A Bad SciFi tale by Kevin Delaney © 2000.
I think that is fun to simply take an idea and see where the idea goes. As proven on this page...ideas often go astray. But the story starts out well. It starts with an interesting subject: Powder Skiing.
Powder skiing is one of the greatest pleasures on earth...but there is only so much powder to go around. Only one person gets to make first tracks down a slope. After twenty or so skiers...the powder exists no more. It turns to crud.
With traditional skiing...it takes several years to learn powder skiing. With fat skis and snowboards, you can ski powder in your first year. This means there are now more people competing for an increasingly scarce resource.
Old time skiers were much more careful when skiing powder. If you looked at the old pictures...you would see that the powder hounds crossed each other's paths at right angels. This doubles the number of "powder" runs. New skiers don't know this convention. A really bad skier could take out an entire slope on their own if they traversed it and left a lot of divets.
As you can imagine there is a great deal of contention among skiers about powder. Imagine for a second that you were a cross country skier. You invested four hours climbing a mountain on your thin back country skis. You will get one powder run for a full days effort. Ten minutes before you start your run...a helicopter drops off a group of rich tourists with snowboards at the top of the slope. They ski out your virgin powder run.
This is an area of great rancor and hostility.
Ski areas have their own conflicts: The ski patrol has to check the slopes before they can open the lifts. Jealous powder hounds complain that the ski patrol "skis out" the powder. Again, we have a great element of conflict for use in a story. I mean, look at the conflicts:
These classic conflicts should make a great story!
But, wait a second. This is a science fiction room. Skiing powder may make an interesting story...but how do you fit SciFi in the mix?
Well, just imagine for a moment that you had invented a teleportation device. What would you do with it? Why, I would use it to get to the top of the mountain and ski the powder before the ski patrol.
Imagine how fun it would be to teleport from mountain top to mountain top...catching all the powder.
...so the bad scifi story begins. Bob Slidder of the ski patrol is skiing out the powder before the paying customers. While on his trip down the mountain...he comes across the amateur tracks of a snowboarder...
Bob Slidder stood on Hidden Peak at the top of the Snowbird Tram. He could hear the final blasts from avalanche control as they cleared the unstable cornices from the jagged cliffs of the Twin Peaks towering above the Gad Valley.
Avalanche control had been firing since five thirty that morning. From the resort, you would hear a secession of muffled explosions, followed by a deep rumble as the triggered snowfall rushed down the empty slopes.
Forty-two inches of fresh powder fell during the night. This day would be one of those rare occasions of absolute, complete skiing bliss.
A few hundred lucky skiers had been snowed in the night before. They waited patiently in the resort for the opening of the lifts. A few thousand more waited in the traffic jams at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Bob Slidder was a member of the ski patrol. It was his job to check the slopes for hazards. The unmentioned benefit of the job was that rare privilege to set first tracks in the blanket of virgin snow. The first tram carried the ski patrol and a very select group of VIPs. They would be the envy of the entire state for that day, they would leave first tracks.
Bob had been a powder hound since his teens. In the early days, powder skiing was an acquired skill. It took years to master the slow control turns of long skis. With fewer powder skiers. A snow storm could bring a full day of powder skiing.
In this day of fat skis and snowboards, even intermediate skiers could tackle the soft stuff. A 42 inch snow was impressive, but the powder would be gone before noon. Bob would get at most four powder runs. The members of the ski patrol hurried from the tram. Even the ski patrol needed to move fast to catch the powder..
Two members of the patrol headed south into Mineral Basin. The other three headed straight into the Peruvian Cirque. Bob's plan was to traverse the ridge and shoot down the Gad Chutes. From there, he might take run or two on Little Cloud. The Snowbird tram had a lot of options.
Bob's plan seemed sound, but at the top of Regulator Johnson, he came across a very curious sight:
In the middle of his path, there was a hole. It looked as though someone had taken a superheated, man size sphere, and placed it dead center the slope. The snow melted and refroze in the very curious shape of a bowl.
From this bowl came the rather pathetic trail of a novice snowboarder. The path headed down the slope, took a single turn and wiped out in the powder. The snowboarder got up, took another turn, and dug another snow angel. This amateurish pattern of skips and falls continued to the bottom of the slope.
"Look's like we got ourselves a bogey," Bob announced into his radio. "Some bozo climbed the mountain this morning to get a powder run."
It was a serious offense. Skiing before the resort cleared the avalanches was a serious infraction and extremely dangerous. The ski patrol would be more than justified in confiscating the skier's pass...and more.
The tracks looked fresh. There was only a the slightest dusting of new snow on the tracks. If the boarder did a face plant with every turn. It would take him several hours to make it to the bottom of the slope.
"I'm going to catch this bozo...See you at the bottom."
Bob put the radio in his pack. He flipped on his goggles and shot down the slope in a burst of white.
Utah is famous for its lake effect and deep powder. When the desert winds whip across the warm Great Salt Lake, the clouds load up with the light desert moisture. When the winds cross the Wasatch Front, they dump this load in a deep blanket of fresh snow. The high desert snows have a only a fraction of the water content of the heavier snows in the east.
Skiing in light, deep powder is like skiing in a dream. The snow could be up to your waist chest, or even your shoulders. But you would cut through it as if you were falling through a thick mist in slow motion.
Powder skiing is a learned skill. When you ski on a groomed slope, you control your movement by carving turns with the edges of your skis. In powder you must learn to control your turns by subtle shifts your weight. You place your full weight on your down hill ski to turn into the mountain, then shift your weight to the uphill ski to start the next turn.
It is a wonderful feeling, but powder has its own dangers. You must learn to ski up out of the snow or you would dig yourself into a pit. Bob could remember an early cross country trip where he skied too close to a tree. He fell into the tree hole, and spent an hour hanging upside down from his skis, while his buddies dug him out.
More than one skier ended their life by simply falling in powder and suffocating. The first snowboards were worse. They had no binding release. With these early death traps, you would simply hang upside down in the snow with no air to breath.
Bob looked at the pathetic succession of turns made by the novice boarder and knew that this run might as easily turn into a rescue mission.
"Boarders...." Bob muttered under his breath. He had a strong distaste for the thick boards of the younger crowd. Boarders could conquer powder slopes in their first years of skiing...but they never truly appreciated the subtleties of the sport. Boarders simply ripped up the powder and left destruction in their wake.
Bob looked back on his run. He took pride it the even rhythm of his turns. A photographer had made a poster from the tracks that he laid in Powder Park a few years earlier.
Today, he had made a set of 8 perfectly executed S turns down the black diamond face of the Regulator. These turns stood in stark contrast to the traverse, flail and dive strategy of his adversary.
There is no greater feeling than to look back and see your first tracks through a pristine slope of fresh snow. Today's journeyed was marred by the misplaced antics of an amateur. In a few minutes Bob would be issuing a ticket for crossing slopes closed for avalanche control, but in his heart the real crime was the desecration of the mountain slopes.
If this boarder had shown even the least amount of skill, Bob would have shrugged off the chase, and caught a few runs on Little Cloud, but he was after a desecrator of slopes. Powder skiing is a right you earn...not something you steal. The chase was on.
The boarder had pick up some speed when the black diamond turned to a blue square, and arrived at the Midgad lodge with little ado.
Several more tracks appeared from the Gadzoom lift. Two cross country tracks headed off toward the "Black Forest." These were left by some new members of the ski patrol who wanted to try their telemarking skills in the trees.
There were some snowboard tracks headed toward the as of yet ungroomed face of Lunch Run. These tracks took off in smooth, carved arcs through the powder. They were definitely not made by our villain. Bob remembered that two boarders had joined the patrol the week before and were probably setting off on their first run of the day. Our villain had chosen to angel down Bassackwards. Bob smiled, perhaps this would be his undoing.
The Bassackwards trail dips to cross a small stream at the bottom of the Gad Valley. If you don't have enough speed when you cross the valley you will have to push your way up a small hill..
The dip is not a big deal on groomed slopes, but powder offers a more resistance...and sure enough, there was our snowboarder dragging himself along through the snow.
The race was finished. Bob would soon be giving a lecture on safety, and hopefully separating some young jerk from a season pass. He yelled, then skied toward his prey.
There was a flash of light. Bob fell backward!
The snowboarder had vanished. A small hint of steam issued from a bowl shaped hole in the snow where the boarder stood a second earlier.
If Bob had not fallen face first in the snow...he would have seen a bright silver ball appear on the mountain side twenty yards down the slope, and the silhouette of his adversary setting off on the next leg of the chase.
Unfortunately, our hero's bindings released with fall, and poor Bob Slidder found himself in neck deep snow trying to figure out how to remount his skis.
Mounting skis in deep powder is not a simple task. To do this, he had to plant the skis on the snow, and do a precarious balancing act to get on the skis without falling down. An intermediate skier would have taken a good half hour to get back together. Bob was ready to go in five minutes.
The boarder may have regained the lead with the firework display, but Patrolman Slidder had vowed to catch the perp. He was soon back on his skis, and looked like an Olympic champion, with the fresh powder splaying from his sides as he rocketed through the snow.
At the top the lower Bassackwards is a cat track making a small jump. Bob hit it with perfect form. He absorbed the impact with his legs and abdomen, then shot from the road, clearing the snow by no less than a foot.
The viewers from the lift cheered as they saw him execute a perfect landing in an explosion of powder. Once again he absorbed the full energy of the jump in his legs, and translated it back into another set of perfectly executed turns.
The boarder had a good lead. If he was smart, he would already be hiding in the crowd at the Gadzoom lift. But villains rarely exercise native intelligence. Instead of taking the fast run to the lift. The boarder wasted time traversing Big Emma. The boader was heading back to the tram.
With enough speed and a short cut through the trees, Bob would be able to cut the villain off at the pass.
Bob was now on the Wilbur Cutoff headed for the Snowbird lodge. Although marked as a blue square, the Wilbur Cutoff is a short gnarly hill...closer to a black diamond, than a green circle.
Once again, Bob looked down to see our boarder planted face down in the snow. The boarder was dressed in a silver suit, studded with electronic gizmos.
Bob wasn't about to let him escape this time. He would simply ski at full force, and tackle the fool.
The villain looked up. He was typing into some sort of computer consol. Bob skied faster, he was within seconds of catching his prey. The villain tried standing upright, and to his horror began sliding backwards into the trees.
This idiot couldn't control himself going forward down an open slope. There was no hope for the fool as he backward, out of control into a dense forest.
The ski chase was turning into a rescue mission. Bob dove forward to make his tackle...
Bob could remember a flash of bright light. There seemed to be moment of silence as he tumbled head over heels through the snow...
...then there was a thunderish crash. No, it wasn't thunder. It was a loud as lightening splitting a tree. The whole forest shook, and the snow from branches into an instant blizzard.
The world smelled of pine. Bob's instinct was simply to jump to his feet and scramble into the woods where he saw an amazing site.
There, in the middle of the forest, an 80 foot tree had split from its roots to its highest branches. Embedded in the trunk of the tree was the lifeless remains of a middle aged computer programmer. The boarder wore some sort of silver space-aged garb. Clutched in his hands, was the broken remains of a computer keyboard.
The insignia on the space suit read: "Advanced Temporal Transportation Unit. Property of the DOE, Area 51."
The End (thank God)
Hey, I told you at the beginning of this page, that this was a horrifically bad Sci-Fi story. As for the tree thing at the end. Everyone knows that all bad ski stories end with someone running into a tree...Of course, with a teleporter, you wouldn't just run into a tree...you would run "into" the tree.