A look into the life of a ski bum
01/19/2010 40 °F
I’ve been enjoying my chief pastime of late, that being skiing on Silver Mountain. It’s a nice setup for me. I wake up at 7 am and call the resort for the snow report. This information lets me decide how I’m going to spend my day from the comfort of my bed. If I’m going to ski, then I get up, get myself together, and settle in for a relaxed morning of breakfast, basic yoga full body stretching, and reading with National Public Radio letting me know what’s going on in the world. It’s a nice way to start the day.
I’ll drive down to the resort, its all downhill, and it takes me all of 10 minutes to get there. I gear up, and walk to the world’s longest gondola and head up to the mountain haus chalet. The world‘s longest gondola gives about a 20 minute ride. At 9 am the ropes drop, and the hill is open for business. I’m usually there for the rope drop, ready to go. I’ll ski a quick run down to the number 2 lift, this is a good warm up for the main event. The lift will bring me to the top of Kellogg Peak (elevation: 6300 ft). Depending on the conditions, I’ll decide how long I will ski. If there isn’t any fresh snow, often I’ll ski hard on the groomers until noon, and call it a day. If it’s a good powder day, I’ll stay longer, usually to about 2 pm.
The other day I woke up to rain, but the far too cheerful for 7 o’clock in the morning recorded message let me know that there was 3” of fresh powder and more falling. It was a ski day. The ride up to the peak was through thick fog, and snow. The other chairs on the lift slowly disappeared into the fog. You could only see about 4 of them in front of you before they faded into the mist. It was like riding through a dreamscape. The trees were like statues, and quite still in the heavy gray overhanging air. All sound was muffled in the cloud. The loudspeaker stereo system set up by the terrain park was blaring “Ice, Ice, Baby” but was muted. The eerie voice of Vanilla Ice chanting at me seemed a nightmare. I half expected to see my old 3rd grade teacher at the top of the lift making me a peanut butter and watermelon sandwich; such is the way with dreams.
It was no dream. The skiing was excellent, and I had a lot of fun. Visibility was very poor at times, and it was all you could do to get down some of the runs. Put a white plastic bag over your head, strap on some skis and head down a mountain. Skiing by feel, rather than sight is interesting, what I’d akin to surfing at night. Eventually, the clouds let up for awhile, and my vision returned. I spent the day carving arcs with my skis, making divots with my body in the snow, enjoying my living dream.
On good powder days, there is a feeling of euphoria that grips the mountain. On most of the first rides up on the chairlift, everyone yells and whoops, excited about making first runs in the fresh powder. We cheer on those lucky enough to be on their way down already, anticipating and visualizing our own runs down the white slopes.
There’s one guy I see a lot. I call him Legolas (from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy) because of the way he skis. He’s an amazing skier. It seems like he skips merrily atop the snow ala Legolas, while the rest of us slog through with far more effort. He gets it. He’s always jamming and bobbing about, enthusiasm, and playfulness bubbling from him as he effortlessly carves a snake pattern down a black diamond. The whole mountain is his playground, and this guy PLAYS. The white canvas of the mountain is painted with skis from this master. He improvises, and changes tempo, creates runs from nothing, I can’t help but think of Coltrane. I haven’t had the chance to talk to him yet, as our ski lift rides haven’t intersected, but maybe someday I will. If nothing else, I’ll hope to someday be as good as this guy. He inspires me, a guy that plays this hard deserves emulation.
I haven’t felt brave enough to bring my camera up to the top of the mountain yet. I’m afraid of bashing it on one of my falls. I’m a decent skier, but I ski hard and falls are part of the game. There are a few pictures that I want to take, showing off the beauty of the mountains. The weather hasn’t really cooperated either, usually it’s overcast with bland lighting. There was one day that was crystal clear with bright azure skies. The crisp white snow was piled beautifully on the pines. Silver valley and the surrounding mountains were purple in the low angled early morning sun. Silver fog nestled here and there in the lowlands, Heavy dark gray cumulous clouds hung far away above the distant peaks. That was the day I wish I had my camera, but as it was a big powder day, I knew I’d be skiing hard and didn’t want to risk it. So instead of a pixilated energy packet, I took several rest stops at the top of “Tall Paul”(my favorite name for a run) and took the picture in my head, storing it in my own memory bank. It’s still there.
Coming home off of the mountain is another one of my favorite parts of the day. A good workout completed, it’s time to relax. I take a hot shower, and light the wood stove (I had the foresight to ready for a match ahead of time). I’ll hang up my wet ski gear above the stove to dry. I’ll get a small lunch together, and take a siesta on the day bed alternating between reading, thinking, and maybe snoozing. After awhile, I’ll get the chili on the burner to warm up for dinner. Then it’s time for another full body stretching session and relaxing until bedtime. It’s a good life, I must say, and I’m fortunate enough to know how lucky I am. I take everyday as it comes, and try to make the best of it. So far, so good.