Snowboarding on Schweitzer

Midway+run+at+Schweitzer+Mountain+on+Jan.+14.

LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen

Midway run at Schweitzer Mountain on Jan. 14.

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen editor-in-chief

At the top of the main slope above the Schweitzer Mountain Resort lodge, about 50 skiers and snowboarders gathered after dark on Saturday for the annual torch run.

They talked and laughed in the biting mountain air. A few shouted improvised chants to each other across the crowd. One man tucked his flares under his armpits, pretending they were rocket boosters.

After a while, a resort employee announced over the buzz that it was time to begin. He lit his flare and extended it toward the nearest skier. From their flares, sparks of light sprung up across the hill like spot fires.

The flames soon reached the far edges, and the group funneled slowly into a single-file line. Seated in the center of the huddle, I cheered with the rest as our forerunners began their descent. The flares dripped scalding liquid as we waited and I held mine at arm’s length.

When my turn came I rose and merged into the line. We snaked across the snow in long arcs. From the lodge our procession would have looked like a monstrous, blazing sidewinder.

During the day, the horizon opens out over Lake Pend Oreille from the peaks of Schweitzer. The sun rises low and first lights the lake and the highest ridges. But when it sets, and the torches illuminate just a few feet in every direction, you can see little beyond the glowing path carved out ahead.

Dozens of passes quickly turned the path to ice, and we rode close together. I focused hard on my movements and the ground around me and forgot everything else.

When we reached the bottom, I held my flares for a moment before dipping them into the snow to extinguish them. We turned around to see the last of our group join us and cheered them in as the fireworks show began.

I watched for a moment as they burst high overhead and then left to get my free beer, complimentary with the torch run. I ordered a Deschutes Black Butte Porter from a man in the beer-barrel-shaped trailer and drank it as I searched the throng for my friends.

I found them just in time for a final run on the only lighted slope. We grabbed our boards, and as we rushed to the lift I gulped the last of my beer, half-frozen by now and crisp with flaky ice.

As we boarded the lift I looked to my right and saw the slope I had just descended with a flaming stick in each hand, now dark and empty and still.

Cody Cottier is a junior communication and philosophy double major from Chimacum. He can be contacted at 335-3194 or by editor@dailyevergreen.com.