location: strawberry mountain wilderness
backstory: this photo may resonate most with cross-country (nordic, backcountry) skiers. al piste is french for off trail.
a lot of cross-country skiing is done at ski resorts or recreation areas. often the terrain is flat and the trails are well groomed and maintained. this scene is off trail. no grooming. plenty of steep hills and no easy access. that's what makes it so enjoyable.
at 7500' elevation, 60" base with 18" of fresh powder, these are the conditions backcountry skiers dream about. often, it takes some effort to get here. (see tree spirit for details of getting to this spot.) it is about 5 miles of skiing and 1500' elevation climb along forest service roads to the wilderness border. then, it's plenty of open spaces and deep powder, allowing treks to unfold to... wherever.
what calls most loudly to me is the freedom provided by off trail skiing. break your own trail. ski to that viewpoint over there. find the most interesting way to get there. or, my favorite, just wander around. it's beyond the road less traveled, there's not even a road. this area, particularly in winter, is conducive for these kinds of treks. there's a little more space.
on a cold winter day, bright sun against deep blue background, big white snowflakes swirling in the sky, there is a joy found when spirit runs free, skiing along ridges and down slopes, following the call of al piste.