I just returned from a three-day whirlwind trip to a few new ski areas in the south of Colorado. It was three days of extreme skiing, mostly for free (thank goodness for that Colorado Real Deal!), and quite a bit of mountain driving. As it turns out, the San Juans, which include most if not all of Colorado’s 14ers, are some pretty badass mountains. Coming from here, where we have “the best bumps in North America” and some pretty legit tree skiing, I thought I was ready for anything. Then I found myself at the top of a nearly-vertical chute, hanging over a cornice, in a legitimate no-fall zone after a thirty-minute hike along a narrow, icy, rocky ridge at 12,500 feet. Thinking about the possibility of death is not even worth it; there’s really no option. If you don’t make the drop, well, you just have to make the drop. Now, I’ve almost hit my fair number of trees, and become intimate with not too few tree wells. I’ve dropped off small boulders and skied thigh-deep powder. But nothing — literally, nothing — I’ve ever done prepared me for what I did this week. It was skiing on entirely new and entirely unfamiliar terrain, skiing of a completely different style. It was breathtakingly beautiful and thrillingly dramatic. It is thoroughly empowering, to face nature of this caliber and live to tell the tale. And I can’t wait to do it again.