Editor’s Note: In this guest column, two DCSki readers chime in with different perspectives on the start of the ski season. Kevin Rice starts off by waxing poetic on the plight of the DC Skiers. Then, Jarrett Baker chimes in by describing what it’s like to be a skier… living in Florida. (No, other than Space Mountain, not many mountains there…)
For the DC-skier, DC is not an ideal ski town. Instead, DC is really a summer town, with beachers and boaters, hiker and bikers - and all the sorts of things that you can’t do too much of in winter.
I can’t fault my fellow DC-ites for this; we do live next to the one of the largest bays in the world, the beaches are close by and the fact that it is dang warm most of the year does not help the skier’s cause. And even us skiers must admit, although in whispers only, that we may actually partake in such things ourselves as well.
So for the DC-skier, this means that we ourselves have to have a moment when skiing comes to mind. An epiphany of skiing, if you will. A moment when the mind stops its warm weather trance and leaps out and grabs itself and says “SKI…”
When this happens, when for no reason at all there’s a sense that the ski season is just around the corner, then the skier in us is reborn. But as soon as this happens, it starts to fade, there’s still that one last quick trip to the beach, the fall hike, the long bike ride, or maybe that last boat trip. And skiing like moguls on that unseasonably warm winter day, melts back into the recesses of your mind…
Sometime after this, well after maybe, the end of summer turns into fall and with it the short daylight this time of year brings. It crowds into the brain, sapping our strength from us. We get up in darkness, no early morning sunrise to wonder at, and come home in darkness, 8 p.m. sunset experiences to see.
No, it’s just one long darkness with a sliver of light stuck somewhere in-between, that’s all we get. It’s during this time that the DC skier wakes up one day and rebels against those claustrophobic confines - with a jolt his mind says “it’s time to SKI!”
After this the ski fantasizing starts, those gentle easy greens, the tougher blues, and steeps from the past all come rushing back to mind. Runs not taken, runs taken that you wish you hadn’t, spills, chills, frills… it’s all there. I mean I am one dang great skier in my fantasies, I don’t know about you! This works for a bit; it helps. The snow isn’t anywhere nearby but it holds you for a while. We fantasize and we wait…
Then something happens, almost like a rumor but it’s not. Someplace you’ve heard of, someplace you know how to get to gets some snow. It might be Killington, or it might be Utah or Vail or maybe someplace farther afield - but you know where it is, and more importantly you know HOW to get there!
But even more importantly than that, what this means is that you COULD GO SKIING! It’s no longer a theory anymore; it’s suddenly turned into something real. You could go skiing TOMORROW. But like everything, there’s always something standing in your way - the hustle and bustle of life is more acute this time of year. So you feed the desire as best you can.
Resort web pages are checked and re-checked - anybody getting MORE snow? Weather patterns are contemplated: “If only that dang jet stream would behave we’d have 10 feet of snow right here, right now!”
Plane flights, hotels, trains, bus routes, friends, family and ski pals - all are checked and rechecked, cost-ed and accosted.
“Hey, wanna go skiing?? Hey what about the 2nd weekend in … Wha’dya mean you can’t ‘cause Aunt Sallie is coming in to town? Hello, priorities… ” My poor friends. Expectation and frustration mount, everything that stands in your way from skiing must be visited and re-visited. “How many hours again do I have left on vacation? What? Are you sure there hasn’t been a mistake?” “You say there’s a project deadline - I mean like there really is one?” “Say that again Miss, you say it costs money to go to your resort? Are you sure ‘bout that ‘cause I just called Your Big Competitor and they said it was free this year through that date.”
A lot of energy is spent here, it’s like you don’t really believe you’ll ever go skiing again unless you personally deliver winter to the rest of us. “Dear Friend, Merry Christmas. I found this at a little specialty shop I know. It’s something really, really extraordinary so try not to open it early…” Hint.
The first day of the season surprisingly starts like any other. You get up, you get your breakfast, you get ready and you leave and go someplace else. Sound familiar? But there’s often one big difference, you have to get up vastly earlier than you normally do during the week! There oughta be a law against this really - some national law that weekends must officially start later than weekdays. But there isn’t and you want to go skiing and that means you have to get there and that means you have to get up early!
Up super-early, and you throw the skis in the car, which has been gassed up the night before, and with breakfast sticking to your ribs, you speed off down the road with plenty of time to spare… Except that you are really dreaming and you finally wake up -; late, and instead of being early, rush around, forget something and hope your friends will understand. They always have in the past!
On the road you narrowly avoid Smokey, well maybe not, but you try and you get there. And then you walk through the dang mud with your boots on, and you get your lift ticket and you look at the trails looming above your head. “Hey look at that!” your Mind says, “That looks steep! Was there an earthquake here over the summer I didn’t hear about?!”
And it’s not crowded; it’s practically EMPTY. Or maybe it’s packed and you wish you had gotten up at the crack of dawn like you said you would. And you find that little-thingy to attach your ticket onto your jacket and you march out to the main lift area - skis slung across your shoulder like some goofy toy soldier gone wrong. It’s just like your remember.
Except then you have to pee, so you go do that, and then you march back out again and finally clamp your boots in for the first time this season! But first, before you ski, you have to adjust & re-adjust them dang boots, which seems to take forever! After this, you pick a lift - is it right to the double-black-diamond cliffs with pointed sticks at the bottom? Or maybe it’s left to Mr. Bunny Slope with piping hot chocolate waiting for you at the bottom? Or maybe it’s something in between?
At the top, you manage to ski off the lift without falling or you narrowly miss the fallen, but before you really start skiing you stop. It’s those dang boots again! You twist and fiddle, grunt and grown. The right glove comes off, now the left. You bend over in some contorted position, trying to get those boots right! You hate them sometimes. “WOULD SOMEBODY PLEASE INVENT SOME COMFORTABLE SKI BOOTS!!!! Please!” your mind reels to itself.
Finally you now start to really ski, you get to the lip of the first run and you start to go down, you gather some speed and someplace your brain says “HERE!” You make that first turn and then another and another. Wow, you can ski! Your brain then says, “Yep, I know what this is.” And your body responds a bit after being awoken from its inactive slumber and you go!
First this way, then that way, a little slide here, a carve there, a little bump, a big bump, skier left, skier right! Skier wrong? Cut, hop, plop, balance, swoosh, swoop, zing, pow, kablam!!! Well, I’m not so sure about pow and kablam but you get the idea. You start to ski and you start to have fun, and you say to yourself, “Yeah this is why I do this!! This is what it’s ALL ABOUT!!!”
It’s a blast and you blast your quads. You stand in line or not and you go up and down as much as your ticket lets you. Time goes by, the clock at the lift ticks along oblivious to the joy. Finally the sun sinks low over the ridgeline. The shadows come back, the gleaming snow fades into purple flat hues. You take a run down, stop, click out and clomp a little sorely back to the car - the big ass grin is there, but it’s inside. You go home.
That’s your first day!
Well… All this talk of snow, but I look outside and think to myself: “Where is it?!”
Although this is not the case for all of you up north, us southern folks have seen nearly a foot of rain, in the past week alone! With this said, WHEN AM I GONNA SEE SOME SNOW?! My snow fever has become more severe, and again I ask WHEN AM I GONNA SEE SOME SNOW?!
It’s seems as though I’ll have to wait until Spring Break to see the white stuff, for what is becoming my annual pilgrimage to Snowshoe. Until the time comes to load the car and head north, visions of 12” powder dumps and first tracks will be dancing in my head! I check the web sites daily, thinking to myself “Will it be much better than last year? Will the pow still be there?” and “Man, what a great article I’ll write afterwards for DCSki!”
Yet since the conditions today could be completely different in late March, I suppose that it would be more appropriate to act normal and just not worry about the current conditions. However, not worrying about ski conditions would take the fun out of anticipating my single ski trip of the season, and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much!
However, I live in Florida, and with evening temps only dipping to the fifties, there are many activities that I can do right now which those of you blessed with snow cannot. So if you are suffering the reverse effects of Snow Fever, and need a break from the “wrath” of El Nino, read on. Endless hours of fun in the sun await you! And if you drop by, I might even give you a skiing lesson! (Water that is..)
If you truly want to visit Florida this winter, make sure to spend time at our beaches, in our State Parks, and with some of the people. We can’t get an election right, but we’ll surely welcome you in to escape from the cold! Yet if you truly enjoy the winter sports, please continue to ski and write great reports that make me look forward to my trip, and that make me jealous that I can’t be there too! With the season off to a great start, I’ll put up with the rain here as long as it yields lots of snow for you! THINK SNOW!