First Encounters

When you make the decision to seek somebody at a certain place, at a certain time, there is always that feeling of wonder: Will they actually be there? As story tellers, we must embrace that feeling.

“The Goo will be on first tram every morning, except Saturday,” the contact page on his website read.

“Or, look for the Goo in his planetary office (the Forklift Restaurant on the Plaza at Snowbird) between 10:45 and 11:30 AM Daily, except Saturday.”

There was no email listed, and no phone number to call. To the Forklift Restaurant it was.

At 10:45 on the dot, we walked into the Planetary Office. Having done a bit of research – which felt more like creeping on a prospect of love – we knew what he looked like. We scanned the restaurant, searching for a distinct mustache that has helped snowbird locals to identify the goo for over 40 years. There he was nestled among a group of friends, surrounded by gray facial hair and black coffee, we found him.

“We’d like to feature you in the first episode of The Locals Project. Would you be interested?” His response was ever-so-short, “sure.” We knew immediately that we were committed. As promised, he was at exact place, at the exact time that he said he would be.

I don’t believe anything, I explore everything.

The Philosophy of Skiing

“Guru” Dave Powers, or “Goo” or “the Goo” for short, skis six days a week and writes an unofficial snow report for Snowbird Mountain Resort, a 40-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake city. Born outside of Boston, MA, Dave Powers was raised Catholic. Despite his strict religious upbringing, Dave was always a seeker. Not content with one view of the world, he studied Comparative Belief Systems at the University of Massachusetts. His teachers didn’t particularly enjoy his perspective on things: “I don’t believe anything, I explore everything.” This yearning for philosophical, cultural, and historical exploration continued well beyond graduation in 1974 and is still his field of endeavor. Everything–from the universe to skiing, to his descriptions of the conditions at Snowbird – is sprinkled with philosophical perspective that the Goo, provided any opportunity, is willing to converse over.

From an early age Dave dreamt about being a skier. Originally he pictured himself moving to a ski town such as Vail or Jackson Hole. Snowbird wasn’t even a flicker in his mind as, to him, it didn’t exist. But as fate would have it, he ran across a couple buddies from high school who insisted that Snowbird was the place that he needed to be. A one-way plane ticket and forty years later, Dave still skis, on average, 130 days out of the year at Snowbird.


Years at Snowbird


Days on the Mountain


Vertical Feet Each Year

His transition out West wasn’t easy on his skiing. Everything he knew back East was wrong. Out here, Dave says, he really learned how to ski. In contrast to the shallow, icy skiing back home, the snow in Utah introduced to him what he aptly calls, the “third dimension” or the “depth parameter.” Back in the days of brakeless skis, where ejecting from your bindings would result in a beating and bruises, with the occasional loose ski rocketing down the pitch. Unused to the steep slopes the Goo was actually originally known as “The Three Turn Scream.” Three turns into the run, he’d be going so fast that he’d blow up at the bottom. He quickly learned that he wasn’t using his edges correctly and that his skis were flying.

Ski industry great and former Director of Skiing at Snowbird, Corkey Fowler taught Dave some visualization techniques to project through his turns and ride a proper flight path. Obviously, today Dave is known for his tight, circular turns. He focuses on his “roundness,” finishing through each of his turns. He attempts to get the most out of each and every turn, working to “extract maximum juiciness…Because, you want as much juice from your life as possible.”

Extracting juiciness is an easily apparent quality of Dave’s outlook on life. This can be be discerned within the first minute of interacting with Dave. His passion for life and commitment to projecting love among those on the journey with him makes for a positive interaction. One can also experience it six days a week in his “Planetary Office,” the Forklift restaurant at the base of the tram. The office is an instrumental aspect of Dave’s life at Snowbird. They have even given him his own coffee mug with a photo of his original season pass on the side. Oh the Forklift, where “all the waitresses were hot. We’d go in there and [they] would bring us coffee and breakfast and sit on our laps, and we’d date them. Now the girls bring us breakfast and coffee. But [now] they carbon date-us.”

A daily breakfast order is placed wordlessly upon his arrival. This is where his nickname, “Guru,” was jokingly conceived after hours upon hours of guru-ing to his friends about some of the most arcane topics (including crop circles, UFOs and conspiracy theories). Despite the fact that it is a typical restaurant, it really is Dave’s office. He even has a business card that reads “Guru Dave Powers, The World’s Foremost Authority on Nothing and Other Things That Don’t Matter.” The Forklift also provides Dave and his friends the opportunity to exchange beta about the day’s conditions. At the core, though, it is about being in one another’s presence. They have all tailored their lives to be there, enjoying each other’s daily company for almost half of a century.

For forty years, Dave has seen changes to the mountain (he gave us super 8mm footage of him and his buddy’s skiing laps on laps of chest-deep powder in Little Cloud Bowl–a place that is now skied out in the first couple minutes of opening), equipment and the people who filter in and out, but one constant remains the same – the tram. The tram is the unifier. “You can arrive any day and it doesn’t matter what time you get the tram, your friends are on the tram. And they’re in the same spot as they always are. That’s part of the thing: to be with your personal friends who you’ve shared a lifetime of experience with.”

To know The Goo is to know eccentricity, passion, love, and awareness.

Jacob Oster

We felt as if we have been friends with Dave forever. After inviting us over to his house one night, we were met with beers, great stories, and an introduction to his love for music. The Goo is a huge Frank Zappa fan and owns every one of his albums. This coincided nicely with Dave’s suggestion to introduce a new slang term, “studio.” Instead of describing something as “dope,” “rad,” etc. he wants to use the word “studio.” We’ll see if it catches on with the youngins.

Seven days of the week, Dave writes his unofficial snow report. Here, readers can further experience his philosophical mind through his reports. One of the reasons we were originally drawn to Dave in the first place was his accuracy and honestly in his reporting. Every night, he lets the day’s skiing “ferment” and around 7:00pm, he writes his piece in a stream-of-conscious manner. Beyond his precise accuracy in detailing the snow condition, weather, wind, and their effects of the quality of the skiing that day, his posts are interestingly entertaining. His verbiage contains descriptions of the snow conditions. Dave relates skiing to a dance. “It is a dance with gravity–the caress.” So any snow that is considered skiable is the “dance floor.” The dance floor can be fast, icy, or ”carve-ilicious” among other terms.

To know The Goo is to know eccentricity, passion, love, and awareness. His “out-there” thinking may lose some people but in our opinion, those people don’t deserve to be in the presence of such glowing energy. If you have ever come across Dave Powers in the line at Snowbird, you know that no matter the day or the condition, he is stoked to be skiing. And if you ever find yourself in line for the first tram, keep an eye out for his signature mustache. Seek him out, he’s approachable. You just might find a new friend in an old soul.

Photos: Will Saunders  Words: Jacob Oster

Click here to watch our feature video on “Guru” Dave.

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Near Salt Lake City, Utah lives a man–grey, full of wisdom and exuberance. A 40-year veteran of Snowbird Mountain Resort, “Guru Dave Powers” knows every inch of the mountain. Beyond his knowledge of and fascinations with more arcane topics like crop circles, UFOs, and the nature of the universe, his background in philosophy provides for interesting perspectives on life, snow, and skiing.

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