three friends at mt. ellen

Skiers and Snowboarders: What is with us?

Often while suspended mid-air, I ponder, what is it with us? Sub-zero cold accompanied by insulting winds swing the chairs we ascend in and cause us to try secure our hoods. Little packets of heat may be inside our gloves but our thumbs still beg for warmth. Some spend hundreds on battery infused boots and clothing to minimize the elements. Plenty just suffer. Skiers and snowboarders whiz below us and often the sounds of their edges making contact with the surface jars the nerves. But there is no stopping us.

We have come in pick-ups, SUVs, hybrids, electric cars and anything on four wheels and end up in the front row or being shuttled from the hinterlands. Sometimes we push our way through snow banks and, in spring, shuffle through gooey mud and slush. Bottom line—no matter with what or how, we get to the mountain. We have unloaded our gear, trudged up from the parking lot (sometimes still smiling from securing a good parking spot) schlepped skis, boards, boots, backpacks, poles and nudge along struggling kids who just “can’t”. With advance planning we may be lucky to head right to the lift; otherwise it’s straight to the line before the line-up. We hustle. We juggle. We jostle. We persevere.

The rewards are plenty. Sometimes the sun warms our bodies and our outlook. We chatter with strangers who are only strange to people who do not get us. Together we share the joy of quiet snow, of blue-bird skies and sometimes just the adventure of a Friday night’s drive from hell. We come from diverse places in varying sizes, shapes, ages, abilities and outfits ranging from retro onesies to state of the art technical jackets and pants. It is not uncommon to see neon-bright helmets and skis and boards with detailed graphics. Who would have thought?

We take chances. Driving. Skiing. Riding. Conversing. We slide over or down on icy patches, launch over jumps and huck cliffs. There’s a willingness to be suspended from a wire affixed to a cable high above the ground and to hop on a lift even when the sign warns of “Expert only terrain, no easy way down and did we mention the rocks???” Then there is the increasingly popular woods skiing and riding—dodging trees that do not move, low hanging branches and stumps barely visible that must be navigated. We accept the dangers inherent in the sport.

If our original body parts fail, we take action. It is not uncommon to meet people with one or both knees replaced, a new hip or shoulder and still out there and cruising—even hitting bumps just happy to be pain free and back on snow. We tie our kids and grandkids with a rope-like device at ridiculously early ages to get them out on skis and have the joy of yet another generation descending. We are something else. We are fun.

We have strange rules and beliefs. On a powder day, we have no friends. First chair is the prize. No matter how early we arrive, we find ourselves waiting with a hoard of other early birds. It is perfectly okay to scream whooping cries descending through fluff. First tracks any day are a rush and give bragging rights. We alternate entry in the queues with or without supervision. Single lines are self-regulated with any interloper sort of respectfully being told where the line ends.

Inside, we deal. Bathrooms are always down a flight of stairs. In the cafeteria, there may or may not be a seat after we spend crazy sums on a tray of food. No one seems to mind camping on the floor if no empty table is in sight. Crowds line up at the bar just waiting for the ‘your turn’ nod.

In or out, we are determined. We are relentless. We are possessed. Mostly we succeed and it is all a good thing. We are hearty and we are tough. It is who we are. We love our resort time. We love our sport.

When the season ends, we simply count the days until we can do it all over and maybe even better. Bring it on!