ON APRIL 7, nearly 400,000 Americans had already been stricken with COVID-19 since the disease was first detected on U.S. soil in February 2020. Of those, 12,757 had died from it—and yet that was just the beginning. Entire swaths of the economy were shut down, including every ski area in the United States. At my grocery store in Jackson, Wyoming, the canned goods and TP and paper-towel aisles had been ransacked as if the apocalypse was coming. People were nervous and scared, uncertain about public health, if they would be able to pay their bills, or when they could send their children back to school. In Bozeman, Montana, my mom was battling a chronic illness that had worsened under the stress of the pandemic. My family couldn’t travel to go see her, let alone visit her in the hospital. She was isolated and alone, and we prayed that she wouldn’t die without any of us to hold her hand.
April 7 was also a Tuesday, the most unremarkable day of the week, and I went skiing. With Grand Teton National Park closed to all visitors, and lifts not running at the local ski areas, the options were limited. Teton Pass was seeing record numbers of backcountry users—a bona fide shitshow—so I avoided it. That left Snow King, a steep little ski area that forms the backdrop of town. A group of locals had raised a few thousand bucks to pay Snow King to groom one run twice a week through the month of April. As long as people were responsible and socially distant, the ski area would remain accessible to those who wanted to hike up and ski down.