Notes from the Road: The Official Rules of a Powder Day


Two things characterized my first winter in Montana’s Yellowstone Country: I didn’t have a car (yes, I biked. All. Winter. Long.) and I bought my first-ever ski pass.

That first year, I enjoyed my time working at a magazine during the week, trying to get to know Yellowstone Country as well as I could by bike, and skiing happily on the weekends.

And when, sometime in January, the Snow Gods sent 21 inches of snow to Bridger Bowl overnight on a Wednesday, I wistfully gazed at the snow-capped peaks and did what I had done so many times during the work week back on the East Coast: I biked my butt to the office.

Except the door was locked.

And it was 10am.

And no one on staff was answering their phones.

By the time I realized what was going one, it was almost lunchtime and, without a car, I had no chance of heading up to enjoy some smooth turns. I spent my first official Yellowstone Country Powder Day sitting in a stairwell, dressed head to toe in spandex biking gear, sweating my makeup off and cursing my naïveté.

Be ye not so uninformed as me and know the ropes before you go. Knowledge, they say, is most definitely power.


The Rules of a Powder Day

1) The first rule of a Powder Day: You do not talk about the Powder Day. You simply send a text (the earlier the better) and get your butt ready.

2) If you have to call out of work, it’s best to have a running list of excuses. You don’t want to be contracting chicken pox again or killing your dog for a 3rd time. But before you go inventing illnesses and creating phony alibis, be aware that most of the folks you’re calling are gonna be on to you and your equivocation, anyway.

3) There are quite literally no friends on a powder day. That said, if you’re not out the door when we honk, we will leave. And we only honk once.

4) There is no such thing as "stopping for coffee" on the way. Don’t even ask.

5) Powder days are rare and magical unicorns. They are meant for hard skiing, from first chair to last chair. They are not meant for office team building, new friend bonding or impressing your new lady with your sweet moves. If you suddenly find yourself atop a run with all your friends already halfway back to the chair, do not take it personally. It’s not you; it’s the pow.

6) Lunch breaks are for wimps. Carry snacks, preferably ones that lend themselves well to being tumbled on, should you take a spill. I’ve heard stories of parents feeding their kids an entire meatball sandwich on the chairlift so they didn’t have to miss a run. That’s not questionable parenting, that’s dedication.

7) Pay attention. The downhill skier has the right of way so try not to bum rush anyone on skinny cat tracks or try to snag a line that someone else is already bombing. There’s enough snow for everyone. Share the mountain.

8) Skiing powder is unlike skiing on anything else. Though this is less of a rule and more of style advice, if you’re not used to skiing in it, you might have to check your ego a bit, lest you take a spill and end up face first in the newly drifted snow (though that’s pretty awesome too).

And there you have the rules of a powder day. Anything else you’ve learned that we didn’t cover? Leave a comment below.