Marolt: The worst day of skiing in history! (or at least this season)
Last Monday was the worst day of skiing in 10 years, maybe longer. Now, before you all start trying to out-Aspen one another by saying things like, “That was a super-fantastic day!” keeping your streak of claiming that every day here is “awesome” in hopes of morphing into a local character because of your ever-positive attitude, just consider that, despite your hard blowing of hot air, the fact is that one day in the past 10 years on the slopes has to be the worst and all I’m saying is I think Monday was it.
If you will recall, it was a snow day for the school kids. That’s usually superintendent code for “powder day for one and all because, by golly, we’ve earned it. Our teachers don’t get paid enough and our kids take too many tests and we’ve got a couple of these contingencies built in to the schedule, so let’s take this act of God and go skiing!”
In our house a snow day is the simple pleasure of life that makes the place hop. It’s like we rise from the bed and find ourselves in heaven. We eat fast and drink hot, caffeinated beverages hard, even the kids, not because we need them, but to keep the urgency of the moment relevant. We scramble. We raise our voices and run our words together. We coax each other into such frenzy that we hang on to keep our sanity and manners together.
When we got news that the wind was in a dangerous battle with the ski lifts and the lifties only had the ability to shut one of them down, to say that this is a “bummer” or that it “stinks” short-changes our emotions by $10 bills instead of nickels. Nonetheless, if you can’t go skiing because the lifts aren’t running, you can’t honestly declare it a crappy ski day, can you?
No, the making of a crappy ski day is when they finally open the lifts around noon and run them at half-speed despite the gales still jostling the gondola cars because it would be a bear balancing the books — which might even require staff overtime — after giving back all those refunds to tourists who already bought their tickets when there was still hope.
So my sweet daughter, still clinging to the impossible dream of skiing guilt-free when she would otherwise be sitting in physics class, texts me at 1 after I’ve capitulated and am sitting in my office, despondent: “Let’s go take a run!” I text back, “LOL.” She types, “Seriously.” And I tap “OK.”
The gondola crept to the top of the mountain in 45 minutes as the wind moaned through the trees on Bell Mountain, threatening to blow our car into passing towers and swinging us back and forth haphazardly through the spans between as if the lift was having a nightmare about being The Zipper ride at a local fair in honor of the founding father of some backwater Wisconsin town.
The top of the mountain was cold and barren, just like the rest of it. Most of the powder had scrambled for the trees. The flakes that couldn’t outrun the tempest hunkered down in thick drifts (that is what you call a pack of snowflakes, right?) between icy moguls and hoped for the best. A few on the surface continued to scramble between gusts and created a ground blizzard so the slopes took on the appearance of a blanket of smoke. We could not see the tips of our skis, much less what they were skidding over and diving beneath.
At the bottom of Lift 3, my daughter mumbled through numb lips that the tip of my nose was as white as, well, the snow and appeared to be just as frozen. The lift ran slower than the gondola, but we were glad, at least, to be swinging violently much lower to the ground.
The last run of the day, which was only our second, was no cause for joy, but an experiment in survival. The Ridge of Bell became the test of all time and whittled our mettle to a breaking point. Slalom Hill was far worse after that because we were tired and so close and yet so far from being done.
At home, I confessed to my wife. “As far as skiing goes, it was not the best of times.” And after a short reflection, “But, it was better than anything else I could have been doing at the time.”
Roger Marolt strives for truth in ski reports. Email at email@example.com.
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