Cold comfort

As the ultimate wintry embrace marked by December's solstice draws near, it's a magical time to head to the hills to make some turns. Yes, rocks will be hit, and bases scraped and gouged. Frostbite conditions will be endured, and highly varied, questionably stable snowpack is a given. But there's nothing quite like the stoke of the ski season's first days, where it just feels so right to subject one's self to sub-optimal conditions. Here's a look at December from on high: