Roger Marolt: The joy of being a tourist
Can residents experience the thrill of tourist on vacation?
There was a group of young women at the top of Long Shot on a recent Friday afternoon. I guessed they were sorority girls on spring break. I eavesdropped on their conversation, which wasn’t hard because they were wound up with emotion, spreading love and joy far and wide. I think alcohol was involved. It doesn’t mix well with hypoxia but may ease the pain of sunburned cheeks.
“All right, ladies,” one of them announced. “Is everyone ready? Here’s to the last ski run of the year.” She raised a ski pole and the rest of the Debutante Dozen held theirs high, too, forming an aluminum pyramid above their heads. There were sniffles and moans — not the kind elicited by a day of drudgery like I was feeling taking a sanity break from shuffling tax returns, but of sentimental longing for the week that had inexplicably passed in the blink of a margarita-puffed eye.
We might chuckle a little at this scene. That’s too bad.
It’s that feeling we all know at the end of a special vacation when we can no longer deny the special time is coming to an end and we may never pass this way again — and even if we do, this magic will be impossible to reproduce. Of course this is nonsense. The next vacation will replace the current one as “best trip ever,” but we do not think of this in the moment of saying “adios” to the truncated beach bum lifestyle that has bleached our hair with the aid of a little lemon juice. We rather prefer to believe we have summitted the pinnacle of our lives in harmony and it is all downhill from here, beginning with a flight on United Airlines tomorrow morning at 7:05 a.m.
Thankfully, I and my local superiority complex got flowing down the trail before their sentimental tears dried. But the scene continued to haunt me for the entirety of the interminable ride back up Two Creeks lift and the glide across Adams Avenue back to my car, which was on the verge of clasping a parking ticket under its windshield wiper in the 90-minute lot back at the Snowmass Mall.
What I had seen at the top of that run was the embodiment of the idea that the exuberance visitors experience cannot be had for residents. The truth is that tourists probably get more out of a week of skiing than we do in an entire season.
In an honest quality-versus-quantity analysis, they get the shot of excitement and we drink the daily table wine and try to make up for its diluted effect through volume.
They come and forget everything for a while, focusing completely on taking advantage of every second. We get out when we can, watching the clock, pressured to get in as many turns as we dare before its time to get back to doing whatever we do to pay the mortgage and save for the kids’ college educations.
Yes, we love to ski. We are generally better at it than those passing through from parts more suited to golf and tennis. We talk about it more. We invest more in gear. We get 100-day pins for the junk drawer. We even craft lifestyles and stock the shelves of mental libraries with tall tales from it. But we don’t have the spark that comes from a little voice inside that says, “You got one week. Go for it!”
Don’t get me wrong: I love to ski. I don’t get bored, but I have to measure skiing out by the hour to preserve my enthusiasm. I don’t dare set a goal for the number of days I will ski for the season. At this point in my skiing life I am afraid attaching any hint of obligation to it will sink it to the bottom of my to-do list. Pure desire is what I want for motivation. Enthusiasm for skiing, like anything else, is not limitless. Teenagers and tourists doubt this, but, if you are serious about being a ski bum, you have to spread that finite amount of verve over the number of years you want to still be doing it. You have figured correctly when skiing starts to feel more like a habit than an event. With skiing, it’s better to fade away than burnout. Then you pray you have genetically strong knees or that orthopedic surgical advances can keep up with you.
Roger Marolt knows that tourists are sad on their last day of skiing for the year and we have a big party on ours. Email him at email@example.com.