Roger Marolt: The new year will arrive a little later than usual |

Roger Marolt: The new year will arrive a little later than usual

The great irony of COVID-19 is that while we’re all in this together, there is no safety in numbers.

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic
Roger Marolt for the Snowmass Sun
Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun

There are many suggestions for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic: wear a mask, keep at least 6 feet of separation from humans and bats, and limit social gatherings.

The safest size for group activities now is zero. Any other number is someone’s compromise in a quick and dirty weighing of risk versus maintaining sanity. Six? Sounds great. A half-dozen people in the living room for the big game sounds reasonable. We don’t even have to ask where any have been or with whom they were there with.

I have a rule of thumb to decide which pandemic activities to undertake: If the plan feels anything like normal, it isn’t the right thing to do. “Normal” is the new “creepy,” and anything that makes you forget about the coronavirus for a few minutes — from sniffing glue to going out for dinner — means you have put yourself in harm’s way.

In the event you find yourself in this circumstance, immediately stop what you are doing, tense your shoulders and hyperventilate until worry sets in again. Honestly, until you can get a vaccination, this is the only way to ensure you will not contract this illness. Survival instinct will guide you to the right place. It’s the reason evolution exists.

This brings me to the topic of skiing this holiday season. It feels nothing like normal to me, and I am wondering if this is because of thin snow or thick virus. If this discontent is due to coronavirus measures on the mountain, I’m feeling better about feeling a little off my nut making turns. If it’s due solely to drought conditions, then I feel I have to work a little harder to get my worry on in order to stay safe up there.

On the one foot, I am skiing slower than normal so that I can hopefully spot the biggest rocks exposed on the runs before hitting them and destroying what’s left of the edges on my rock skis (formerly known as the best pair of skis I have ever owned). On the other, an N-95 mask feels like it induces hypoxia when I’m skiing into the lift line maze after getting my heart rate up on the way down.

Of course, the answer for the former issue is to stick to the groomers covered with manmade snow/ice, while the solution for the latter is to call a neck gaiter a “mask” and pretend that it works fine to keep virus out even though your breath passes through without fogging your goggles. If you wore this in the summer on a bike ride, bumble bees could fly through it.

It’s funny, in a strange kind of way, when you look out across the slopes these festive days and see so many skiers out there convinced that they are being safe in numbers. The great irony of COVID-19 is that while it is true that we are all in this together, the solution is not to be found in a group project. Holding hands and singing is not the answer. The very best anyone can do is live like a hermit and, even then, one would have to venture out now and again to get supplies, whether those are groceries or a sharpening stone to make arrowheads for hunting or some flint and steel to light a fire for roasting your kill.

I don’t think everyone feels completely safe on the semi-crowded slopes these days. Otherwise I would not have overheard a group in the gondola line justifying exposing themselves to the risk of coming down with this insidious bug while on the slopes by comparing it to the inherent dangers normally involved with skiing. They came to the conclusion that, either way, we take chances on the slopes, so what the heck? Keeping my nose under my own mask, I didn’t point out the expansion of odds for catastrophe by tempting both sets of risk during the same outing.

I am joyful we have skiing over the holidays, and I hope I don’t get the coronavirus. Joy and hope: that’s the holiday spirit. I’ve made it this far and am determined to get to the end of this historical episode to say that I never had it and absolutely did not pass the pathogen to anyone else in the long chain of sickness and death. I’m sorry I had to tell another single who wanted to ride the gondola with me, “no chance.” It wasn’t kind, but it was compassionate.

Roger Marolt will celebrate the new year in the middle of March when, hopefully, we will step out from the tunnel and into the blindingly bright light at the end of it. Email him at


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