I complain about lousy skiing. That doesn't tell you much about me until I tell you what I think lousy skiing is. I pretty much inherited my judgment about ski conditions from my father, who by my conservative estimation skied about 5,000 days in his life. I don't believe he criticized a single one of them. I am only slightly more discriminating.
Give me wind and subzero temperatures and I'll be in Heaven. Flat light? That's not a problem. It makes you subtle on your skis. Ice? That's good for perfecting the carve. Wind slab? It's great for physical conditioning and balance. I even go up when it's raining because I find the novelty invigorating.
So, why does it seem like I'm always complaining about the conditions? It's because I can't stand thin snow on the rocks, and the last few seasons we've had plenty of that. Sticks and stones hurt my bones.
Most likely, the reason I get riled by the mix of rock and snow is because I am a cheapskate. Skiing in a bad snow year is way more expensive. I head to the slopes almost as often, but I don't ski for as long. Even the most patient ski bum eventually tires of grinding edges against the schist sticking out of the snow on every third or fourth turn. This makes the cost per vertical foot rise like the price of gasoline at the Snowmass Conoco on Labor Day weekend.
When you get tired of dodging rocks, you can head to the manmade snow and give your bases a rest, but that gets old. For the cost of a lift ticket at a resort that boasts of a zillion acres of skiable terrain, I feel cheated when I'm confined to a couple of patches of the finest hard-pack modern technology can produce.
Then there's the damage to the skis. In case you haven't checked, skis are expensive. In bad conditions on good runs, you can destroy a pair of skis in one day, a half day if you aren't careful. I enjoy heading out to the workbench and working on my skis as much as the next diehard. Cheap beer and rich music while you file your edges is a relaxing way to spend a winter's evening when the kids are out and the wife is in the middle of a good book inside by the fire. But, turning this into a nightly obligation leads to concerns about excessive drinking, hearing loss, and puts a hell of a lot of stress on an otherwise good marriage. More tuning than turning makes Jack a dull boy!
I know there are people who scoff at this. I know there are those who say if you search hard enough you can find good skiing along the edges of runs and in caches less carved. I know many people find contentment counting vertical feet lapping Spar Gulch on the artificial snow. But, none of this is what skiing is about to me. The bang for my buck comes from letting my skis roam and run. I want to go fast and turn through the trenches. I want to ski the runs I want to ski, not the ones I think will do the least damage to my boards. But, that's neither here nor there when the snow is thin.
Now, here's the final burr on my edge, and then I'll let you get back to P-texing. I prepaid for this skimpy snow covering at the same price they charge for prime champagne powder. I got excited and bought my pass early. In other words, it costs me as much to ski the rocks and stumps as it costs me not to ski them. So, I might as well ski them! Terrible logic, I know, but somehow it motivates me, and that irritates me.
I'm not blaming Skico or the weatherman, and I'm not suggesting either of them do anything differently, except maybe the weatherman might chill out a little in predicting 2 feet of snow every other day only to leave us high and dry. There's nothing anyone can do. I'm sort of an adult and I kind of realize this. But, what I am not going to do is turn my wishful thinking into attempts at convincing myself that I'm not getting ripped off on my skiing time and money in a lean snow year. The only other option is to get out on the slopes often and complain.
Roger Marolt knows you can find good snow on lean years; it's just not on any good runs. Contact him at email@example.com.