My wife accuses me of being a curmudgeon when I tell stories about what it was like to ski in another era and on another planet. That was when rope tow tickets cost $2 a day and chairlifts cost $4, but most of the skiing in 1945 was $2 a day because there were only two chairlifts in California and none in Colorado.
But let’s talk about skiing right now during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The no-customers-at-the-resorts time when the resorts have spent tons of money to cover at least one trail with man made ice, only to have everyone leave town the Sunday after Thanksgiving and leave the new powder snow to the employees or any other local who can afford to buy a ticket.
The big storms that drop two or more feet of snow usually wait off the coast of Alaska until after the Thanksgiving weekend to come roaring across North America and cover any blemish that the earth might have. Particularly this year with more snow than most of us have seen this early in more than a decade. It looks like the best and most crowded Christmas ski season since Santa Claus on skis was first seen. Is that why some of the destination resorts have doubled and tripled their room rates during the Christmas holidays? This lets them subsidize that first three weeks of December when you can ski or snowboard right up to the loading platform, sit down and ride back up. Why not sell a discount pass that is only good for the first three weeks of December?
Last night while watching the war in Afghanistan and feeling lucky to have found my freedom on a pair of skis instead of behind a rifle, I heard that many of the people who live there earn less per month than you or I spend on a one-day lift ticket. Is that because we live on another planet?
Looking back on the two winters I lived in the parking lot at Sun Valley, it did get cold at times. One week it warmed up to 30 degrees below zero, but looking out of our trailer window at the billions of stars I didn’t know that I was supposed to be cold. When you don’t know any different, how different is different?
I know some skiers who drive from New York City to Vermont and spend the weekend walking around on their skinny skis. Two of them have been doing it for years, have never ridden on a chairlift and they think that running through the woods while sweating in their spandex underwear is the ultimate thrill. They wonder why we like to ride chairlifts, and if we have hair, feel the wind rushing through it. We wonder why they thoroughly enjoy sweating around a flat valley all day.
I have some other friends who sleep late in their deluxe condo, ride up on the lift to the restaurant at the top of old Skinhead, have a leisurely lunch, ski down and go for cocktails. On the other side of the spectrum is the Ajax ski club that has an old ski bus with a TV in it and from the time they leave suburbia, they watch an endless library of my ski movies until they get to their rented condo. (And I thank them for supporting my lifestyle.) By then they have seen four or five ski movies and are so hyper that together with the high altitude, spend the first night staring at the ceiling with their eyes wide open. The first day of skiing at 10,000-11,000 feet where they get substantially less oxygen with each breath, will make them get tired early and stop at the closest bistro for a few beers, not knowing that each beer at that altitude is the same as two or three at sea level. This will go on for their entire vacation until they get back to suburbia and go back to work. For the next two weeks they will be working at five percent of their capacity but getting a full paycheck anyway.
Does any of this matter? I don’t think so because after every ski run each of us is a different person than when we started at the top, or the start of the cross-country trail, even an old curmudgeon like me.
Whichever type of skiing you go for, go for it with your entire being. And get up there and do it before the rates go up over the Christmas holidays. If you can’t do it now, do it in January when no one is around because everyone thinks it’s too cold.
That’s my opinion and I’m stuck with it.
For more stories and stuff from Warren e-mail him at www.warrenmiller.net