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Map Quest

God love the U.S. Geological Survey. Send it 12 bucks and six weeks later a cardboard tube arrives in the mail containing the quadrangles of winter—Arc Dome, South Toiyabe Peak, Bakeoven Creek, Sacramento Pass…maps, guides to a remote and rarely skied corner of the West, renewed inspiration for a little backcountry trip I have planned for next March.

The tube arrived about an hour ago. If I manage this right, I’ll be able to spend the rest of the afternoon crawling around on my office floor, plotting the route, measuring contour lines, guessing at what’s skiable and what isn’t—and not do a lick of work for the rest of the day.

Mags have an amazing power to stop me in my tracks, topographical maps in particular, topo maps of mountains even more so. The pull is magnetic and inevitable.

I’ve thought a lot about why maps have so much power over me, and I think, more than anything else, it’s because they symbolize potential, and in potential, motion. In their squiggly little lines they hold all the world’s mountains, all the world’s skiing. In maps, I can see myself skiing the rugged backcountry of Wyoming, the sacred peaks of the Himalayas, the endless glaciers of Greenland. In maps, everything is possible.

And in maps…you can dream.

Dreaming is a lot of what this issue’s about. These adventures to the faraway places of the world—like Greenland, Spitsbergen Island, and the Japanese Alps—don’t just happen. They usually start with a spin of the globe, a glance at an atlas, and a “what if…” Then, when the idea has a little substance to it, a dream unfolds. Sometimes—more often than not—that’s as far as it gets. Sometimes, that’s all you want. But sometimes, when you’re lucky and you work real hard, you’ll find yourself standing on a spot you thought you’d only imagine. That’s a lot of what this issue’s about, too.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to avoid.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.4, December 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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