The Subaru shifts low, working to climb the steepening hill and out of the fog in the valley bottom. I peer through the passenger window at...not much at all, glad I'm not driving as the winding route disappears into the mists. Gradually, slowly, there is a lightening ahead. The fog develops pale blue patches, hints of a clearing to come. The nose of the wagon points forever up, and then we emerge above the clouds into a sparkling winterland.
There hasn't been much snowfall in recent days; December's five metres condensed and settled to a respectable three. The trees cling to a few threatening snow mushrooms that shake off without warning, but mostly the firs and pines thrust skyward in their evergreen hue. Out of the car we remark on the mild temperature, and plans for thick layers get left on the back seat. The air is clear and clean, but not crisp; it feels like April, not the last day of January. The quiet of Thursday on the mountain means everyone is relaxed, not caught up in the bustle of weekend crowds. Under a saturated blue sky we head out from the lodge, crusty snow crunching under our snowshoes as we follow the well-worn path. The sound overrides the peace of an alpine walk, but it's still a pleasant sound of purpose as we wind our way through the alpine meadows and between stands of shaggy trees. The wide flats mark lakes covered in a sturdy layer of ice and snow. I notice spots that I recognize, where the winter trail rides directly on top of summer's boardwalk, and I contemplate how much snow separates the two. Nordic skiers whizz past on the set trails under a blinding sun, and I think "I should do that more often." But not today.
Before long we are climbing back up the gentle slope to the lodge, exchanging our snowshoes for a casual seat and a hearty lunch. There is more to do this afternoon, but for now a belly full and a mountain view feels pretty good.