First Light

Author: Lily Krass, FOW // Photos by Max Ritter (@rax_mitter)

Where would you rather be at 6 AM? Grand Tetons, WY. 

The soft swoosh of skins on snow lulls in me into a comfortable rhythm as I make my way through the dark forest. It’s pleasantly quiet—6 AM quiet—and the piercing light from my headlamp on the trail in front of me serves as my only reality, allowing my mind to break free from the fast-pace reality that awaits me down in the valley. 

We push on, dwarfed by the lanky shadows of droopy trees, frosted like sugar cookies with the weight of the 5-inch refresh we scored overnight. My legs are exhausted from a week of pre-dawn ski tours and carving out a path through the new snow is arduous. But each step is a step closer to the silky smooth treasure that we’re about to sink our skis into. It’s funny how easily we can look past our own fatigue when the carrot of untracked powder is dangled in front of us.

We pop out from the dense cluster of trees we’ve been picking our way through just as the soft buzz of orange begins to glow across the horizon. A wide open canvas of golden snow greets us as we near our high point. Glancing down at our lone car in the parking lot reminds me that we’re the lucky few to enjoy the Tetons at such a rare hour of solitude. 

The morning's sweet kiss of first light. Grand Tetons, WY. FOW: Lily Krass 

After a few more steps, the glimmer of the day’s first light pierces through the clouds, warming my cheeks and illuminating the untouched slope above us. We stop walking, rip skins, and pass around a few homemade oatmeal cookies and some hot ginger tea while we discuss our route down. Not a bad place to be standing at 7:30 in the morning.

Pairs well with friendship and cold conditions. Grand Tetons, WY. FOW: Lily Krass 

A dawn patrol ski tour is a special thing to share with someone. I’ve found that the best skintrack conversations I’ve had are often in the freezing cold morning air while we’re waiting for the sun to peak out from the shadows of the hills around us. In the busy world we live in, carving out a few peaceful moments to reconnect with friends, new or old, isn’t always easy. But when you can find friends who are willing to get up before the sun to indulge in a few fresh turns before work—those are friends to hold on to. 

Unable to resist our perfect pitch of well-earned powder any longer, we silently put our thermoses away, crank down our boots, and push off to reap the rewards of an early morning. Contagious whoops and hollers echo around me as we bob in and out of the trees, and I forget how tired my legs are as we chase each other down the steep, golden hillside. 

With skins ripped and bellies full of tea, it's time to party. Grand Tetons, WY. FOW: Lily Krass 

Back at the car, the sun has climbed high into the sky and we hastily trade high fives before hustling back to town to start the day. Giddy with the rush of our near-perfect lap, we part ways, riding the high of our morning until the inevitable 4 p.m. slump comes along as the workday creaks to a stop. 

I think a sunrise on skis just may be the best possible way to start any day. 

And the best thing about sunrises? They happen every day. 

- Lily Krass, FOW