors to the resort pretty much stick to the runs that have chairlifts to bring them back up.
Timberline workers who live in Government Camp tend to hitchhike up the hill to the resort with their snowboards or skis in the morning, and ride home down The Alpine after their shifts. They get to know the trail like the back of their hands and are known to take it at night by the moonlight or by the neighboring lights of Ski-Bowl (the largest night skiing resort in America).
Steve had taken the run countless times. He loved it. There were always fresh tracks to be had and the run seemed to go on forever. There were fallen trees to slide across on the way down and many jumps to hit and small cliffs to drop off of. The first time he had taken the trail had been one of the most exhilarating moments of his life. The realization that he could ride this run home every night after work made him giddy. This was the life.
On this particular day, Steve was finishing up a long shift in the rental shop. It had been a busy weekend day and the guests had been plentiful, and needy. All he wanted to do was strap the board on, tuck away into the forest for a quick puff of the grass, then head down Pucci and down the Alpine towards home. He figured Skelley (his roomie) would probably already be home and cracking some brews. They would likely go over to the Ratskeller for some pool later that night and hopefully meet some tourist chicks.
As planned, Steve headed down the Pucci run, dodging snow-plowing skiiers, veered off to the right into the forest and took a long draw off of his pipe. Rejuvinated, he exited the tree-line and started carving back and forth towards The Alpine, occasionally busting a 360 or 540 degree spin on the side jumps.
It was getting kind of dark by the time Steve entered The Alpine Trail, but a half-moon was visible, which was enough light to go by. He had an odd feeling as he ducked into the trees and started cruising down the first section, but he ignored it and barreled on. People should trust their instincts more.
Steve spotted the jump on the right with the large rock just beyond it. He launched off it, kicked the tail of his board up and shifted it one way before twisting it back in the other direction. “Damn, I’m the shit!” he thought as he let out a little yelp of joy. He landed the jump and carved off to the left back on to the trail and down a steep slope.
He heard it before he saw it. An intense barking noise that was increasing in volume behind him. He flung his head around quickly and in doing so caught a front-side edge and tumbled forward in a somersault.
The barking noise was getting closer. Steve whipped his head up from under the snow and tried to gain his bearings. When he had his sense of direction he looked up the trail and saw the mongrel dog rocketing straight towards him and baring his teeth and barking relentlessly. It was brown and grey and had different color eyes. It was not the biggest dog Steve had ever seen but it appeared to be rabid, and hungry.
It was evidently out for blood.
“Oh fuck!” Steve stood up and started kick-jumping down the hill with his board to gain momentum, finally gaining enough that he was gliding down at a rapid pace. The problem was that the dog was gaining on him fast. It was now leaping as it ran, easily clearing 20-30 feet with each lunge. Steve thought it was an astonishing sight.
He knew he was fucked. The dog was simply coming at him too fast and he couldn’t get enough speed to out-race it. It lunged towards him, snarling it’s teeth and almost nipping the back of his board. Steve figured the next lunge would be on him and could bring him down. He shuddered at this impending fate and longed for his apartment, which seemed like a lifetime away. He had to think fast.
Steve took a sharp right turn but so did the beast. He flew off a bank an into the air and the dog followed. He looked behind him in the air and saw the snarling face approaching him and the mouth opening and ready to tear his flesh. He shifted his board one way and the dog was right by his legs and he shifted the board back and the edge caught the dog in its face and it yelped loudly and dropped to the ground.
Steve barely landed the jump and got his balance and rode down the trail. He looked behind him and saw the mongrel dog laying motionless on the ground. There was blood surrounding the face. He thought he might have killed it.
He let out a hopeful yell of victory and pumped a fist in the air. “Oh my god.. Hell YEAH!” He shouted to the trees.
It was the closest brush with death he’d ever had in his short life. His adrenaline was throttling through his body and he felt like he could spin a 720 off an 80 foot cliff right about now he was so pumped up. It would be a great story for the people at the Ratskeller. They would buy him rounds and slap him on the back and they would play pool and talk about the incident until the wee hours.
He carved back and forth blissfully, feeling more alive than he had in years. He spotted a large snow drift over to the left and impulsively veered towards it with the intent to bust a giant alley-oop melon grab and land back on the trail. He lifted the nose of the board up as he burst off the tip of the snow drift and reached towards the board. In his haste to hit the jump he had shifted his weight the wrong direction. Steve was heading right for a huge tree on the perimeter of the forest. He reached out his arm to protect his head and absorbed the blow the best he could at that high speed. He managed to avoid hitting his head but his hip and left knee slammed against it hard. Steve crumpled to the base of the tree and felt himself sinking down into the deep powder of the tree well.
He was buried so far down that he had to look up a few feet to see the top of the hole he was in. His body temperature instantly jumped and his heart beat heavily in his chest as he tried to scurry out of the hole. The harder he tried to get out, the deeper he sunk. He looked up and saw that the hole was now about five feet above him.
“Fuckin FUCK!!” Steve wailed. He knew he had to sacrifice his snowboard in order to climb out of the hole. He bent over and dug his hands through the snow and unbuckled his bindings. After he freed himself from the board he was able to kick into the snow and get enough leverage to climb upwards. He made one attempt to reach down into the hole and retrieve his board but felt himself slipping down again so he decided to abandon it for good. He would have to hike the next couple miles down the trail.
Steve’s left knee and hip were throbbing with pain and badly bruised but not broken. He climbed out of the top of the hole and started hobbling down the trail slowly. He then heard a familiar barking noise, which was coming from the hill above him and getting closer. He looked up the hill and saw the dog beast lunging towards him with an open mouth and sharp teeth. It’s face was badly mutilated and bloody but it was coming right at him. Steve decided his best chance would be to jump back in the hole of the tree well and try to hide so he backtracked the few steps he had taken and dove in head-first. He tried to cover himself with some snow. The barking snarling was getting louder.
The dog lunged into the hole right after Steve and went straight for his neck.
Another storm came that night. Steve’s body was not found until the spring thaw.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Jeff Mount.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/21/2009.