Anyone who has ever spent more than $2.50 to buy a rope tow ticket should be very delighted at the weather report on the news this morning. It was 9 degrees in Billings and expected to drop to zero tomorrow and 2 feet of snow is expected in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That means all of the chairlifts on Boyne Mountain, Michigan, should be operating this coming weekend. At least I hope so for all those hardy skiers who are willing to take their rock skis out at the beginning of the season.
I write a lot about the price of chairlift tickets, I know. Taken alone, they seem high, but when one realizes that the chairlift ticket is the magic carpet to an amazing world of freedom, they are quite reasonable.
My wife Laurie chastises me quite often for talking about the prices of stuff. But the price is something that dictates how many minutes of your life you have to devote to earn the money to buy the product that you want. But on the other end of the spectrum, for example, if you want a private ski lesson at Vail, Colorado, one day will cost you $825. That seems like a lot of money to reduce the number of inches that your skis are apart in the middle of a turn.
I hope you’ve been saving money all summer to buy those daily, weekly, monthly or season passes/lift tickets because the prices for them are all over the map. Many of these Montana resorts aren’t even open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because there aren’t enough people in the state to make it worthwhile. One of them that comes to mind is Maverick Mountain, with a double chairlift and 2,000 vertical feet of untracked powder snow on Thursday morning after being closed for three days of snowfall. They advertise skiing the way it used to be and it absolutely is, but I think they should advertise it as skiing the way it should be.
Now let’s get to reality. By this time in November you should’ve already been attending workout sessions three days a week, minimum, for the last six weeks at least. That’s easy for me to say as I sit here at the keyboard of the computer trying to get downstairs and walk at least one mile occasionally.
In the old days, this was the time of the year when you went down in the basement and put one more coat of lacquer on the bottom of your skis because they had not yet invented plastic bases for them. You also checked all the screws that were holding on your metal edges on and if you were lucky enough you would have bought a pair skis that had Phillips screws in them instead of regular screws so they stayed on longer.
There was such thing as sharpening your edges because those edges were not offset. Offset edges did not appear until 1949 in Sun Valley with the French ski team when they showed up to race in the Harriman cup. They brought their offset-edged skis to the race and changed our ability to hang on the ice
I’m sure that many readers of this column own skis and are anxious to once again experience that ultimate freedom on the side of a hill. That urge to go after freedom increases at the same rate that the temperature drops and the snow begins to appear.
I like the excitement in my heart when I am looking forward to riding on yet another chairlift ticket as I have done every winter since the early 1940s at Mount Waterman in southern California. Until four years ago when I broke my back and figured that at my age, I was lucky to be in one piece and maybe I’d better stay that way.
I can hardly wait to pack up the trailer here on Orcas Island and drive to the freezing cold weather of Montana for yet another winter. None of our friends can understand why we go to Montana instead of Palm Springs. That’s because they don’t understand real freedom. Freedom on the snow is yours for the taking.