And with Betty in my moniker, it seems only fitting that the story of my new fiancé’s proposal be peppered with some kind of action and adventure, a story to repeat to the grandkids down the line (waaaay down) while they groaned… When your grandpa decided to propose, he made me walk an hour in snow so deep, it buried me up to my thighs…
The setting: Powder Mountain, Utah.
The date: March 23, 2011.
The conditions: Blizzard followed by bluebird.
There was nothing out of the ordinary when Will booked us a week at Powder Mountain. The snow report looked bleak, but it was our last snowboard trip of the season. We thought we were in for some sunny days cruising on spring corn, maybe a secret little powder stash at best.
But on our first day, the skies sang to us and a massive storm cycle moved across the Wasatch Mountains, dropping a deep blanket of that famous champagne powder.
The beginning of the week saw white-out blizzards that dumped sideways for hours on end. We almost forgot what the sky looked like. On Wednesday, the sun finally peeked over the peaks at sunrise, lighting up the Ogden Valley, and it was the most glorious bluebird day you could imagine. (It turned out to be the only bluebird day all week.) A couple feet of fresh powder had fallen overnight, giving the mountains a shimmery, whipped cream-like texture.
We hopped on a snowcat up to Lightning Ridge, which had been closed the previous days during the storm. I had never ridden a snowcat before and I was beyond excited. We went nearly 1,500 feet up the slope, above the highest chair lift, without even breaking a sweat.
When the cat dropped us off in the middle of this snowy playground, an untracked black diamond bowl with a commanding view of the Wasatch Range, our first thought was… Wait a minute, how do we get up there??
There was yet another peak — James Peak, the highest point on Powder Mountain — whose steep slope gleamed above the valley and promised powder runs of epic proportions. Getting there would mean hiking and ascending another 1,000 feet up — or more accurately, post-holing 1,000 feet.
I’ll preface this next part with an admission that I’m a terrible high-altitude hiker, having lived at sea level all my life. Eventually I always make it, but it’s a slow and sometimes painful process. Last year I hiked to Flute Summit at Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, two days in a row with my snowboard in tow, and each time I felt like I would keel over. It was my first real sidecountry hike that covered any considerable distance, so I was determined to push myself more every year.
For our James Peak ascent, Will took the lead and laid down a boot pack for me. The snow still came up to my thighs and the hill was so steep, it felt like I was climbing a ladder. But the views all around us that morning were so dazzling, they easily distracted me from any doubts about the hike. And the higher I went, the more energized I became. Whether it was the sun warming my cheeks, the crisp air filling my lungs, or a subconscious stoke on what would come next, I felt good vibes the whole way.
By the time we reached the peak an hour later, I was pumped and couldn’t believe I’d made it to the top so painlessly!
I walked along the ridge, taking a hundred pictures and trying to stay warm. With the summit temperature equivalent to an icebox, I was bundled and zipped up so tightly that you could only see my nose. On top of that, what little you could see of my nose, there were icicles hanging off of it from streams of snot that had frozen in mid-air. You can’t get any sexier than that.
Will came around and started chatting about how proud he was of me, how perfect the day turned out to be, how he couldn’t wait to rip down the mountain together, keep doing it when we’re 80 years old, share other epic experiences with me for the rest of our lives… and before I knew it, there he was on one knee, pulling a blue velvet box out of his windbreaker.
My first thought was, Oh, what’s in that, earrings? Followed by… Maybe it’s a necklace. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking clearly at 9,422 feet in the air.
I vaguely remember Will asking, “Will you marry me?” But I couldn’t process it. I stood there for at least five minutes asking him questions:
“Where did you get that ring?”
“Are you serious?”
“Are you sure?”
We hadn’t talked marriage in a long time and I’m not a traditionalist, so it was far, far from my mind. In spite of my shock, I knew that I was sure. After four years together (and five years of friendship before that), we still feel (and often act) like a goofy couple on our honeymoon. We’re already married in spirit. Now we would just have new titles for each other.
Even through his tinted goggles, I could see those eyes smiling back at me.
Finally convinced that this was all real and truly happening, I said yes! I felt, quite literally, on top of the world!
I gave Will a runny-nose kiss and a puffy-marshmallow hug, about as romantic and passionate as you could get under those circumstances. I couldn’t cry because my tears of joy would guarantee to freeze inside my goggles. Then together, we charged down 2,000 feet vertical of the most incredible powder run of my life. It was an effortless glide all the way down, face shot heaven across wide open terrain, so freeing and exhilarating that I can hardly describe the feeling.
As I write this, more than a month after he proposed, I still get goosebumps.
I don’t know if I can ever capture in words how I felt that day in that magical memory with my soul mate. To be surrounded by all that beauty, blessed with a best friend and partner for life, and gifted with one of nature’s most extraordinary experiences — March 23, 2011, will always be an unforgettable day in our book.
I remember how pure everything felt that day, and to call it “that day” doesn’t really do it justice. Our engagement wasn’t about the day, the moment, or the ring (although props to Will for presenting me with a beautiful and meaningful ring that I absolutely adore!). It was the entire experience of sharing something that brought us true happiness and exemplified what we’re all about.
Everything fell into place that day, and even before that day. Unbeknown to me, Will had already asked (and been happily granted) my dad’s permission in person. The vintage heirloom ring had belonged to his great (great?) grandmother, passed down for a couple hundred years to his mom, who had never worn it and simply put it away for safekeeping. He had no plan of when, where or how he would propose on Powder Mountain. He just knew it would be a special adventure, and one of many adventures we’ll share in life together.
And his proposal on a peak turned out to be perfect!