It turned out that I arrived on opening day at Cottonwood Butte, and the conditions were basically perfect. Three to four feet of untouched powder everywhere, except for the prisitine groomers freshly pressed at dawn. I had never used a T-bar style lift before, but I was so eager to get started, I actually made the mistake of driving down the access road before it had been plowed. I did quite well, and made it to the ski area - but I got stuck when I had to stop for the snow plow, and had to put on chains for about 100 yards of driving. It turns out that on a powder-covered road, the Civic can actually float.
Once I got parked properly, I went in to see how the operation was set up. It was before 9am, and opening was scheduled for 10am, so I crawled back into the car and changed into my gear, watching as the locals began to arrive for the morning. After a sufficient mass had gathered, I made my way back to the ticket counter to begin the challenge proper.
I took a moment to watch and observe at the base of the lift, watching others load before taking the plunge. A single called for a partner, and I hopped up and volunteered - and amazingly, I managed to ride the T-bar to the top with no trouble. From there, I followed the crowd to the right, and followed the groomer down the face of the hill, observing the banks of powder to each side of the trail. I tried another groomer for my second run, taking a left at the top of the lift, and found myself stuck on a skate-out traverse. Comfortable that the conditions were awesome, and eager to hit the powder, my third run I went right at the top, and then cut straight down the face of the hill, following some fresh tracks through the three feet of fluff.
I continued to chase the powder from all angles, until I eventually found a spot too flat, and had to hike out. Lunch time. A quick burger at the lodge had me refueled for another 90 minutes of T-bar and powder punishment, at which point I made the call to head to my next stop. The after-lunch rush was a deciding factor, and I simply felt I had see the hill, and should be on my way in time to see the next hill in daylight.