today is Nov 28, 2021

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 (49.2) issue of POWDER.

Crammed among gallons of ice cream and sides of beef, we shut the door of the walk-in behind us. Our frosted breath filled the small freezer as we giggled; we were pretty sure our maître d’, Sam, wouldn’t find us in here.

It was mid-February in Alta and the snow wouldn’t stop falling. Guests at the lodge were missing flights, the chairs weren’t spinning, and anxiety mixed with the staff’s anticipation of skiing bottomless powder in a wildly unproductive collision of mischief.

Over the past 48 hours, we couldn’t breathe without bumping elbows with crabby guests and, subsequently, crabbier-by-the-moment staff. On top of it all, we weren’t sleeping. The cocktail of altitude and round-the-clock Howitzer and hand charge blasts left us bleary-eyed and restless. Late dinner shifts bled into dreams of forgetting to fire entrees, which, in turn, bled into early breakfast shifts. We were locked inside, but the storm was relentless.

The thick blankets of snow threatened maximum interlodge conditions: Not only could we not go outside, but we would have to sequester ourselves in the protected half of the lodge. Luckily this included the bar upstairs, which distracted the guests, and the walk-in, which allowed us to hide from them. Dinnertime came, and a cyclone of irk came with it. We waited. We waited for one of the guests to rope Sam into a one-sided conversation about their son’s finance program. We bolted to the walk-in.

Grabbing an ice ax off the wall from the lovable but ramshackle frat-house dorms above the freezer, we pushed by the emergency exit with its sign that read, “It is absolutely prohibited to urinate outside this door. If you have questions about this, we would welcome the opportunity to talk with you,” and into the frosty haven of the freezer.

The five of us were waiters, skiers, people who decided to keep the harsh realities of life at bay for just a little while longer. Honestly, if we could keep skiing bone-dry powder with our closest friends, three hots and a cot for the rest of our days, we would.

With rumors buzzing that the storm might ebb in the a.m., we toasted the morning to come with hastily procured, state-approved 3.2 percent beer. We punctured the base of the cans with the ax, cracked the tabs, and guzzled the foamy morale boost. Eventually, we reminded ourselves, we would ski; we would sleep; we were here because we couldn’t bear to be anywhere else. As we slipped back into the dining room with trays of soups, Sam was still jawing with the guests. We didn’t miss a beat, but we weren’t slick, either. As we packed up tablecloths and wiped down the surfaces at the end of the night, Sam bumped me. “Next time, send me an invite.”

That night, for the first time in ages, I slept— long, deep, dreamless. I awoke to dozens of people filling the locker room beside my tucked-away dorm. Amid a cascade of boots, gear, and buzzing skiers, I heard the news: Interlodge was about to lift; the road up to the resort wouldn’t open until tomorrow. We had the place all to ourselves.

Better get my boots.

Jake Stern is the assistant editor at POWDER. He may be taking your order at Alta again soon.

Get your copy of the Winter 2020 issue here.