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Backstory: Seasoning in Ski Boots

I eat my breakfast of oats quickly while standing up. At the same time, I make myself a to-do list: dishes; peach-ginger cake for dessert; roasted tomato soup for après; marinated pork for dinner; granola for tomorrow. As the cook at a Canadian ski lodge, I aim to make great food each day, but I also aim to be in my ski boots and out the door as fast as possible. My morning in the kitchen is a riotous dance with cooking implements and ingredients, and is usually punctuated by short conversations about the day’s ski objectives with my boyfriend and lodge custodian, Evan.

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[Illustration] Alex Nabaum

Guests are flown in by helicopter to our lodge’s 7,000-foot, tree-line perch, and they spend a week exploring the nearby terrain. I spend 10 hours a day cooking for up to 18 people, trying to stay ahead of everyone’s daily caloric output with freshly baked cookies, cream sauces and warm Brie. Between that and whatever time I spend in a deep slumber, I also ski for about six hours each day.

With my morning’s work complete at 10 a.m., I switch from apron to ski gear. I meet Evan outside the lodge’s front door, and we opt for “the usual”—four treed runs totaling 5,000 vertical feet. The route can be condensed if we are short on time, but the last run, S-Squared, is the best and the longest.

As we skin from the lodge, I calculate that we have five hours to be back in time to heat the soup and lay out brie and grapes before the guests return from their day in the Quiver, a tree-line bowl with nice skiing and better views.

Our first two runs (The Siege and Tree Beard) are short, and we reach the bottom of the second just before noon. We eat a snack and talk a little but are mostly quiet as I sort through the finer points of the evening’s menu.

The third run, The Gauntlet, is gentle and features beautifully spaced trees. With Evan a few turns behind, I ski it in one shot. I stop thinking about food and focus on finding open alleys amid the conifers.

Now, well below our starting point, I glance at my watch, which tells me I have three hours before I need to return to the kitchen. The conservative choice would be to bear toward the lodge and save S-Squared for another day.

“S-Squared?” Evan asks with a smile, referring to the 2,000-foot shot that would bring us right back to this place and put me in a serious après-meal-preparing time crunch.

“Yup,” I reply, too excited by the thought of the run to answer otherwise.

We rush to the top of S-Squared and rip skins like skimo racers, without removing skis. Evan skis first and stops halfway in a cluster of trees to spot me. I ski from top to bottom, partly for the sheer fun of it and partly to get the melted Brie on the table on time. At the bottom, I note that we have an hour and a half until the guests return. In the name of hungry bellies and timely apps, I again channel my inner uphill racer and charge back to the lodge. At familiar points along the way, I check my watch, wondering how much longer I can keep the furious pace and if I will beat the guests back. When I reach the lodge, I spot the guided group in the distance, returning from a different direction. They are 15 minutes out.

Still in my ski boots, I rush into the kitchen, tie an apron over my snow pants, toss my altimeter on the windowsill and light the element under a soup-filled stockpot. I top a wheel of Brie with peach salsa and slide it into the oven, then sprinkle some thyme into the tomato soup.

As the first guest walks in the door, I am garnishing a cheese platter with a bunch of grapes.

“Great day out there!” he exclaims. I couldn’t agree more.

Everybody has a Backstory

What’s better than postponing après for a 2,000-foot, bonus powder run? How about a four-course, backcountry meal after six hours in the skintrack? Sometimes skiing isn’t just about skiing, and if you have a story of healthy hut living or choosing powder over dinner, we want to hear it. For a chance to be published, e-mail yours to sean@backcountrymagazine.com subject titled “Backstory.”

This story first appeared in the October 2014 issue. To subscribe, click here.

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